What is Texture? What is Texture.docx


  • Can you hear distinct parts?
  • Do they sound together in the same rhythm?
  • Or, do they sound together as separate but equal strands playing against each other?
  • The surface appearance of music, like a landscape but really a “soundscape,” is called Texture.

In the Overview, we discussed texture as the surface appearance of music, like a landscape but really a “soundscape.” Texture in general not only refers to the surface appearance of something, it also describes the feel of something. When we think of texture, we often think of something we can touch, such as a woven fabric. In music, distinct parts are woven together to create a sonic fabric. The musical parts may sound together in the same rhythm, or they may sound as more independent strands playing against each other. We use adjectives such as “thick” or “thin” to describe whether there are many parts or only a few in a musical texture. Furthermore, specific names identify various kinds of musical textures. Here are the most important types.

Monophonic means one sound, or one part. An unaccompanied solo song or instrumental piece is monophonic.

Polyphonic means many sounds, or two or more independent melodic lines usually with staggered entrances, like a round. We discussed a kind of polyphonic texture when we touched on the concept of counterpoint in (see Analysis Practice: Intervals into Action), or the interaction between two or more independent musical lines that have a harmonic relationship. We worked with melodies and bass lines that had equal weight, like a pole and counter pole in the texture. A walking jazz bass line creates such a texture, and ground Bass Lines are even more independent.

Homophonic means same sound, where all the parts sound together at the same time in a note-against-note style. The highest part usually carries the tune, like a hymn.

  • Melody and accompaniment is a kind of homophonic texture, where the tune predominates above a supporting harmony elaborated by arpeggios or a jump-bass pattern rather than a strict chordal arrangement.

Analysis Practice: Texture in the Repertory Pieces

Use this list to help you study the kind of textures in the Repertory pieces! Although we have no examples of a monophonic piece, remember this texture describes a single melody line. This list identifies the kind of texture for most of the examples in the Repertory!



  • Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, p. 11: Find the contrapuntal treatment of the motive in mm. 126-140

Melody/Bass Counterpoles

  • Layla, p. 19
  • Telephone, p. 29
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps, p. 40
  • “Dido’s Lament,” (p. 64a)


Strict note-against-note

  • Emory Alma Mater, p. 24
  • Bach chorales, pp. 1-3

Melody and Accompaniment

  • Chopin Prelude, p. 18
  • Just Squeeze Me, p. 25
  • Mozart Theme, p. 47 (arpeggios)
  • Vuelvo al sur, p. 48 (arpeggios, then simply repeated block chords)
  • Begin the Beguine, p. 59
  • Pyramid Song, p.65
  • My Favorite Things, p.69 (jump bass)
  • La cumparsita, p. 73 (arpeggios); with counter melody
  • Erlkönig, p. 75 (with bass motive repeated throughout)