Creative Commons License photo credit: cwalker71
What does musical texture mean? Think of a piece of fabric, and the different qualities it might have. It could be soft, course, heavy, light, slippery, shiny, etc. The same thing applies to music. While music might not be shiny or slippery, it has inherent qualities that makes it unique. Different types of texture can be described by the number of parts, harmony, tempo, timbre and rhythm. We will go through several types of musical texture in the following post.
This is the simplest type of texture. In monophonic music, a single voice or part is played without harmonic accompaniment. As long as the attention is on a single line or voice, the music is monophonic. Can you think of any monophonic music that is played today? Not much music these days is monophonic, however some middle Eastern music has a monophonic texture.
Heterophonic music consists of two or more parts that are elaborating upon the same melody. Often this type of music is improvised. An example of this type of music would be jazz.
Polyphonic music consists of two or more voices, but it is distinct from heterophony. In heterophonic texture, the part that all voices play is based upon the same melody (though the same notes may not be played). Polyphony is based on counterpoint. Counterpoint is a Latin term that in musical terms can be translated as “note against note”. This means that a counterpoint or polyphonic texture consists of two or more simultaneous melodies that are distinct from each other in notes and rhythm.
This is the type of music that most of us are accustomed to. In homophonic music, one voice takes the melodic lead, while the accompanying voices play the harmony and they take a subordinate role. The listeners interest is directed to a single line of music, and the harmony is there to support it.
These are the four different classical music textures. Remember, a piece of music does not have to be exclusively one of these textures. These textures can be combined and manipulated. Listen to your favourite type of music. See if you can recognize the different textures in the music. It will help you appreciate the art of the music even more!