Types of Musical Textures People often struggle to find the right words to describe musical texture and so you will often hear people describing the texture of a piece of music as being “thin” if there are not very many instruments playing and “thick” if there are lots of instruments playing. Have a look at this example of a sports crowd singing the US National Anthem in unison at the Ryder Cup: The crowd are all singing in unison with no accompaniment and so it is a monophonic texture. Learning how these textures have evolved, not only leads through the history of Western music but also shows us how music is a global innovation. Musical Texture refers to how different layers of a piece of music are combined to produce the overall sound. It consists of one melody, or tune, played or sung by a single person, or in unison. Espie Estrella is a lyricist, songwriter, and member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut also composed polyphonic pieces. This musical texture refers to the use of two or more melodic lines, which are distinct from each other. C to F) and fifth (ex. Instead, it uses words that are sung. There is no harmonic accompaniment, and no other music being made except for the melody. This compilation would later be known as Gregorian Chant. There are four types of textures that appear in music, Monophony, Polyphony, Homophony, and Heterophony. They may well be singing at different octaves (a little girl in the crowd is going to be singing at a much higher octave than an older man), but it is still a monophonic texture as they are singing in unison. These four textures appear in music from around the world. It can also be found in some classical music, most notably in Baroque vocal music such as cantatas/oratorios. For example, if a person in the crowd gets excited and starts singing a well known tune then this is an example of a monophonic texture – a solo voice. This is a great way of bringing contrast into a piece. As a result, they are often considered to be forming a “same-sounding” texture – hence they can be considered to be homophonic. Plainchant doesn't use any instrumental accompaniment. This texture contains two distinct lines, the lower sustaining a constant pitch or tone (often described as a droning sound), with the other line creating a more elaborate melody above it. We also use the word texture in a similar manner when describing the particular combination of tempo, melody, and harmony in a piece of music. You can hear the chordal sound produced. Have a listen to this performance of Debussy’s “Syrinx” for solo flute. on Facebook The definition of homophony is often broadened to include textures that are not homorhythmic. Heterophonic textures can be found in a wide range of music from jazz, folk music to the gamelan from Indonesia. This musical texture refers to the use of two or more melodic lines, which are distinct … Have a look at this visual diagram of a monophonic texture (the blue line is the solo melody): Monophony is the oldest type of music (it was the only type of music performed in Ancient Greece) and was the form of music used in early church plainchant and Gregorian Chant music. Whilst this is technically true, it is a very basic description and we need to try to be a bit more detailed in the language we use to describe texture in music. Thank you for subscribing. One of the most common forms of polyphonic texture is the fugue. This type of texture refers to a main melody accompanied by chords. However, is is also not strictly homophonic as the rhythms of the piano part do not exactly match the vocal line. Heterophony is a less common musical texture, but it is useful to understand it. It is extraordinary how much emotion Debussy creates with just a solo melody line: We rarely hear entirely monophonic songs in the published contemporary musical scene. As singers continued experimenting with melodies, polyphony became more elaborate and complex. on Twitter C to G) intervals. However, you will often hear monophonic singing in informal settings like contemporary sports matches where the crowd is singing in unison. Monophonic texture is the simplest of the three main types of texture in music. Subscribe to our mailing list and get FREE music resources to your email inbox. After 30 seconds, 3 vocalists are singing together in a homophonic and homorhythmic texture. The 4 different textures that I am going to explain will help you describe what each of the different parts are contributing to the overall sound. It is no longer monophonic as it now has an accompaniment. Each voice has a clear melody line that it follows, but they all have been cleverly put together to form a coherent and beautiful piece of music: Polyphony is typical of music in the Renaissance period and in the Baroque period where a contrapuntal texture was very common. You can see this clearly from the sheet music: However, if the singing is accompanied by an instrument, a band or an orchestra (as it usually is when a national anthem is being sung at the start of a sports match), or if some singers start to harmonise the melody then the texture becomes more complicated. Learn how texture is used in a composition and how these layers are related: These types of compositions are distinguished by the use of a single melodic line. A monophonic texture has a single line of melody without any harmony or any other form of accompaniment. Modern keyboard composers whose works have homophonic texture include the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz and the "King of Ragtime," Scott Joplin. There are four music textures that you need to understand: In this lesson we will look at definitions and explanations for each musical texture in turn. One voice/part plays/sings the melody, whilst the others act as a harmonic accompaniment. on Google+, Ben Dunnett LRSM is the founder of Music Theory Academy. An example of this is the plainchant or plainsong, a form of medieval church music that involves chanting. Any song where the singer is accompanied by an instrument(s) (usually a piano or guitar) is an example of melody and accompaniment and can be considered to be a homophonic texture. You can see from the diagram below that an accompaniment (green shading) has been added underneath the melody (blue line) to form a homophonic texture: In a strictly homophonic texture, the parts or voices move “in step” with one another rather than having contrasting rhythms. People often struggle to find the right words to describe musical texture and so you will often hear people describing the texture of a piece of music as being “thin” if there are not very many instruments playing and “thick” if there are lots of instruments playing. Heterophonic music is where a melody is varied by an additional voice/part at the same time as the original melody is being played. Perotinus Magister (also called Perotin the Great) is believed to be one of the first composers to use polyphony in his compositions, which he wrote in the late 1200s. Biphonic texture is also found in contemporary pop musical compositions like Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". The main melody is sung by the soprano part, whilst the oboe plays and elaborated variation at the same time. You can see on this diagram of a polyphonic texture the different parts weaving in and out as they perform distinct melodic lines that combine to create the overall sound. Have a listen to this version of Silent Night by the acapella group Pentatonix: Many modern hymn tunes are homophonic and homorythmic. Homophony is also evident when musicians sing while accompanying themselves on guitar. In classical music, this texture is a hallmark of Bach's pedal tones. The definition of monophonic music is taken from the Greek (mono-phonic), literally meaning “one sound”. Heterophony is characteristic of many forms of non-Western music, like the Gamelan music of Indonesia or Japanese Gagaku. I hope it helps summarise the topic for you: You do not have to choose one texture to use for the whole of a piece of music you are writing. Polyphonic. It describes music where several parts or voices are combined together contrapuntally or in counterpoint. The French chanson, a polyphonic song that was originally for two to four voices, is an example. Many composers choose to use different textures within one piece of music/song. A composition might be described as "dense," meaning it features multiple layers of instruments, or "thin," meaning it is distinguished by a single layer, whether a voice or instrumental accompaniment. During the Baroque period, music became homophonic, meaning it was based on one melody with harmonic support coming from a keyboard player. Video lessons, worksheets and EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. The effect of developing the texture of the piece is to build the “feel” of the song in a very dramatic way: I hope that this lesson on musical texture has helped you understand the topic more and also that it helps you in your composing. It was around the year 600 when Pope Gregory the Great (also known as Pope Gregory 1) wanted to compile all the different types of chants into one collection. It can be thick or thin, shiny or dull, rough or smooth. The arrangement starts with a solo voice (monophonic texture). Fabric is just one of many materials we describe as having a texture.
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