What Is the Difference Between Homophonic and Polyphonic?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 25, 2020 12:18:53 PM ET

The difference between homophonic and polyphonic is that polyphony is more complex. Polyphony produces multiple non-competing layers of music, requiring the listener to pay closer attention. Homophony produces one dominating melody, being supported by another, and requires less concentration.


Homophony is a predominating musical texture, while polyphony is a prominent musical texture. Both textures define a distinctive form in musical applications. Predominating, by definition, declares one element to possess more importance or power than other participating elements. Prominent, by definition, declares an element to be noticeable within a collection, without being a dominant element.

A singer singing a melody accompanied by a simple arrangement played on wind instruments is an example of homophony. The singer’s voice carries the melody; the wind instruments support the melody. It is important to note that the two could be reversed, yet still be referred to as homophony. Melody and support are the two comprising parts of homophony; however, only one can dominate.

Equality is a key element in polyphonic musical texture, meaning vocals and instrumentation can stand alone as a melodic musical piece. A polyphonic musical texture is achieved when two melodic elements are combined, creating musical layers. The stand-alone melodies in polyphonic texture are not confined by rules with regard to their origination. In other words, the melodies can be either two combined instrumental melodies or two vocal melodies.