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What Is Homophonic Texture In Music?

We often get Greek words in music theory, and here is another one. “Homophonic” describes a particular sort of music we are all familiar with. The word’s meaning can be explained by splitting it into two. “Phonic” means sound or a voice, and “homo” means similar or the same.

But we have another word, Texture. That offers an extra description of the music. But before we answer the question, “What is Homophonic Texture in music?” let’s understand what Homophonic and Texture mean in music.

Homophonic Music

The important part of homophonic music is that it has a dominant element, a single melody. As you listen, you will automatically be drawn to listen to that part. It is also sometimes known as “Homophony.”

Any other instruments or voices that are present are just accompaniments. A simple example would be Bob Dylan, and the ‘Times They Are A Changin”. A vocal line with guitar backing. The dominant part is the vocal with the accompaniment of the guitar.

Furthermore, there’s a way to tell if music is homophonic, and that is to apply a quick test. If the piece has one melody line with some additional instruments supporting the main melody, it will be homophonic. You can see that much of the music we listen to these days can be called homophonic.

Texture In Music

Texture In Music

Texture refers to the overall sound of the piece. It includes the elements that make up the overall sound. That is the melody, the harmony, and the tempo. Additionally, how texture operates in music will determine how we feel about what we hear. 

But it still has one sound that is the principal focus. This main part is sometimes supplemented by various other parts. But the main part retains its status in the piece.

Today, it is the texture that is most common to us. We hear it on the radio, in pop, rock, and jazz. We hear it in film soundtracks and in much of the classical music that has been written in the last 100 years.

Not The Only Texture in Music

Of course, it wouldn’t be because not all music is constructed the same way. There are four kinds of texture that we find in music. These are:

  • Homophony or Homophonic.
  • Monophony.
  • Polyphony.
  • Heterophony.

Today we are looking at just Homophony or Homophonic.

Defining Texture

We have given a brief explanation. Consider it in the light of how many layers there are to the music. That is the melody plus harmonies and other elements.

There can be various textures within this overall description. The texture can be narrow, or it can be wide. It can be very full or very sparse. So, let’s look a little closer at homophonic texture.

Defining Homophonic Texture

I have already mentioned that it is the most common form of texture in modern western music. It is very similar to monophonic texture as it has a single melody.  

But homophonic texture adds different notes based on the main melody. It also adds the other elements I have already mentioned, like tempo.

Besides Dylan?

Of course, I just used that as a very simple example. Any singer singing a song while playing the piano is playing Homophonic texture. A violin that may be taking the main melody part in a symphony while the orchestra supports is another example.

And what about a sax or trumpet playing a solo in a jazz performance with some other instruments in support? That is another example.

Two Kinds of Homophonic Texture

Two Kinds of Homophonic Texture

Being that it is so common, there are bound to be different types of this texture. There are two main subtypes that we need to know to answer the question, “What is homophonic texture in music?”

  • Homorhythmic texture.
  • Melody-dominated texture.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Homorhythmic Texture

In this texture, we find that the melody and the harmony both have the same rhythm. They are also sometimes known as “block chords.” This is because the notes of the chord are played together.

It can be found in a variety of musical styles. In some cases where the aim is to provide some drama to the music. Some examples are:

  • “Hallelujah” chorus by Handel.
  • The beginning of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
  • The beginning of “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.

You may also find it used in other ways, such as in:

  • “Clair De Lune” by Debussy.
  • Barber Shop Quartets.

Let’s move on to the other principal type of homophonic texture, where the texture is dominated by the melody.

Melody-Dominated Texture

We have already mentioned this style of texture in a broader sense earlier. It is where the principal element is the melody that is supported by harmonies. The melody and the harmonies do not have to be in line with each other. As you would find in the Homorhythmic texture, which we just looked at.

You could describe it as the main melody supported by the harmony, or in some cases, multiple harmonies. You might think that the melody might become rather lost in everything that might be going on. But, it is because there could be so much happening it tends to stand out. 

Melody Becomes More Noticeable

With different timings and even rhythms, the melody becomes more noticeable. The melody is the main idea, and everything else plays a supporting role. 

It is worth mentioning at this point that melody-dominated texture contains block chords. But not as we see them played in Homorhythmic texture.

Melody-Dominated Texture is usually played in three different styles. These are:

  • Block Chord Accompaniment.
  • Broken Chords, sometimes called Arpeggiated chords.
  • Alberti Bass Accompaniment.

We have already looked at block chords in Homorhythmic texture. But, they can also be used in Melody-Dominated Texture. It will be the accompaniment that is in block chords with melody-dominated texture, and not necessarily the melody itself. And they can cross multiple musical genres. Here are some examples:

  • Chopin – Prelude in E Minor.
  • Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi.
  • Scarborough Fair is an old English Folk Tune, but when it is played by Paul Simon.
  • Miles Davis – Billy Boy.
  • Scott Joplin – Maple Leaf Rag.
  • Beethoven – 7th Symphony, 2nd Movement.

Is that enough genre-crossing for you?

Broken Chord Accompaniment

This is when the chord playing the accompaniment is broken up with notes being played at different times, often in a pattern. A common right-hand pattern in the key of C might be C, E, and G. The first, third, and fifth. An alternative might be C, G, and C (octave).

The way it is played means it is often called Arpeggiated chords. Songs using this style are:

  • Elvis Presley – I Can’t Help Falling In Love.
  • Bob Dylan – Blowing In The Wind.
  • Richard Rodgers – Edelweiss.
  • Andrew Lloyd-Webber – Memory.

Alberti bass accompaniment

Alberti bass accompaniment

The final style is the Alberti accompaniment. This is not dissimilar and, in some ways, is a subtype to the broken chord accompaniment. The difference is that there is a set pattern to how the arpeggio is played.

To play this style of texture, you play the lowest note of the chord first and then the highest. This is followed by the middle note and then back to the highest again. You can hear this plainly at the start of The Piano Sonata in C by Mozart. 

If you listen very closely, the great man has included all three textures in the opening phrases. First, there is the Alberti bass accompaniment. This is followed by a block chord accompaniment and, finally, a broken chord accompaniment. And this is all within the first 30 seconds of the piece commencing.

Another Aspect Of Theory

Homophonic Texture is just another aspect of music theory that needs to be learned. But this time, you will be so familiar with the style and the concepts it will be much easier to learn than some. Here is some study material for those that want to get to grips with some musical theory.

Want to Learn More about Music Theory?

Well, we can help you with that, simply take a look at our handy articles on A Complete Guide To Major ScalesA Guide To The Chromatic ScaleA Quick Guide To Species CounterpointTypes Of Bebop ScalesWhat Is AABA Form In MusicWhat Is Negative Harmony, and Relative vs Parallel Minor for more useful information.

You may also want to consider an instrument upgrade. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Electric Cellos, the Best Cremona Violins, the Best 88-Key Keyboards, the Best Digital Pianos for Under $500, the Best Flute, the Best Alto Saxophones, and the Best Tenor Saxophones you can buy in 2023.

What Is Homophonic Texture In Music – In Conclusion

As you can see by the examples I have given, this has been a common style for hundreds of years. And in today’s music, you will certainly recognize the style and the textures of how the music is put together.

It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the music you hear today is homophonic. And it doesn’t get much more basic than a single melody that has an accompaniment of one or maybe more harmonic parts.

Until next time, let your music play.

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