(musTh1) Musical Texture

Musical Texture is the interaction between separate voice parts in music.

We define three basic categories of musical texture: monophonic, homophonic, and contrapuntal.

Monophonic textures are the least used in common practice ensemble music. To be monophonic, a texture must be comprised of either a single voice, multiple voices playing in unison, or multiple voices playing in octaves. Monophonic textures generally occur for brief passages, and can provide a heightened dramatic effect.

Homophonic textures are the most commonly used textures in tonal music. There are two sub-types of homophonic texture: chordal, or homorhythmic texture; and melody with accompaniment. Melody with accompaniment is by far the most used texture. Homorhythmic texture implies that all voices are moving in (mostly) unison rhythm, but not in unison or octave harmonies (which would be monophonic). Chordal Arpeggiation is a variation of homorhythmic texture. Many of the Back keyboard preludes fall into this category.

Contrapuntal texture is characterized by multiple lines each exhibiting independent melodic qualities. Often there is melodic imitation between voices in a contrapuntal texture. Fugues are the most obvious example of this texture, but you will find imitative passages in classical and romantic music, as well as fugetto (little fugue) sections within larger works.

Instrumental music can, and usually does exhibit flexibility with texture, switching between textures within a piece. Our harmonic exercises will usually be done in a strict texture, using four-voice chorale style writing. This writing is modeled after the Bach chorales, using a Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass ensemble, with the soprano and alto written on one staff in the treble clef, and the tenor and bass written on one staff in the bass clef. Stems go up for soprano and tenor parts, and down for alto and bass parts.

Vocal ranges for each part are as follows (slightly different from Gauldin):

  • Soprano: C4 – G5
  • Alto: G3 – C5
  • Tenor: C3 – G4
  • Bass: E2 – C4


Leave a Reply