The Difference Between Spanish & American Music

By Jacob Burney
The electric guitar is a staple in American musical culture.

Music has always been a major form of human artistic expression. American music has an eclectic history derived from many groups of immigrants that brought their own native musical styles. Spain has a more homogeneous population than the United States and, therefore, has a more collective musical style. American musical genres, such as blues, rock 'n' roll, jazz and hip-hop have inspired Spanish versions, but significant differences remain between the two musical cultures. Musical differences between the two countries range from instrumentation to cultural impact.

Cultural Significance

A major difference between the countries is the cultural impact of their respective music. Smaller groups of Americans tend to express their collective struggles, opinions and goals through song. For example, Irish- and African-Americans' musical impact has been so powerful that it has helped shape the culture of the country. According to "Maps of the World," people associate Spanish music with spirited dancing and celebrations rather than cultural discourse. Typically, Spanish music fuels the live events, such as bullfights and carnivals, that are common in Spain.

The Guitar

The guitar is a crucial instrument in both American and Spanish music. GuyGuitars reports that Spain fashioned the modern acoustic guitar and gave birth to the classic guitar virtuosos. Traditional Spanish music, such as flamenco, preserves its roots by playing and creating songs that spotlight the traditional Spanish guitar. However, American use of the instrument has changed with technology. Electric guitars, pick-ups and modifiers are used liberally in hopes of making the next popular sound. In many American musical styles, the piano is the primary instrument.

Modification

For the most part, contemporary American popular music promotes sound rather than substance. Record companies want the next "club banger" to make people move and sing along; the lyrics are inconsequential. Therefore, keyboards and computer modification of instruments and voices are common. While Spain does produce American-style popular music, the Spanish style typically highlights the natural sounds and talents of the artists involved. Synthesizers and other modifiers are rarely the primary sound in Spanish music.

Popular Music History

Under Generalissimo Francisco Franco's dictatorial rule, popular music was severely limited in Spain from the 1930's to the 1970's. According to "Maps of the World," there were few outlets for Spanish musicians or opportunities for foreign artists to perform in the country. During this same period, there was substantial social upheaval in America, fueled as much by popular music as by social conditions. Today, Spanish popular music has as many genres as American, but is not intrinsically tied to cultural concerns.

About the Author

Based in Washington, D.C., Jacob Burney has been writing professionally since 2005. He has written articles for "Broncos GameDay" magazine and the 2007 "South Pacific Games." He has also written several approved grant proposals. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer and holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Bucknell University with minors in philosophy and religion.