In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody (or "tune"), typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player (e.g., a flute player) without accompanying harmony or chords. Many folk songs and traditional songs are monophonic. A melody is also considered to be monophonic if a group of singers (e.g., a choir) sings the same melody together at the unison (exactly the same pitch) or with the same melody notes duplicated at the octave (such as when men and women sing together). If an entire melody is played by two or more instruments or sung by a choir with a fixed interval, such as a perfect fifth, it is also said to be monophony (or "monophonic"). The musical texture of a song or musical piece is determined by assessing whether varying components are used, such as an accompaniment part or polyphonic melody lines (two or more independent lines).
In the Early Middle Ages, the earliest Christian songs, called plainchant (a well-known example is Gregorian chant), were monophonic. In the 2010s, songwriters often write songs that intersperse sections using monophony, heterophony (two singers or instrumentalists doing varied versions of the same melody together), polyphony (two or more singers or instrumentalists playing independent melodic lines at the same time), homophony (a melody accompanied by chords) or monody (a single melodic line with instrumental accompaniment) elements throughout the melody to create different atmospheres and styles. Monophony may not have underlying rhythmic textures, and must consist of only a single melodic line.
According to Ardis Butterfield (1997), monophony "is the dominant mode of the European vernacular genres as well as of Latin song ... in polyphonic works, it remains a central compositional principle."