- Find out what homophonic texture is and how it is used in modern music
- Commonly asked questions answered
- Also, check out full guide to all the types of texture in music
When you listen to your favorite song, it’s probably the main melody that gets stuck in your head.
In contemporary music, that main melody is the most essential part of a song while the other instruments accompany it and help set the mood.
This type of texture in music is called homophonic texture in music theory.
Did you know that there are other types of textures as well, like monophonic, polyphonic, and heterophonic? These types are more common in classical music styles.
We’ll show you some examples of these different textures and explain their differences.
What is Homophonic Musical Texture?
Homophonic texture is when the main melody is accompanied by other instruments playing different rhythms and notes that support that main melody.
For example, when you sing while strumming chords on your guitar, that is a homophonic texture. If you instead played broken chords, that is also homophonic texture.
The texture is homophonic because the main melody is accompanied by another instrument that plays a supportive role.
Virtually all popular music today is homophonic. These homophonic songs all feature a singer or rapper with other instruments in the background that are playing different melodies and rhythms.
Homophonic Texture Examples
1. “Glimpse of Us” – Joji
A modern example of homophonic texture is “Gliimpse of Us” by Joji.
The piano plays block chords beneath Joji’s vocal melodies. They’re both completely different rhythms, and the vocal is very much the star of the song.
2. Chopin: Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9, No. 2
An earlier instrumental example of homophonic texture in Romantic period music is Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb Major.
Note how, again, the melody is the dominant element while the left-hand plays arpeggiated block chords.
3. “The Seal Lullaby” – Eric Whitacre
Modern choral music is also typically homophonic.
In this example, notice how one choir part carries the melody, while the other voice parts and piano support it in the background.
Sometimes, the melody is in the soprano section, and sometimes it is in the baritone parts.
In each case, there’s always the piano serving as accompaniment and the other voice parts playing a supportive role for the main melody.
4. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – Miles Davis Sextet
Jazz is also homophonic in many cases. In “Someday My Prince Will Come,” Miles Davis’s trumpet part has the melody line for much of the song, while the piano, drums, and bass serve as background accompaniment.
Throughout the song, the melody is sometimes given to the piano or the saxophone, but that melody is always the star of the song.
Even though different instruments have the melody at different times, this is homophonic since they never overlap and are always the main element.
5. Solemn Salve Regina – Gregorian Chant
Some of the earliest and simplest examples of homophony in Western music came from Gregorian chants composed by Monks and Nuns.
The earliest chants consisted of a single melody sung by itself (monophonic texture), but later, drones were added beneath the melody.
The main chant in this example is clear, but there’s a lower sustained note underneath it. By just adding that one note, the texture becomes homophonic.
6. Ballade for Orchestra – Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
On the opposite end of the complexity spectrum, many pieces for orchestra also use homophonic texture.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra is an example of homophonic texture in orchestral music because there’s always a clear melody throughout the piece.
The melody is moved between different instrument sections at different times, but it’s always happening with other instruments serving as accompaniment.
What Is Monophonic Musical Texture?
A monophonic texture means a single, unaccompanied melody. So, if you sing a song by yourself without any instruments accompanying you, that is monophonic.
Music is also considered monophonic if multiple people sing the same melody without accompaniment. It’s still monophonic if people sing the same melody but at different octaves.
If you add an instrument playing the same melody, this, too, is a monophonic texture.
The defining aspect of monophonic music is that it’s a single melodic line across all instruments and voices. There are no independent parts.
Gregorian chant is the earliest notated monophonic music in the Western Classical Music tradition. Early Gregorian Chant features a single chant melody.
A soloist may start, followed by a choir responding, as in this example: “O Ignis Spiritus Paracliti“ composed by Hildegard Von Bingen.
Because the choir is all singing the same notes, this chant is still considered monophonic even with multiple singers.
One of the most famous examples of monophonic texture in pop music is the first 45 seconds of “I Will Always Love You“ by Whitney Houston.
Her voice is entirely on its own until the first chorus comes in, which gives the chorus even more impact (the rest of the song is homophonic.)
What Is Polyphonic Musical Texture?
Polyphony was the main texture in music from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance and the Baroque era in the Western Classical Music tradition.
Polyphony means multiple melodic lines interwoven with each other that are all moving independently. In other words, the various parts are different concerning the notes and the rhythms.
Bach wrote some of the most complex polyphony in his fugues, such as this one: “Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543”
As in all fugues, this one starts with the first melody by itself (a monophonic texture), followed by the second melody, and finally, all the parts together.
What Is Heterophonic Musical Texture?
Heterophonic music texture is similar to monophonic musical texture.
Heterophonic texture means one main melody is played in every instrument or voice, but the melody is slightly varied in each layer. This texture is uncommon today except in world or folk styles.
An example of heterophony is the Chieftans’ “The Wind That Shakes the Barley“
Homophonic vs Polyphonic: What’s The Difference?
The main difference between polyphonic and homophonic texture is the level of independence of the different parts.
In polyphonic music, multiple melodies are playing on top of each other. There is no hierarchy between melody and accompaniment. Polyphonic music is melodies accompanying melodies, and there’s often no clearly dominant voice.
On the other hand, homophonic music has a distinct main melody. The other instruments or voices are more in the background or less able to stand independently.
Imagine Joji’s “Glimpse of Us“ with his vocals taken away. The song loses its whole essence. If you took away one of the voices of the Bach fugue, there would still be other discernable melodies.
What Is The Difference Between Monophonic And Homophonic?
Both monophonic and homophonic feature a clear main melody. It’s possible to have multiple instruments playing in both types of textures.
The difference between monophonic and homophonic is that monophonic has only one main melody, while homophonic has other instruments or voices playing other parts.
In monophonic music, different parts can sing the same pitch in different octaves, and it’s still monophonic.
Many theorists have the same opinion of Gregorian chants that feature the same melody sung a perfect fifth apart throughout––this, too, is monophonic because it’s the same melody and rhythm but transposed by a perfect fifth rather than an octave.
Long story short: music is homophonic rather than monophonic when the main melody is accompanied by other melodically different parts and functions as accompaniment.
Before you go, check out our article what is texture in music?