Native American Tribal Music

Want to learn more about Native American tribal music? Read on to get a comprehensive overview of the tribal Native American music…

A tribal lifestyle flourished amongst the locals of America long before the colonial powers stepped foot in the region. Music was an integral part of this culture and each tribe had its own peculiar style of music with which it was identified.


Perhaps the most popular form of Native American tribal music originated from the tribes of the Southwest region. The two main cultures that flourished in this area were Pueblo and Athabaskan. The Athabaskan Navajo tribe along with the various Apache tribes that dwelled in the region had plain style Native music which was characterized by nasal vocalization and unblended monophony as part of their culture. On the other hand the Pueblos had a more low ranging and relaxed feel to their music. However their music was a form of highly blended monophonic style.

The Athabaskans were known for producing up beat songs with excessive use of drums and rattles. Certain unique instruments were also developed and used in the region including the Apache Violin.

The Pueblos put in a lot of effort into their melodies as they were detailed and complex. They often featured five sections. The songs would commence with detailed intros and go through a series of changes. However when compared to their Athabaskan cousins the Pueblos produced slow tempo music.

Eastern Woodlands

This region had a unique call and response style singing method known as antiphony. The music in this region was characterized by complex rhythms featuring metric changes. The music would most often be accompanied by dance.

The Native Flute was the main instrument used in their music. However it was accompanied by many different kinds of drums, striking sticks and rattles. The music had short iterative phases that were accompanied by reverting relationships. Shouts and chanting would kick off the music whereas the music was mainly based on anhematonic pentatonic scales. The music was played on simple rhythms.


Native American music had another distinct flavor in the plains. High pitched nasal music colored with frequent falsettos was characteristic of the music of the region. One of the unique features of the Native American music of the plains was the terracing descent, meaning a step by step descent down octaves. This was conducted in an unblended monophony.

The songs in this region were divided into two parts. The second part would be repeated prior to returning to the start. The natives of the plains made use of large sized double skin drums along with solo end-blown flutes known as Flageolet.

Great Basin

The music developed by the people of this region was relatively simple and had a very discreet and ornate feel to it. Short melodies characterized the music of the Great Basin natives and it usually had a range even more limited than an octave. The vocalization used to accompany the music was very relaxed and open. They used a paired phrase structure which made the music unique

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