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In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition (Benward & Saker 2003, 131), thus determining the overall quality of sound of a piece. Texture is often described in regards to the density, or thickness, and range, or width between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices (see types of texture below) (Benward & Saker 2003, 131). A piece's texture may be affected by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used.

The types categorized by number and relationship of parts are analyzed and determined through the labeling of primary textural elements: primary melody (PM), secondary melody (SM), parallel supporting melody (PSM), static support (SS), harmonic support (HS), rhythmic support (RS), and harmonic and rhythmic support (HRS) (Benward & Saker 2003, p.136).


Common Types

In musical terms, particularly in the fields of music history and music analysis, some common terms for different types of texture are:


"Pop Goes the Weasel" melody (Kliewer 1975, p.270-301).

(Benward & Saker 2003, 136). PSMs often double or parallel the PM they support (Benward & Saker 2003, p.137).


Two distinct lines, the lower sustaining a drone(constant pitch)while the other line creates a more elaborate melody above it. Pedal tones or ostinati would be an example of a SS (Benward & Saker 2003, p.137).


A bar from J.S. Bach's "Fugue No.17 in A flat", BWV 862, from Das Wohltemperirte Clavier (Part I), a famous example of contrapuntal polyphony

Multiple melodic voices which are to a considerable extent independent from or in imitation with one another. Characteristic texture of the Renaissance music, also prevalent during the Baroque period (Benward & Saker 2003,1999,199,158,137, 136,129,110,90,59,35,11,9,0). Polyphonic textures may contain several PMs (Benward & Saker 2003, p.137).


Homophony in Tallis' "If ye love me," composed in 1549. The voices move together using the same rhythm, and the relationship between them creates chords: the excerpt begins and ends with an F major triad. To listen, hear music sample below.

The most common texture in Western music: melody and accompaniment. Multiple voices of which one, the melody, stands out prominently and the others form a background of harmonic accompaniment. If all the parts have much the same rhythm, the homophonic texture can also be described as homorhythmic. Characteristic texture of the Classical period and continued to predominate in Romantic music while in the 20th century, "popular music is nearly all homophonic," and, "much of jazz is also" though, "the simultaneous improvisations of some jazz musicians creates a true polyphony" (Benward & Saker 2003, 136). Homophonic textures usually contain only one PM (Benward & Saker 2003, p.137). HS and RS are often combined, thus labeled HRS (Benward & Saker 2003, p.137).


Multiple voices with similar rhythmic material in all parts. Also known as "chordal". May be considered a condition of homophony or distinguished from it.


Two or more voices simultaneously performing variations of the same melody.


A texture most commonly found in rock music that starts off mono or homophonic, and gradually changes and builds up to polyphonic. This also refers to the volume of a song. See: musical form.

Additional Types

Although in music instruction certain styles or repertoires of music are often identified with one of these descriptions this is basically added music. (for example, Gregorian chant is described as monophonic, Bach Chorales are described as homophonic and fugues as polyphonic), many composers use more than one type of texture in the same piece of music.

A simultaneity is more than one complete musical texture occurring at the same time, rather than in succession.

A more recent type of texture first used by György Ligeti is micropolyphony. Other textures include polythematic, polyrhythmic, onomatopoeic, compound, and mixed or composite textures (Corozine 2002, p.34).

Eric Whitacre's piece October is a piece where homophony, polyphony, and monophony are all utilized.


  • Benward & Saker (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, Vol. I. Seventh Edition. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  • Copland, Aaron. What to Listen for in Music. Published by Signet Classic, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY.
  • Corozine, Vince (2002). Arranging Music for the Real World: Classical and Commercial Aspects. Pacific, MO: Mel Bay. ISBN 0-7866-4961-5. OCLC 50470629. 
  • Hanning, Barbara Russano, Concise History of Western Music, based on Donald Jay Grout & Claudia V. Palisca's A History of Western Music, Fifth Edition. Published by W. W. Norton & Company, New York, Copyright 1998. ISBN 0-393-97168-6.
  • Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music, p.270-301. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.

Further reading

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Texture". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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