The music and people of Europe are as diverse as the continent itself. From classical to modern, from folk to metal, European culture has influenced countless genres that have spread across the globe.
Some popular brands include The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Linkin Park. While it may be difficult to find a favorite genre in such an expansive region, there’s something for everyone here!
The music of Europe is diverse due
to the numerous ethnic groups that reside there. Folk music is especially prominent in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Hungary. These traditions have survived through ballads, jigs, waulking songs, and fast-paced reels.
The nations of Europe
are united by their common language: English. American pop culture has shaped the music, fashion, and industry of Europe for decades. Popular music from American artists such as
The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Linkin Park have been idolized by Europeans all over the world. In spite of English’s widespread influence on European music; other languages still thrive overseas. Take Icelandic rock band For a Minor Reflection, for instance.
The Icelandic language is commonly mistaken as a Scandinavian dialect rather than its own entity. With lyrics that speak of the land and natural beauty of their homeland, For a Minor Reflection’s art reflects that which they sing about.
Folk music is by far Europe’s oldest musical tradition. Many old-world cultures have been passed down through folk songs for hundreds of years. One particularly prominent example is the Celtic folk tradition in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Hungary.
These traditions have survived with ballads about tragic figures or love songs. They’ve also survived through jigs and waulking songs which are meant to accompany physical labor such as weaving cloth or pounding grain. Finally, they’ve survived through fast-paced reels, dances meant to be played at a rapid tempo.
The English language has shaped popular music in Europe for a few decades now. American pop culture, from artists such as The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Linkin Park have been idolized by Europeans for just about as long. However, other languages still thrive overseas.
One such example is the Icelandic rock band For a Minor Reflection: their music has been influenced by the Icelandic language and the natural beauty of their homeland.
Folk traditions have survived through ballads about tragic figures or love songs; they’ve survived through jigs and waulking songs meant to accompany physical labor such as weaving cloth or pounding grain, and they’ve survived through fast-paced reels meant to be played at a rapid tempo.
It should be noted that many other European countries have their own folk traditions. While not as prominent, France has a Celtic folk tradition very similar to Ireland’s.
Italy has a distinctive regional folk music tradition called the tarantella which is heard in the southern heel of the boot. Finally, Russia has several regions with distinctive folk songs handed down through the generations; these songs are known as chastushki.
European people are more likely to be religious than Americans.
For example, over 60% of Europeans identify as Christians. While Christianity has lost its dominance in Europe it is still an important part of the culture.
Britain’s growing Muslim population has also influenced music. A variety of bands, most notably Radiohead and MIA., have used traditional Islamic melodies to influence their music. Several popular artists such as Sami Yusuf have combined contemporary Islamic music with western instrumentation.
Fun fact: the English language has influenced popular music in Europe for decades now, but it hasn’t always been that way. Before global pop culture came into play, success in Europe was largely dependent on the languages used (such as German and French). For instance, check out these two German pop songs from the 1960s:
It may surprise you to know that this song, entitled Wir Zwei Allein by Lolita, is actually about incest. And while it never achieved success in America, it was a hit in West Germany. The song also reached number six on the German charts.
European music has an emphasis on melody and harmony rather than rhythm and percussion
For instance, many popular American artists such as Kanye West and Justin Timberlake use drums and other percussive instruments to drive their music. Meanwhile, European artists are more likely to use violins and other string instruments to create a melody.
This is why we hear harmonicas in American blues and acoustic music while we don’t in the contemporary pop scene with Rihanna and Nicki Minaj (although that’s not entirely true). Chord progressions are also more likely to be based around major chords on the I, IV, and V scale degrees.
This is probably because these chord progressions sound happier than minor chords or diminished chord progressions (in fact, the Beatles song “Hey Jude” makes great use of this I-IV-V progression). That’s why contemporary rock bands from Europe, especially those from Scandinavia or Britain, have a more traditional flavor than contemporary American popular music.
Take British rock band Coldplay for example. Their songs mostly involve acoustic guitars and pianos that play major chord progressions in a slow tempo with orchestral instruments that provide backing melodies. It’s not surprising that this kind of music is very popular in Europe.
Fun Fact #1:
Popular American songwriters/bands have often made extensive use of the pentatonic scale which uses five notes per octave instead of seven. This makes it easier for non-musicians to play certain melodies because they don’t need as much training. Many Vietnamese and Chinese pop songs, as well as blues music, often use the pentatonic scale.
Fun Fact #2:
Musical notation has been around since medieval times but was only standardized in the 1600s after some genius named Pierre de Fermat came up with a mathematical equation that helped people write down notes on sheet music.
And since we’re on the topic of music, did you know there are at least 27 known types of scales that different cultures have used to create their music?
That’s a lot considering that most pop songs only use one or two kinds. For example, there’s the diatonic scale which is based around seven notes per octave and is what most songs are written to these days (i.e., Do-Re-Mi).
The pentatonic scale, which is used in blues music and Yao Fei’s flute tunes, consists of five notes per octave. Then there’s the whole tone scale that only has six notes per octave (i.e., Do-Re, Re, Mi-So). You can also base a scale on whole or half steps to create different scales (i.e., major or minor).
Fun Fact #3:
When Bob Marley used the pentatonic scale in his popular song “No Woman No Cry”, he wasn’t doing it because of any artistic reason or because it was his favorite scale. He did it simply because he couldn’t remember the lyrics!
Fun Fact #4:
The Beatles may have sung “I get by with a little help from my friends” but no one gets by with four chords alone. You see, most rock songs use either three or four chords (i.e., the I, IV, V chords in a major or minor key). And if you use songs with four chords for transcription quests, you’ll be done in no time.