10 Native American Music Traditions


Singing and Songs

While Native Americans use instruments in most of their music, they rarely play instrumental pieces, as singing is considered the most important part of the music, along with drumming. Musical genres favored by American Indians include lullabies, songs given to people by their guardian spirits, curing songs, ceremonial songs and those that accompany daily activities [source: Suing].

Not surprisingly, the various tribes have different vocal traditions. The Eastern Woodland Indians, for example, use special vocal techniques like rapid vibrato and yodeling in some songs to make their sounds more expressive. The Plains Indians are known for the tense, nasal tone of their singing, as are the Navajo and Apache; those from the Northwest Coast and Great Basin use a more relaxed, open style. Within these two styles, the tribes tend to favor using the lower or higher end of the vocal range [source: Suing].