Cathy has taught college courses and has a master's degree in music.
Homophony in Music: Definition and Example
Have you ever been to a party where everyone is talking all at once? Some types of music can be like this when there are many different melodies playing at the same time. Other types of music use a simpler texture, such as homophony, that makes it is easier to understand what is being said.
In homophony, there is one main melody and an accompanying harmony. This texture is particularly useful for songs with lyrics that need to be understood. This doesn't mean that all the parts are playing the exact same thing, like a crowd reciting 'The Pledge of Allegiance,' but rather there is one main melody that is on top, and the harmony is under it.
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Homophony in Choral Music
The four-part hymn is one of the most common forms of homophony in choral music. Look at this familiar hymn, 'Rock of Ages.'
Notice that the top line contains the melody, and the other lines contain the notes of chords that create the harmony. When there is more than one part that is making up the harmony beneath the melody, the melody and the harmony must move in the same rhythm to be considered homophony.
Barbershop music is another good example of homophony in choral music. Look at this traditional barbershop song, 'Good Night, Ladies,' which was made popular by the musical, The Music Man. Notice again that the melody is in the top line, and the other parts beneath it supply the harmony. The melody and the harmony use the same rhythm.
Homophony in Songs
Many of the popular songs we know are considered melody-dominated homophony, meaning they have one melody line, and the harmony is provided by a simple chord accompaniment on a piano or guitar. Many times, these songs are written in a lead sheet that gives the performer the melody line, lyrics, and chords to play as an accompaniment.
Look at this lead sheet for the popular folk tune, 'My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.'
Notice that there is a melody line with lyrics, and the chord symbols are printed above, such as C, F, G, etc.
Homophony can be used in instrumental music as well as vocal music. For example, if a trumpet were to play the melody of 'My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean' accompanied by chords on a piano or guitar, it would be homophony.
Homophony is a texture of music that has one main melody line with a chord structure underneath. When individual parts provide this chord structure under the melody, such as in four-part hymns or barbershop quartet music, the melody and harmony must use the same rhythm. A song with one melody and a chord accompaniment, such as a guitar or piano, is also considered homophony. Homophony is used in both vocal and instrumental music.
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Homophony in Music: Definition & Example
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