One of the most important parts of a song is its texture. It’s what gives a song its life, personality, and atmosphere, and without intentional and well-thought-out texture, a song feels bland, lifeless, and one-dimensional. Texture can make or break the way that a listener listens to a song and the emotional value that they get out of it.
Texture in and of itself seems a bit confusing, but it’s definitely a necessary element of putting music together. The way the texture is used will separate a lower quality song from a masterpiece, and it affects the song at large. It is critical to master how texture is created to fully realize a song or album’s potential. Let’s dive into what texture is and how musicians, composers, and producers can use it to make the hits they’re striving for.
Fundamentally, texture in a song is how the different parts of the music all work together to determine the song’s overall feeling and sound quality. Composers will describe the texture of a song in terms of thickness, density, and width. These descriptors might relate to the number of different voices in a song and how they are spaced out. Typically, composers will identify songs with fewer voices in them as very sparse, and songs with lots of voices are very dense.
Think of it like this: a solo voice sounds much different than a full-on choice, or even a single voice paired with backup. Those extra layers of sound are the texture.
Levels of density can have different purposes in songs, and there is not a universal “best” texture. It just comes down to what the song is calling for and what kind of delivery the producer is looking for.
For example, most “acoustic” or “stripped” versions of songs have a sparser texture, but that serves the intimate and personal feeling that those recordings have. Conversely, high-energy songs that are moving fast and want to get people’s blood pumping tend to have much denser arrangements because they carry more energy. Understanding what serves the song the best is the most important part of using texture as a tool.
Two different types of texture are most commonly used in modern music: Monophony and Polyphony. They each have their own uses in songs, and it all comes down to the tone you’re looking for.
Monophonic music is the simplest kind of musical texture. It’s much thinner, with only one melody. This can be sung by one or more people, but it generally just has a single tune that is being played or sung.
Because it is so simple and stripped back, it can have a very dramatic effect in a song and is often used at the beginning or the end of the song as a transition in or out of the music. It’s also used in the middle of a very dense song to make a dramatic impact. This drop in texture sticks out well and adds interest to the composition of a song.
The next type of texture, which is by far the most common, is Polyphony. By definition, this type of texture means that it has many voices, all doing separate things but simultaneously working together to create one cohesive piece of music. This is the way most music in the modern world works. It often contains a myriad of different melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and other elements that compose a full song.
Think about a normal song. It typically will have a lead vocal or instrument, which is the element of the song that stands out the most to the listeners. Underneath that, a bunch of different instruments and elements are providing harmonic support. These are typically the keyboards, rhythm guitars, synthesizers, and other harmony-producing instruments. Underneath those is typically a monophonic bass section that makes sure that the rhythm section and the harmonic sections are connected and tight within the song. Finally, the rhythm section makes sure that everyone stays in time on a consistent and steady beat.
All of these elements come together to create a polyphonic song, and most polyphonic songs are composed of a large number of monophonic elements. The more elements that are inside this song, the denser it will sound to the listener.
When composing a song, texture in a purely musical sense is important to think about, but it doesn’t end there. It’s also important to understand how texture works from a purely sonic perspective. Sonic texture gives every song a different feeling and makes different recordings sound unique, even if they technically have the same composition.
Typically, the way that the instruments sound contributes to the overall texture of the song. When an instrument is recorded or mixed in a way that is very tight and lacking in reverb and delay, it typically will feel much more sparse. This is because reverb and roominess add a layer of texture and harmonic content over the original sound, which fills up the sound dramatically. That’s why orchestras record in large halls with lots of reverb. It’s going to add even more texture and density to the sound.
Ambient and soundscape musicians, in particular, make use of texture in their music. Songs like Silence of Siberia by Lowercase Noises and Interstates by Softer Shadows are great examples of using highly textured sounds as the primary elements of the song. The roominess and reverb throughout the songs make them sound and feel dense, even if the overall instrumentation is simple. This specific production style is heavily used in film soundtracks as well, thanks to its ability to create an emotional and evocative atmosphere.
One of the hardest parts of creating an intentionally dense texture within a song is knowing how to balance the level of harmonic complexity with the overall sound quality. It’s so important to create songs that are full of both of those elements, but that can be really hard to do. That’s why Unison exists.
At Unison, we have a wide range of sound packages to help producers create the tracks of their dreams. The Unison MIDI Chord Pack can eliminate guesswork and trial & error from your chord and melody creation process. Plus, stop wasting time searching and sifting through mediocre presets with our huge collection of Serum Presets. With Unison, your next masterpiece is right around the corner.