Know your textures

Homophonic, polyphonic and monophonic

Ain't gonna let nobody | Lyrics
Wow your audience with this hip-hop inspired arrangement of a traditional spiritual.

Eye of the tiger | Lyrics
A roaring anthem on the theme of resilience from the rock ‘hall of fame’.

Hotaru koi | Lyrics
A charming traditional Japanese round about fireflies

Laudate Deum | Lyrics
A spirited baroque canon by Henry Purcell

Lean on me | Lyrics
This is a soul ballad from the 1970s which resonates strongly with PSHE themes of maintaining supportive and empathetic school communities. 

Mercy | Lyrics
Pitch perfect arranger Deke Sharon puts his spin on Duffy’s modern classic

Monophonic monks | Lyrics
A tongue-in-cheek tune to teach about monophonic texture

Now is the month of Maying  (Mixed voices) | Lyrics
Thomas Morley’s thoroughly enjoyable English madrigal in five parts

O Haupt voll blut und Wunden | Lyrics
One of Bach’s favourite chorales, perfect as a springboard into studying harmony

Oh how lovely is the evening | Lyrics
This traditional round provides a great introduction to singing in canon

Polly-phonic! | Lyrics
A jaunty warm-up piece demonstrating polyphonic texture – simple to learn and satisfying to sing!

Rise | Lyrics
A super catchy and motivating song about self-belief and perseverance

Rose, rose | Lyrics
A traditional English round forming beautiful melodic minor harmony

Sing (Pentatonix) | Lyrics
Whatever life throws at you, all you have to do is ‘Sing!’

Team tough | Lyrics
A catchy little number with cheeky rhythms written to demonstrate homophonic texture

Throw, catch | Lyrics
This is a fun, simple warm-up song to get everyone energised

Tue tue | Lyrics
This traditional Ghanaian folk song is simple to learn and works brilliantly as a round

Activity ideas based around the songs

The aim of these activities is to:

  • Sing with good tuning and tone
  • Sing a range of songs with different textures and experience singing both melody and harmony
  • Compose or arrange a short piece of music with different textures in it – these could be for voices or instruments or a combination. 
  • Develop your understanding and knowledge of a range of textures such as monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic and imitative (including round/canon) and recognise them in pieces of music.

Firstly, listen to the three pieces that introduce the textures: monophonic, polyphonic and homophonic. These songs introduce the textures both in the lyrics but also in how the music is written.

  • Monophonic monks
  • Team tough

Monophonic has one melodic line and no harmony. It could be sung by one voice or lots of voices in unison
Homophonic has one clear melody while everything else fills in the chords, harmony, rhythm
Polyphonic has more than one melody happening at the same time 

Your next task is to work your way through learning to sing songs with different textures. Musical texture is best experienced through singing and playing music. Here are some suggestions to sing:

List 1: songs in unison e.g. Rise, Eye of the tiger

List 2: songs that are in a round e.g. Tue, tue, Rose, rose, Laudate Deum

List 3: songs in parts e.g. Ain't gonna let nobody, Lean on me, O haupt vol blut und Wunden, Now is the month of Maying

Listening and appraising:
Now you’ve sung different types of songs think about the textures they each had. Take a listen to songs in the playlist and see if you can find examples of:

A song where:

  1. There is only one melody, nothing else
  2. A song that starts monophonic (one melody) but becomes polyphonic (several melodies)
  3. A song that is in parts but the parts are homophonic (in harmony, moving together)
  4. A song with only one melody but the melody is used in multiple voices creating a polyphonic texture
  5. A song that is polyphonic with multiple melodies
  6. A song with only one melody (unison)
  7. A song where parts imitate each other
  8. A song that has all three textures

Compose/ Arrange
Compose or arrange a short piece of music for two or three voices or instrument parts. Try and include an example that is monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic. Take inspiration from songs like Sing (Pentatonix), Mercy and Lean on me. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Take the chorus of a song you really like and learn to sing/ play it or write your own short melody (it needn’t have words). This is an exercise so start with a small amount of musical material.
  • Record your melody three times. This is your reference point.
  • Next write a harmony that fits with your melody. Try and do this by ear. This creates a homophonic texture. Remember the melody is the most important so this should complement it. Record it or write it down in some way that you sing from.
  • Invent a new melody that fits with your first melody reference and record it in some way.
  • Practise playing the melody, the harmony and the new melody. Once you’ve rehearsed it play it live with your reference recording – record it.

Lots of singers are on Tik Tok creating arrangements collaboratively. Pick a tune and sing it. Send it to a friend and ask them to add a harmony. You could do this multiple times. Give it a go. Check out this version of Viva la Vida

Or download a trial version of the Acapella App and create your own vocal arrangement video.

Example answers:

  1. Monophonic monks
  2. Oh how lovely is the evening, Rose, rose
  3. Lean on me, O haupt vol Blut und Wunden
  4. Hotaru koi, Tue, tue
  5. Now is the month of Maying
  6. Eye of the tiger, Rise
  7. Polly-phonic, Laudate Deum, Now is the month of Maying
  8. Throw, catch

Song Videos

Teaching videos of some of our favourite songs

Recommended links

Curated set of inspiring videos and resources

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Handy list of all songs available in Sing Up at Home
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