Monody is a style of composition dominated by a single melodic line, as distinct from monophonic in which there is only one (typically vocal) melody. The sixteenth century madrigal was a polyphonic secular song form, with melodic interest shared between the (most frequently five) voices. In the development of the more soloistic style which was one of the driving forces in the origin of the Baroque, and with it modern tonality, emphasis was shifted to a single upper line for melodic interest as accompanied by instrumental parts to fill a harmonic texture. In a prototypical example, the latter could be chords on a lute. Monody was the name given to this style. From this perspective, one might note that even recent orchestral music is frequently monodic: i.e., a primary melody in the upper range accompanied harmonically. There is some lingering overlap between the terms homophony (see homophony and monody. The term monody emphasizes the distinct or soloistic role of the main melody, while the term homophony emphasizes the concord and alignment between voices in the texture.
The term "monody" first appeared in print in 1589, as part of the original discussion of this music when it was new.