The Difference Between Spanish Music and Latin American Music

Music serves as a great form of human expression and communication. Spanish music has a rich long history that contributes to its great diversity and is reflective of the various musical traditions across its regions. The music of Latin American was greatly influenced by the European settlers during the 16th-century conquest by the Spanish and Portuguese. These countries have styles of music that showcase their rich cultural heritage. Still, there are significant differences between Spanish Music and Latin American Music when you look at factors such as styles, instrumentation, musical history or even culture implications.

Historical Significance

Unlike Spain with a more homogeneous population, America has an eclectic musical history due to the assimilation of various originally discrete music cultures from migrants. For example, Latin American music also incorporates African music from slaves of European settlers as well as music from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The dictatorial rule of Generalissimo Franco severely suppressed popular music in Spain. But Spanish popular music now has as many genres as Latin American. They each have their versions of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and pop.

Popular Style

The music of Spain is popular for some of its genres like the flamenco, jota, and zarzuela. Because of its highly syncretic make-up, Latin American music covers a variety of styles, including genres like rumba, tango, samba, merengue, salsa, and bachata. The music of the United States has also influenced Latin American music, leading to the development of their versions of rock, hip-hop, jazz, pop, and reggaeton.

Camila Cabello performs “Havana” at the Latin American Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre. (Photo by Chris Pizzello)

Musical Culture

A major difference between the music of Spain and that of Latin America is the message they tend to convey. While Spanish music is often characterized by celebrations and spirited dances, Latin American music tend to convey their collective struggles and goals. Typically, the music of Spain is great for the various carnivals and live concerts.


Both Spanish and Latin American music often features instruments like strings, percussion and wind instruments. The modern acoustic guitar is said to be fashioned after the traditional Spanish guitar which is often the main instrument in traditional Spanish music. Even though the guitar is significantly important in both Spanish and Latin American music, there’s a distinction. For instance, the guitarro used in a genre like the flamenco differs greatly from the electric guitars with modifiers used in Latin American music. Also, the guitar is a key instrument in various styles of traditional Spanish music. The piano, on the other hand, is of primary importance in several Latin American genres.

Sound Modification

Although both Spain and Latin America have their versions of popular music, popular contemporary Latin American music seems to focus on sound rather than content. Many recording studios tend to produce more music suited for clubs and dance halls with less concern for lyrics. Hence, the use of synthesizers and computer modified voices and instruments are favored. Contemporary Spanish music styles, on the other hand, typically emphasizes on the musical talents of the artists and promotes natural sounds.

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