How to Play Folk Music on the Guitar

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking to add some folk flavor to your guitar playing? In this post, we’ll show you how to play folk music on the guitar, with some essential tips and tricks.

Learn some basic chords

If you’re new to the guitar, or just want to brush up on your skills, learning some basic chords is a great place to start. If you’re not sure how to read guitar chord diagrams, check out this tutorial before moving on. For each of the following chords, play the first two strings with your left hand and the last two strings with your right. When you’re first learning these chords, it’s best to finger them in this way so that your fingers are close to the strings that they need to be on.

Here are some basic chords that you can use to play folk music on the guitar:
-D major: D, F#, A
-G major: G, B, D
-C major: C, E, G
-E minor: E, G, B
-A minor: A, C, E
-D minor: D, F, A

Once you’ve learned these basic chords, you can begin playing folk songs on the guitar. Many folk songs only use a few different chords, so it won’t take long before you’re able to play quite a few of them.

Get familiar with the timing and rhythm of folk songs

Folk music is generally played with a 4/4 time signature, meaning there are four beats in a measure and each quarter note receives one beat.However, there are many songs that use a 3/4 time signature, or waltz timing, which means there are three beats in a measure and the quarter note receives one beat. The song “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” is an example of a folk song in 3/4 timing.

In addition to being aware of the timing, it’s important to be aware of the rhythm of folk songs. The rhythm is created by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the words of the song. For example, the popular children’s song “This Old Man” has a very simple repeating rhythmic pattern: stressed-unstressed, stressed-unstressed, stressed-unstressed. In musical notation, this would look like this:

Once you get familiar with the timing and rhythm of folk songs, you can start to experiment with adding your own guitar parts.

Practice, practice, practice

Folk music is a genre of music that typically uses acoustic instruments such as guitars, banjos, and mandolins. It is often based on traditional music from different cultures. Folk music can be played solo or with a group.

If you want to play folk music on the guitar, there are a few things you need to do. First, you need to practice. A lot. Folk music is not easy to play, and it takes time to get good at it. You also need to find a good guitar teacher who can help you learn the basics and beyond.

Once you have a good foundation in guitar playing, start listening to folk music. Pay attention to the melodies and chord progressions. Try to figure out how the songs are put together. Then, start practicing them yourself. There are many resources available online and in print that can help you learn folk songs on the guitar.

With enough practice, you’ll be able to play folk music on the guitar like a pro in no time!

Listen to folk music to get inspiration

In order to play folk music on the guitar, you’ll need to be familiar with the genre’s characteristic sounds. Listen to as much folk music as you can to get a sense of the melodies, chord progressions, and lyrical themes that are common in the genre. Once you have a good understanding of what makes a song sound “folky,” you’ll be better equipped to play folk music on the guitar. You can find inspiration for your own songwriting by listening to popular folk artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Simon & Garfunkel.

In addition to being familiar with the genre’s sound, it’s also important to know how to play some basic guitar chords. Most folk songs are written in simple chord progressions, so it’s helpful to know how to play chords like G, C, D, and E. You can find beginner-friendly tutorials for how to play these chords online or in guitar instructional books. Once you have a handle on these basic chords, you’ll be able to play along with many popular folk songs.

Once you know some basic chords and have a feel for the genre’s sound, try writing your own folk song. Start by coming up with a simple melody that you can play on the guitar. Then, add lyrics that tell a story or express an emotion. Many folk songs are based on personal experiences or historical events, so think about topics that are important to you when writing your own song. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, try brainstorming with a friend or listening to other folk songs for inspiration.

Once you’ve written your song, practice performing it for others. Playing your music in front of an audience is a great way to get feedback and make improvements before recording a formal version of your song. If you’re not ready to perform in front of an audience yet, practice playing your song for friends or family members instead

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