What is Homophonic Texture?

sheet music (image by Pixabay)

Homophonic texture (also called homophony) is the most popular kind of musical texture in our music today.

It first became popular to use homophony in music during the early 17th century. Musicians such as Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and George Friderich Handel often used homophonic texture in their music.

Nowadays, we hear homophonic texture in pop music, jazz, rock, and even film scores.

So what is homophonic texture, and how does it work?

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the definition of homophony, and how texture works in music.

What Does Homophonic Mean?

The word “homophonic” comes from the Greek word “homophonos,” meaning same sound.

(Homo= same, phone= sound.)

In ancient Greece, homophony meant two or more voices singing the same melody in different octaves. This is why they named it “same sound.”

However, nowadays we use the term homophonic texture to mean something else.

Before we talk about what homophonic texture in modern music, let’s define musical texture.

What is Texture?

In music, texture is a way to describe how the sounds are organized.

Think of it like textures in clothing. Texture affects how the music “feels.”

How many sounds are happening at once? Are they organized into one tune, or are there multiple things happening at the same time?

Melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, and timbre are all factors that can affect the texture of a composition.

There are different types of musical texture, including monophonic, polyphonic, and homophonic.

Homophonic Texture Definition

So now we know that homophonic means “same sound,” and texture is a way to describe how sounds in music are organized. But what does homophonic texture mean?

When a piece has a homophonic texture, it has one clear melody, and one or more supporting harmonies.

This means that you can have lots of different instruments playing, but they’re based around the same melody.

For example, in your favorite pop song, the singer represents the main melody, while the piano, base, and other instruments provide harmonies for the melody. This is homophonic texture.

Another example of homophony is when a violinist plays a solo melody as the rest of the orchestra plays the harmony line.

Most Western music today is made with homophonic texture.

Types of Homophonic Texture

Since homophony is so prevalent in music, there are many different subtypes.

The two main subtypes are known as melody-dominated and homorhythmic. Let’s take a look at each of these subtypes now.

Melody-Dominated

The most common type of homophony is called melody-dominated.

This means that the melody line is much louder or more noticeable than the harmonies and accompaniment.

One example of melody-dominated music is this sheet music of the hymn, “Abide With Me.”

Abide with me sheet music melody dominated homophony example

Most of the popular music today is melody-dominated homophonic texture. A good example of this is “Someone like You” by Adele.

In “Someone Like You,” the piano plays a different rhythm and set of notes than the main melody. Adele sings the melody line, while the piano provides the background harmonies. Since you’re supposed to focus on the melody, this song is melody-dominated.

In fact, most modern music is based around this same model. The singer provides the melody, and the backing instruments play the harmony.

The accompaniment of these songs can be sorted into one of three styles:

  • Block chords
  • Broken (arpeggiated) chords
  • Alberti bass.

Block Chord Arrangement

In block chord arrangement, the harmony is made up of chords below the melody. These chords are played on the strong beats, or to create a four-part harmony to the main melody.

One example of block chords can be found in Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor.” In this piece, you can hear how the melody is clearly defined, and the accompanying harmony is a steady beat of block chords.

Remember, a chord is multiple notes played at the same time. If the accompaniment is made up of individual notes, that would be called…

Broken Chord Accompaniment

Also called arpeggiated chords, broken chords happen when a block chord is broken up, and each note is played one at a time.

In Adele’s song, “Someone Like You,” the piano plays arpeggiated chords during the verses. The piano part plays chords, but each chord is split into separate notes. The chords are not played together.

Alberti Bass Accompaniment

Last but not least, we have the alberti bass accompaniment.

The alberti bass accompaniment is closely related to the broken chords, where each note is played one at a time.

However, what makes this style so unique is the pattern in which the notes are played.

The alberti bass accompaniment follows a specific pattern: low-high-middle-high. So the lowest note of the chord is played first, then the highest, then the middle note, and then the pattern ends on the high note.

This is different from “Someone Like You” by Adele, since the piano part in that song does not follow the pattern of low-high-middle-high.

For a great example of alberti bass accompaniment, check out the first few seconds of Mozart’s “Piano Sonata in C Major.”

Now that we’ve covered the main types of accompaniment for melody-dominated songs, let’s take a look at the second type of homophonic texture, homorhythmic.

Homorhythmic

example of homophonic texture homorhythmic sheet music (image by Wikimedia commons)

Homorhythmic texture means when all the parts of a song (melody, harmony, and accompaniment) all have the same rhythm.

Block chords are homorhythmic, since the chords are played in rhythm with the melody.

Some excellent examples of homorhythmic textures can be seen in the opening of “Some Nights” by fun., or in the opening of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

Homorhythmic textures and block chords can also be found in a lot of instrumental music, such as the introduction of Stravinsky’s ballet piece, “The Rite of Spring.”

Summary of Homophonic Texture

To sum it up, homophonic texture is when a song has a single melody that is supported by at least one harmony.

These harmonies could be from other voices or from instruments. However, the most noticeable part of the song is the melody.

Remember, the word homophonic comes from the greek words meaning “same sounds.” Even though our definition of homophonic texture has changed since then, the same general idea applies. The melody is the main “sound,” and the harmonies support and hold up the melody.

This texture is by far the most common musical texture you’ll hear on the radio.

If you notice a song has a main melody and at least one other instrument as a harmony or accompaniment, that song has homophony, or homophonic texture.

Thanks for reading! We hope this post about homophony is helpful to you.

Do you have any questions about homophonic texture? Let us know in the comments.

Jessica Roberts
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