10 Native American Music Traditions



A chordophone is an instrument that has one or more strings stretched across a frame or sound box. You play the instrument by plucking, rubbing, bowing or striking the strings. Guitars, harps and fiddles are common chordophones.

Most of the chordophones used by Native Americans appeared after European settlers came ashore with their instruments, which the Native Americans copied, then tweaked, to come up with sounds pleasing to their musical sensibilities. Over time, the Native Americans' chordophones became indigenous [source: Suing].

Chordophone development and use varied by tribe. The Apache and Arctic Inuit especially favored fiddles, while harps became common in Latin American tribes. Guitars were widespread throughout the Americas. The Apache created a one- or two-string chordophone from the hollow stalk of an agave plant, which they dubbed a violin in English [source: Suing].One chordophone truly indigenous to Native Americans is the musical bow, which is a curved stick with a string stretched across the ends. The player can strike, pluck or rub the string to make music. Interestingly, although the musical bow is indigenous, contemporary Native American music rarely makes us of it [source: Suing].