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A short introduction to the basic element of music called texture.

Introduction

Texture is one of the basic elements of music. When you describe the texture of a piece of music, you are describing how much is going on in the music at any given moment. For example, the texture of the music might be thick or thin, or it may have many or few layers. It might be made up of rhythm only, or of a melody line with chordal accompaniment, or many interweaving melodies. Below you will find some of the formal terms musicians use to describe texture. Suggestions for activities to introduce the concept of texture to young students can be found in Musical Textures Activities .

Terms that describe texture

There are many informal terms that can describe the texture of a piece of music (thick, thin, bass-heavy, rhythmically complex, and so on), but the formal terms that are used to describe texture all describe the relationships of melodies and harmonies . Here are definitions and examples of the four main types of texture. For specific pieces of music that are good examples of each type of texture, please see below .

Monophonic

Monophonic music has only one melodic line, with no harmony or counterpoint . There may be rhythmic accompaniment, but only one line that has specific pitches . Monophonic music can also be called monophony . It is sometimes called monody , although the term "monody" can also refer to a particular type of solo song (with instrumental accompaniment) that was very popular in the 1600's.

    Examples of monophony

  • One person whistling a tune
  • A single bugle sounding "Taps"
  • A group of people all singing a song together, without harmonies or instruments
  • A fife and drum corp, with all the fifes playing the same melody

Homophonic

Homophonic music can also be called homophony . More informally, people who are describing homophonic music may mention chords , accompaniment , harmony or harmonies . Homophony has one clearly melodic line; it's the line that naturally draws your attention. All other parts provide accompaniment or fill in the chords. In most well-written homophony, the parts that are not melody may still have a lot of melodic interest. They may follow many of the rules of well-written counterpoint , and they can sound quite different from the melody and be interesting to listen to by themselves. But when they are sung or played with the melody, it is clear that they are not independent melodic parts, either because they have the same rhythm as the melody (i.e. are not independent) or because their main purpose is to fill in the chords or harmony (i.e. they are not really melodies).

    Examples of homophony

  • Choral music in which the parts have mostly the same rhythms at the same time is homophonic. Most traditional Protestant hymns and most "barbershop quartet" music is in this category.
  • A singer accompanied by a guitar picking or strumming chords.
  • A small jazz combo with a bass, a piano, and a drum set providing the "rhythm" background for a trumpet improvising a solo.
  • A single bagpipes or accordion player playing a melody with drones or chords.

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Source:  OpenStax, The basic elements of music. OpenStax CNX. May 24, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10218/1.8
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