Interrelated Dimensions of Music: Texture

Texture is the relationship between different layers within music.

There are several different terms that we use for these different relationships, and the ones we’re going to talk about today are - monophony, homophony & polyphony.


Something is monophonic when it consists of one musical line without accompaniment. This can be one instrument or several instruments in unison or octave unison. Monophony was the texture used in the earliest music we know of, such as Gregorian chant, and can also be found in the opening of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Here’s an example:


Homophony is the most common texture in western popular music . Usually, this consists of one instrument playing the melody while one or more other instruments play together to provide accompaniment, so voice and guitar, flute and piano or even a soloist accompanied by an orchestra, like in a concerto. To hear a homophonic texture you can pick almost any song you would hear on the radio, be it pop, rock, R & B or folk. Here’s a short example:


Music is polyphonic when there are two or more voices which are independent of each other and are of equal importance. This is also called counterpoint and music that uses counterpoint is said to be contrapuntal. Polyphony was very common in music of the baroque period from about 1600 to 1750, and is still used a lot in musical theatre. A great example is the end of the song ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables, where all the characters sing their own themes at the same time. Here is an example of polyphony:

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