Musical Styles

In its history, America's songs have been performed in many musical styles. Learn more about how these musical styles developed and listen to examples.

  • Popular Songs of the Day

    "Popular songs" can be broadly defined as songs that are at least intended to reach a broad audience via some form of commercial distribution, such as broadsides, sheet music, song collections, touring musicians or musical production and from the 1890s on, commercial recordings. Being made to travel, popular music is most likely to represent a broad range of influences, including ones from folk, church ...

  • Parlor and Concert Stage

    Music performance in the United States takes place both at home and on the concert stage. Music written for each of these venues has been of equal importance to the development of American music. The performance of secular music in the United States developed, just as it had many centuries earlier in Europe, along two parallel paths. First, musical gatherings in the private homes ...

  • Traditional and Ethnic

    Traditional songs, often called "folk songs," are learned informally, within the context of family, tribe, community, or another close-knit group. Many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or ethnic and regional communities for generations, and as in the case of American traditional songs, can sometimes be traced back to such places of origin as Great Britain, Europe, or Africa and other ...

  • Ritual and Worship

    Sacred music has been a vibrant part of American culture from the earliest sacred oral traditions of indigenous peoples through the written traditions of the first European colonists. With the settlement of the Plymouth, Massachusetts colony in 1620, sacred music played an important role in helping to define the cultural identity of the region of the New World that would become the United States.