Homophony in Music: Definition & Example

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathy Neff

Cathy has taught college courses and has a master's degree in music.

In music, homophony refers to musical texture that relies on chords accompanied by at least one strand to embellish the harmony. Explore the definition of homophony in music and review an example. Understand how homophony is used in choral music and songs. Updated: 10/14/2021

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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  • 0:42 Homophony in Choral Music
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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.

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