A contrapuntal technique that the same melody is played by different voice and introduced in different duration

"Canon" in music is a compositional technique where a melody, musical line, or theme is imitated and repeated by different voices or instruments with a time delay, creating overlapping and layered textures. In essence, a canon involves multiple parts playing the same music but starting at different times, resulting in a harmonious and polyphonic composition.

The canonical imitation can be at various intervals—such as unison, octave, fifth, or other intervals—and can involve variations in rhythm, dynamics, and articulation. Canons can be simple, involving just two voices, or more complex with multiple voices creating intricate contrapuntal patterns.

Canons can be categorized into different types based on their characteristics:

  • Strict Canon: The imitation is exact, following the original melody in terms of intervals and rhythm.
  • Free Canon: The imitation is more flexible, allowing for variations in rhythm and intervals.
  • Retrograde Canon: The imitation follows the original melody but in reverse, playing the notes from the end to the beginning.
  • Mirror Canon: The imitation is played in reverse intervals, creating a mirror image of the original melody.

Canons have been used by composers across various styles and periods of music. They are found in works ranging from sacred choral compositions to instrumental pieces and popular music. The canon technique can provide complexity and depth to a composition, showcasing the interplay of different voices and demonstrating the composer's creativity within the constraints of the imitation.

Famous examples of canons include Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D". The canon technique remains a fundamental element in music theory and composition, contributing to the rich tapestry of musical expression.

Example of Canon

Pachelbel Canon in D Major - the original and best version.