10 Native American Music Traditions

Secular and Sacred

Both secular and sacred melodies form the repertoires of all Native American tribes. Secular music is used in songs honoring a person's life, in pieces of gratitude and in melodies used for communal celebrations, among many others. Sacred music is employed when dealing with things like the spirit life and the earth's elements. Overall, however, Native Americans perceive the sacred and secular as interwoven and don't make the major distinctions between the two that non-American Indians do [source: Encyclopedia Britannica].

Since drums are the primary instrument used by Native Americans, it's not surprising that they're used in both sacred and secular music. In both uses, it's critical that the sound of the drum beat is heard by everyone, because it's considered the voice that drives the music [source: Suing]. As with secular music, sacred music uses both large and small drums, although secular music tends to use larger drums.

More to Explore