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 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 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...