In music, texture is how the tempo, melodic, and harmonic materials are combined in a musical composition, determining the overall quality of the sound in a piece. The texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and
range Range may refer to: Geography * Range (geographic), a chain of hills or mountains; a somewhat linear, complex mountainous or hilly area (cordillera, sierra) ** Mountain range, a group of mountains bordered by lowlands * Range, a term used to ...
, 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 Common types below). For example, a thick texture contains many 'layers' of instruments. One of these layers could be a string section or another brass. The thickness also is changed by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be changed by the number and character of parts playing at once, the
timbre In music, timbre ( ), also known as tone color or tone quality (from psychoacoustics Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More spec ...

of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony,
tempo In musical terminology This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, Music criticism, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian (see also Italian musical terms used in English), in a ...

, 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).

Common types

In musical terms, particularly in the fields of music history and music analysis, some common terms for different types of texture are: Many classical pieces feature different kinds of texture within a short space of time. An example is the Scherzo from Schubert’s piano sonata in B major, D575. The first four bars are
monophonic Monaural or monophonic sound reproduction (often shortened to mono) is sound intended to be heard as if it were emanating from one position. This contrasts with stereophonic sound Stereophonic sound or, more commonly, stereo, is a method of ...
, with both hands performing the same melody an octave apart: Bars 5–10 are
homophonic In music, homophony (;, Greek language, Greek: ὁμόφωνος, ''homóphōnos'', from ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and φωνή, ''phōnē'', "sound, tone") is a Texture (music), texture in which a primary Part (music), part is supported by o ...
, with all voices coinciding rhythmically: Bars 11–20 are
polyphonic Polyphony is a type of musical texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony " is monophonic as long as it is performed without chord (music), chordal a ...
. There are three parts, the top two moving in parallel (interval of a tenth). The lowest part imitates the rhythm of the upper two at the distance of three beats. The passage climaxes abruptly with a bar’s silence: After the silence, the polyphonic texture expands from three to four independent parts moving simultaneously in bars 21–24. The upper two parts are imitative, the lowest part consists of a repeated note (
pedal point In music, a pedal point (also pedal note, organ point, pedal tone, or pedal) is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign (i.e. dissonant) harmony is sounded in the other parts. A pedal point sometimes functio ...

pedal point
) and the remaining part weaves an independent melodic line: The final four bars revert to
homophony In music, homophony (;, Greek language, Greek: ὁμόφωνος, ''homóphōnos'', from ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and φωνή, ''phōnē'', "sound, tone") is a Texture (music), texture in which a primary Part (music), part is supported by o ...
, bringing the section to a close; center, 500px, Schubert Sonata in B major Scherzo bars 25–28 A complete performance can be heard by following this link

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 György Sándor Ligeti (; hu, Ligeti György Sándor ; 28 May 1923 – 12 June 2006) was a Hungarian-Austrian composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

György Ligeti
is micropolyphony. Other textures include polythematic, polyrhythmic, onomatopoeic, compound, and mixed or composite textures.

See also

* Style brisé


Sources * * *

Further reading

* Anon.: "Monophony", ''
Grove Music Online ''The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'' is an encyclopedic dictionary Title page from the 1894 four volume version of Robert Hunter's ''The Encyclopædic Dictionary''. An encyclopedic dictionary typically includes many short list ...
'', edited by Deane L. Root . * Copland, Aaron. (1957). ''What to Listen for in Music'', revised edition. New York: McGraw-Hill * Demuth, Norman. 1964. ''Musical Forms and Textures: A Reference Guide'', second edition. London: Barrie and Rockliff. * Frobenius, Wolf, Peter Cooke, Caroline Bithell, and Izaly Zemtsovsky: "Polyphony", ''Grove Music Online''. edited by Deane Root . * Hanning, Barbara Russano, ''Concise History of Western Music'', based on
Donald Jay Grout Donald Jay Grout (September 28, 1902 – March 9, 1987) was an American musicologist Musicology (from Greek 'μουσική' (mousikē) for 'music' and 'λογος' (logos) for 'domain of study') is the scholarly analysis and research-based study ...
and Claude V. Palisca's ''A History of Western Music'', fifth edition. Published by W. W. Norton, New York. . * Hyer, Brian: "Homophony", ''Grove Music Online'', edited by Deane Root . * Keys, Ivor. 1961. ''The Texture of Music: From Purcell to Brahms''. London: D. Dobson. *
Kokoras, Panayiotis
Kokoras, Panayiotis
Towards a Holophonic Musical Texture
'. In ''Proceedings of the ICMC2005 – International Computer Music Conference'',. Barcelona: International Computer Music Conference. * White, John David. 1995. ''Theories of Musical Texture in Western History''. Perspectives in Music Criticism and Theory 1; Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 1678. New York: Garland Publishers.

External links

Add Texture: A web app with examples of different sonic textures
{{Authority control Musical texture