Homophonic texture, also called homophony, is by far the most common type of texture found in music today. The other two main types of texture are monophonic and polyphonic.
Homophony is the texture we hear most in pop music on the radio, film music, jazz, rock, and most classical music of the last century. The term homophonic comes from the Greek words homo, meaning “same” or “similar”, and phonic, meaning “sound” or “voice”.
In this post we’ll fully explore homophonic texture, but we do that we should first remember what texture in music is.
What is Texture?
Texture in music is, in essence, the overall quality of a piece of music. Think of it as how many layers of melody and harmony can be heard simultaneously.
A piece of music can have thick or thin texture,w a wide or narrow texture, or a dense or sparse texture, and so forth. Let’s take an in-depth look at the most common type, homophonic texture.
Homophonic Texture Definition
Homophonic texture is the most common texture in Western music.
It’s similar to monophonic texture as there is one main melody being played, but it adds harmonies and accompaniment to the melody.
So, a homophonic texture is where you can have multiple different notes playing, but they’re all based around the same melody.
A rock or pop star singing a song while playing guitar or piano at the same time is an example of homophonic texture.
A violin playing a solo melody line while the rest of the orchestra plays behind her is another example, as is a trumpet player soloing during a jazz concert with the piano and bass playing along with him.
Types of Homophonic Texture
Because homophonic texture is so prevalent, there are many different subtypes.
The two main subtypes are:
- homorhythmic texture
- melody-dominated texture
We’ll now take a little close look at these two types of homophony.
Homorhythmic texture is when all parts of the melody and harmonies have the exact same rhythm.
This type of texture is also called block chord texture, and is often found in choral music, hymns, and barbershop quartets.
A famous classical example of this type of texture is the choral part of the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel:
For more recent examples of homorhythm, there are the openings to “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Some Nights” by Fun.
Homorhythmic textures are also found in a lot of instrumental music.
A great example would be Stravinsky’s ballet piece “The Rite of Spring” uses block chords multiple times, including here:
Or this section from Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is also an example of homorhythmic texture:
The next subtype of homophonic texture is melody-dominated texture which we’ll take a look at in the next section.
Melody-dominated texture is any other type of homophony that is not block chords.
The melody is the main musical idea that the listener hears, and the harmony is made into a supporting role.
In a piece of music with this specific texture, the harmony does not perfectly line up with the melody. The most common use of this texture is just a single vocalist playing a piano or guitar as accompaniment while they are singing the melody:
As you can hear in the song, there’s only one melody and then harmonies played around it. However, the piano player in this song is playing a different rhythm on the piano than Adele is singing, so the texture can’t be homorhythmic.
In this case, the melody is a different rhythm and style to the accompaniment, meaning the melody is more noticeable and it is an example of melody-dominated texture.
The accompaniment of a piece with this type of texture is often in one of three styles: block chords, broken or arpeggiated chords, and alberti bass.
Block Chord Accompaniment
Block chords are described above, only this time the accompaniment is the only part of the song that has to be in block chords, not necessarily the melody as well.
Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor” is a perfect example of block chord accompaniment, with a distinct and separate melody:
Broken Chord Accompaniment
Broken chord accompaniment, also called arpeggiated chords, is when the chord played to accompany the melody is broken up and each note is played at a separate time.
The song “Someone Like You” by Adele, shown above, is a perfect example of broken chords. The piano part is playing chords, just like the Chopin Prelude, but each chord is played only one note at a time, and not multiple notes together.
Alberti Bass Accompaniment
The last type of accompaniment that will be explored here is the alberti bass accompaniment.
This is a subtype of broken chords, in which each note of the chord is played at a different time.
However, what makes it unique is the pattern of the accompaniment – it follows a low-high-middle-high pattern. So the lowest note of the chord is played first, and then the highest note is played, followed by the middle note, and finally the highest note is played again.
The beginning of Mozart’s “Piano Sonata in C Major” is a great example of this.
In fact, the opening of Mozart’s piano sonata is a perfect example of all three types of accompaniment.
At the beginning (time – 0:03 in the video), there is the alberti bass type of accompaniment.
Following that (time – 0:10) is a block chord accompaniment.
Finally, at 0:20 is a broken chord accompaniment.
Summing Up Homophonic Texture
So to recap, Homophonic texture is when there is a single melody that is accompanied by one or more harmonic parts.
Coming from the Greek words for “same voices”, all of the voices in a piece of music are focused on either playing or supporting the “same” melody.
This type of texture is by far the most common in today’s music; almost all the music you would hear on the radio would be considered homophonic.
We hope this post helped with learning about homophony! It might seem confusing at first, because there are so many different subtypes of homophonic texture, and it seems to fall right in between monophonic and polyphonic texture.
But if you notice a piece of music only has one main melody, but additional instruments or notes around that main melody, then that is homophonic music.