In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice which is called monophony, and in difference from musical texture with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords which is called homophony.
Within the context of the Western musical tradition, the term is usually used to refer to music of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Baroque forms such as the fugue, which might be called polyphonic, are usually described instead as contrapuntal.
Also, as opposed to the species terminology of counterpoint, polyphony was generally either “pitch-against-pitch” / “point-against-point” or “sustained-pitch” in one part with melismas of varying lengths in another.
In all cases the conception was probably what Margaret Bent (1999) calls “dyadic counterpoint”, with each part being written generally against one other part, with all parts modified if needed in the end.
This point-against-point conception is opposed to “successive composition”, where voices were written in an order with each new voice fitting into the whole so far constructed, which was previously assumed.
How to use polyphony in your playing?
One way to use polyphony is by layering different sounds. This can be done by playing a melody on one instrument while simultaneously playing a different melody or accompaniment on another instrument. This can create a very full and rich sound.
You can also use polyphony to add interest and variety to your solos. Instead of simply playing one note at a time, try adding a second soloist and playing two or more riffs together. This can create a more complex and interesting sounding solo.
These are just a few ideas on how you can use polyphony in your playing. Experiment and see what sounds you can come up with!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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