Although in the modern day, Eastern culture has had a lot of influences on Western music and Western culture has had a lot of influence on Eastern music I wanted to a brief break down of the unique differences between the two.
The main difference even an untrained ear can pinpoint is the instruments used.
For example in Eastern music, the most common traditional instruments in many cultures are lutes. The Middle East has a lute called the Oud. India uses the Sitar. China has a lute called the pipa. The list goes on.
Essentially they have instruments that create these entrancing tunes as well as more complex melodies in general. There are many overlapping rhythms and are at the forefront of traditional Eastern music. They use 7-tone and 5-tone systems that rely more on the manipulation of melodies instead of using set chords.
On the other hand, the West has more instruments that are found in orchestras such as string instruments, guitars, woodwind instruments, and percussion instruments such as saxophones and flutes, and bagpipes.
Western music in general puts harmonies at the forefront. They have more complex harmonies and have something called a 12-tone equal temperament. In simple terms, the series of eight notes are organized equally instead of in an odd fashion.
One way to put it is, that Western music is oriented around written music. It can be written down and repeated in an orderly structure. Eastern music is oriented around oral music. It can’t necessarily be captured in notes and is more dynamic and improvisation.
While you can categorize Western music, at its core, Eastern music is not necessarily a genre or category.
As you move from one country to another, their entire way of composing and creating music is different. The instruments they use change based on culture and the way they arrange their rhythms and melodies vary as well.
Don’t want to get too historical here, but because the West has this shared ‘European’ culture it’s easy to say that most Western music sounds similar.
This can’t be said about Eastern music because of how diverse each continent and subcontinent is. South African music is far different from North Eastern Asian music.
That’s one of the most fascinating things I love about music.
How each culture has its own music and how music can tell so much about the country’s culture and history.
If you hadn’t had the chance to listen to some Eastern music, I truly recommend it.
Even what we consider ‘pop’ music sounds far different in Japan or Lebanon or Bollywood.