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How To Describe Music Texture?

by Leslie StoneNovember 9, 2021
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Music is a very complex and abstract art form. It can be difficult for people who are not musicians or composers themselves to understand the different elements that make up a piece of music. 

Texture is a term used in musical analysis, most often regarding the vertical or harmonic aspect of a musical work. It may refer to the density, thickness, range, or width between the lowest and highest pitches. In addition, it can also be described as the relative number of voices. The terms tone color/timbre and sonority are related concepts for describing a sound's character rather than its structure. 

The most common types of musical texture include monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic, heterophony, polyphony, homorhythmic or counterpoint (also known as contrapuntal), call-and-response (also known as antiphonal), canon (also known as imitative), and fugue (which is also called double).  These terms may seem complicated at first but once you learn them it’s easy to use them. The two of the most basic textures are described below.

Polyphony 

Polyphony was standard from Renaissance times until around 1900 when harmonies began to break apart into individual lines again due to increased chromaticism introduced by composers like Wagner and Debussy who were inspired by non-Western European art music traditions such as those found in Indian classical music. 

Polyphonic textures contain two or more independent melodic voices that interweave during performance without sounding contrapuntal, as opposed to counterpoint which does use separate melodies but they do not interact with each other while playing simultaneously. 

Homorhythmic Texture

A homorhythmic texture contains multiple rhythmic units grouped so that they move together rhythmically but remain distinct through changes in their chordal accompaniment patterns.

A homophonic texture contains two or more parts moving together in harmony, thus creating chords with every degree of the scale being represented within the same octave register. This is generally considered ideal when creating music that has an expressive quality such as opera.

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