Texture is how many layers the music has.

TL;DR (Overview)

  • Texture is how many layers the music has.
  • Texture can be thick or thin.
  • Three basic types of texture are:
    • Monophony (“mono” = single, alone, one + “phonic” = sound) – one melody
    • Polyphony (“poly” = many + “phonic” = sound) – two or more melodies at the same time
    • Homophony (“homo” = same + “phonic” = sound) – usually a melody with an accompaniment.
  • When everybody is singing the same thing together, with no harmony, it’s called singing in unison.

Go to the extras to test yourself!

Texture describes the music’s “thickness”, or how many different layers it has. The graph below illustrates the different kinds of musical textures.


Music is called monophonic when only one instrument or singer is performing a single melody, or when all of the instrumentalists or singers are playing or singing one melody together – this is called singing or playing in unison.

If you hear someone singing a solo all alone, with no instruments and no other people singing, that’s monophony.

If you hear a choir singing all together with no harmony, that’s monophony.

If you hear someone playing a solo on a clarinet, with no accompaniment, that’s monophony.

“Mono” = alone, single, one

In this video, you’ll hear Gregorian chant, which has existed since the 9th century, and is usually sung by monks in a monastery. This is an example of “monophony”, because the men are all singing the same thing at the same time, sounding like only one voice…
Here is another example of Gregorian chant. What’s interesting here is that “Ut queam laxis” was the chant that gave musical notes their first names. (Ut=do, re, mi fa, sol, la…) This time, the chant is sung by only one person. You can see the monophonic texture of the music in the score; there is only one melody line. The syllables that gave their names to the various notes are circled in red.


Music is “polyphonic” When several melodies or musical lines are all going on at the same time. Canons and rounds (like Frère Jacques / Are You Sleeping) are polyphony. A fugue is an example of polyphonic music. There are lots of pieces from the Baroque era that are polyphonic; J. S. Bach wrote many polyphonic works. “Poly” = many In this next video, you’ll hear an orchestra playing Pachelbel’s “Canon”. This is an example of polyphony – different melodic lines playing different things at the same time. Can you hear how the melodies enter at different times, and weave around each other? Below is an excerpt from the orchestral score. You can see the different melodic lines.


Homophonic music is music where a main melody is accompanied by chords, or harmony, all singing or playing together in the same rhythm at the same time.

A singer accompanying herself on the guitar is homophony.

Most pop music is homophonic – a singer is accompanied by other instruments, and the instruments provide harmony to the melody.

Choir / vocal music that is homophonic includes hymns and barbershop music. Barbershop music was born in the U.S. in the late 1800’s, and was originally only sung by men. The first Barbershop singers were African American, and they harmonized popular songs from the time, as well as traditional spirituals.

“Homo” = same

Listen to these recordings of Barbershop quartets.

The first one is of a group singing in the traditional Barbershop style: solid chords, all are (usually) singing the same rhythm. It’s a very “blocky” style, and quite difficult for singers to perfect.

Interestingly, in Barbershop music, the melody is usually sung by the second tenor (second line from the top.)

More modern groups are less homophonic sometimes, as they take on the characteristics of college a cappella groups, where there are moments when the supporting singers imitate an instrumental accompaniment, which is not the case with traditional Barbershop music. The second video illustrates this. It’s a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and you’ll see that it’s not entirely homophonic, but it’s fun. 🙂

A note: Barbershop music is also usually “homorhythmic”, as the singers sing the same rhythms at the same time. Think of this as you listen to the first video.


Test yourself to see if you can remember the different words used to describe texture in music.

Download this graphic to help you remember the different elements of musical texture.


Texture - monophonic (mono = alone, single, one; melody), polyphonic (poly = many; melodies), homophonic (homo = same: melody + same rhythm in accompaniment) / Phonic = sound / Thin texture, thick texture / Harmony - Unison