, the word texture
is often used in a rather vague way in reference to the overall sound of a piece of music. A piece may be described as having a "thick" texture, or a "light" texture, or other terms taken from outside of music (Aaron Copland
's more popular pieces are described as having an "open" texture). The perceived texture of a piece can be affected by the number of parts playing at once, the timbre
of the instruments playing these parts and the harmony
and rhythms used, among other things.
There are more precise terms which describe the number and relationships between voices:
- Monophony is music with just one part (such as Gregorian chant).
- Heterophony is a kind of complex monophony - there is only one melody, but multiple voices each of which play the melody differently.
- Polyphony is music with several parts, each independent and each as important as the others - none of them are merely accompaniment.
- Homophony is music in which the top part has a dominant melody and other parts are subserviant to it, moving in the same rhythm.
- Monody is 17th century Italian song with a dominant melody and a separate accompaniment.
Note that there is no term which accurately describes the majority of western music made today, featuring a melody and rhythmically free accompaniment, in homophony the accompaniment is not rhythmically free and monody is often used in a historically specific way.