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Musical Texture

The "Texture" of a piece of music is generally how the different parts of it interact. There are different kinds of Texture, such as "Monophonic", "Polyphonic", and "Homophonic".

• If we have only a single Melody, then the Texture of that piece of music is considered "Monophonic".

• When we have a single Melody with some kind of Accompaniment (such as a Chord Progression being played underneath it), then that piece is considered "Homophonic" in Texture. Throughout these articles, we have mostly been considering music with a Homophonic Texture.

• "Polyphonic" Texture (or "Polyphony" for short) is having two or more distinct Melodies occurring at the same time. They may be sung by several different people or played on separate instruments. However, the use of multiple instruments does not necessarily mean that a piece is Polyphonic. For example, if two instruments were playing the exact same thing in parallel it would still be considered Monophonic.


"Counterpoint" is a set of principles that are used while Composing that help us to keep Melodies distinct from one another. Whenever we are dealing with Polyphony, we can think of it as simply two Melodies that are layered on top of one another, one higher and one lower. The higher Melody we will refer to as the "Lead Melody", and the lower Melody we will refer to as the "Backing Melody".

The principles of Counterpoint deal with the movement of the Lead Melody in relation to the Backing Melody, and vice versa. Again, if we want two Melodies to be interpreted as separate, then they have to relate to one another in a particular way.

Principle #1: If the Lead Melody is Ascending, then the Backing Melody stays the same. It is like the former is gliding on top of the latter. This is called "Oblique Motion".

Principle #2: If the Lead Melody is Ascending, then the Backing Melody should be Descending, or vice versa. This is called "Contrary Motion" (as opposed to "Parallel Motion", which is when both Melodies are going in the same direction). To reiterate, Parallel Motion produces a Monophonic Texture. We want to avoid this if we are trying to create Polyphony.

These movements, Oblique, Contrary, and Parallel, are called "Contrapuntal Motion".

Principle #3: If the Lead Melody moves by a Leap, then the Backing Melody moves by a Step, or vice versa. In other words, when the Melodic Intervals are large in one Melody, then they should be small in the other Melody. This will give each of them a different Contour.

To create Polyphony with more than two Melodies, repeat this process with as many Melodies as you want, taking each of them in pairs until all of them are unique.

Sometimes two Melodies will seem to clash because the Notes that are occuring at the same time within each of them make an Interval that sounds Dissonant. This is called a "False Relation". If you have fiddled with the Counterpoint and cannot seem to get it to work out in a way that satisfies you, try playing around with the Rhythm of the two Melodies instead.

Some pieces of music have multiple instruments playing or singers singing the same Melody and create variation by simply changing when it appears. To give a couple of examples:

• A "Canon" is when one Melody leads while the other(s) lag behind (e.g.: "Row Row Row Your Boat"). This creates a really interesting delay.

• A "Hocket" is when sections of the Melody are passed back-and-forth. [Here is an informative video with several examples from multiple genres.]

I hope these ideas help you with your Composing. Thank you for reading! ♥