For example, GreenSleeves

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Is there a name for this type of composition: chord/harmony + melody? I'm not looking for the genre, which is traditional folk music.

  • 1
    I have also heard this format referred to as "piano lead sheet" or "piano fake". I believe this was because the piano arrangement was built off of a lead sheet/fake book version of the melody, expanding the chord letters into piano clef. Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 18:16
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    I don't understand this question. The vast majority of music is composed of harmony and melody. Can you add an example of a piece that is not "just harmony + melody"? Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 20:16
  • @ToddWilcox we have chorale and fugue which doesn't follow the pattern from above example. Greensleeves could be written in fugue and chorale.
    – Lenny
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 23:49

2 Answers 2


You're asking about what we call texture.

Your example is homophonic (noun: homophony), meaning that one part dominates while the other parts merely provide harmonic support. Some would use the term melody-dominated homophony for something like Greensleeves.

Something like a Bach fugue is polyphonic, meaning there are many independent musical lines.

There is also monophonic music, which is just a single melodic line either played by one instrument or by multiple instruments in parallel motion.

  • Would it change if the chords were broken chords?
    – Lenny
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 23:50
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    Nope! Even a piano sonata with the melody in the right hand and an Alberti bass in the left hand would still be considered homophonic.
    – Richard
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 23:51
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    Are you sure that monophonic has to be unison or octaves? Pretty sure any parallel lines are monophonic, like fifths. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 0:17
  • Good call; or the parallel perfect fourths of ca. 10th--13th century!
    – Richard
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 0:44
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    hey that is the exact name I'm looking for: melody-dominated homophony
    – Lenny
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 13:05

You may be looking for the word 'homophonic'. This describes a musical texture that in clearly divided into a melody and an accompaniment. The opposite is 'polyphonic' which describes music where multiple melodic strands intertwine.

Beyond the most basic singing to a strummed guitar, absolutely pure homophony is rare. In a SATB hymn tune, we try to give each voice a melodic line rather than just jumping around randomly to 'fill in the chord'. Even in the simple 'Greensleeves' version you posted, the chords follow a downwards scale rather than jumping all over the place. This gives a little contrapuntal interest to the music.

  • I remember talking about that descending baseline as counterpoint.
    – Lenny
    Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 23:52

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