What You Need to Know About Folk Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


If you’re interested in learning more about folk music, this blog post is for you! We’ll cover the basics of what you need to know about this genre, its history, and some of its most famous performers.

The Origins of Folk Music

Folk music has been around for centuries and has been passed down from generation to generation. It is a genre of music that is typically created by the common people and is meant to be enjoyed by everyone. Folk music often tells a story and is a reflection of the culture and values of the people who created it.

The British Isles

The British Isles have a rich history of folk music, with many different traditions developing in different regions. England is perhaps the best-known region for folk music, thanks to iconic performers like Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan. But there are also strong traditions in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The term “folk music” can be tricky to define, but in general, it refers to traditional music that is passed down orally from generation to generation. Folk music is often created by ordinary people for their own enjoyment, rather than professional musicians. It tends to be simple and catchy, with easy-to-remember melodies and lyrics.

Folk music often reflects the history and culture of the people who create it. For example, many British folk songs tell stories about working life in the country or city, love affairs gone wrong, or local legends and superstitions. Folk songs can also be political, like “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan.

Despite its simple origins, folk music has had a huge impact on modern popular culture. Many of today’s biggest stars, including Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, began their careers by playing folk music in small clubs and cafes. So if you’re a fan of popular music, there’s a good chance you already know some folk songs without even realizing it!

The United States

Folk music in the United States is often thought of as music that is passed down from generation to generation within families and communities, as opposed to music that is composed by professional songwriters and performers. Although some folk songs do fit this description, others were created by professional composers and lyricists who were inspired by traditional folk music. In addition, many folk songs from other countries have been adopted by Americans and become part of the American folk tradition.

American folk music has its roots in the music of the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants who came to the United States during the colonial period and the early 19th century. These immigrants brought with them a rich tradition of folk songs, many of which contained elements of storytelling, humor, and religious beliefs. Many of these songs were adapted to fit the needs of American workers, including those who worked on farms, in mines, and in factories. As America began to industrialize during the late 19th century, workers increasingly found themselves living in cities far from their rural homes. This urbanization led to a new wave of Folk songs that reflected the experiences of workers in cities such as New York City and Chicago.

During the 20th century, Folk music underwent a number of important changes. In the early 1900s, several Folk singers (such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger) began to write new songs about current events and social issues. These “protest” or ” topical” songs addressed topics such as poverty, racism, war, and other issues that were important to Americans at that time. In the 1940s and 1950s, Folk music was popularized by a number of commercially successful performers such as Pete Seeger, The Weavers , Woody Guthrie , Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter , Odetta , Josh White , Lead Belly . In addition to these performers, Folk music was also popularized by a number of recordings released by major record labels . These recordings helped make Folk music more accessible to a wider audience .

The 1960s saw a renewed interest in Folk music , due in part to the success of The Kingston Trio , Peter Paul & Mary , Joan Baez , Bob Dylan , and other artists who performed what was becoming known as ” Contemporary Folk ” or ” Singer-Songwriter ” music. This type of Folk music often featured political or social commentary in the lyrics , and many artists used their talents to promote causes such as Civil Rights or anti-war protests . Dylan’s song ” The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement , while his song ” Blowin’ in the Wind ” became an anti-war anthem . During this same period , there was also a renewed interest in traditional Folk music , as exemplified by The Grateful Dead ‘s album Workingman’s Dead (1970) . This album featured traditional Folk songs performed with electric instruments , which helped introduce Folk music to a new generation of listeners .

The 1970s saw a continued interest in both traditional and contemporary forms of Folk Music . Newer artists such as James Taylor , Carly Simon , John Prine , Jackson Browne , Emmylou Harris , Bonnie Raitt , Joni Mitchell continued to find success with audiences both at home and abroad . In addition , there was an increase in the popularity of World Music during this decade , which helped bring attention to traditional forms of Folk Music from other cultures . The 1980s saw a slight dip in popularity for Folk Music due largely to changes in fashion and popular culture ; however there was still a strong interest in both traditional and contemporary forms among those who enjoyed listening to or playing this type genres: Appalachian Music Country Music Celtic Music Bluegrass

The Characteristics of Folk Music

Folk music is a genre of music that typically uses acoustic instruments and focuses on the songwriter’s personal stories. Folk music has been around for centuries, and it continues to be popular today. There are many different characteristics of folk music, and in this article, we’ll discuss some of the most important ones.


Folk music is generally created by “common people” instead of professional songwriters and musicians. The lyrics of folk songs are often about real life, love, work, and play, and they sometimes tell stories. Folk songs may be about any topic, but they are usually passed down through the generations by word of mouth, so they often reflect the values and beliefs of the culture they come from.

The melodies of folk songs are usually simple and easy to remember, which makes them perfect for singing along to. Folk songs are often adapted to fit the singer’s personal style, so they can sound different each time they are performed.

Folk music is an important part of many cultures around the world. It is a way for people to connect with their history and express their identity. Folk music has been preserved and passed down through the generations in countries all over the world, including the United States.


Folk music is usually made on acoustic instruments. The most common folk instruments are the guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, and mandolin.

Although folk music is often thought of as being made by “ordinary people”, many professional musicians have taken up playing folk music, and there are also many semi-professional and amateur bands who play folk music.

The Popularity of Folk Music

Folk music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. More and more people are turning to folk music for its simple, authentic sound. Folk music is also a great way to connect with your heritage and learn about other cultures. However, there are a few things you should know before you dive into the world of folk music. In this article, we’ll go over what you need to know about folk music.

The 1960s

In the 1960s, there was a great folk music revival in the United States. Led by artists such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Pete Seeger, the folk music revival brought traditional folk songs back into the mainstream. The popularity of folk music continued into the 1970s with artists like James Taylor and Carole King.

The 21st Century

It wasn’t until the 21st century that folk music started to see a significant resurgence in popularity. In the early 2000s, a new generation of folk musicians began to emerge, many of whom were influenced by the traditional sounds of the genre but also blended them with other styles. This new wave of folk musicians were able to reach a wider audience than ever before thanks to the internet and social media.

One of the most popular and influential folk musicians of the 21st century is Sufjan Stevens. Stevens’ style is a unique blend of traditional folk, indie rock, and electronica. He has released several highly praised albums, including his most recent, Carrie & Lowell, which reached number three on the Billboard 200 chart.

Other 21st century folk musicians include Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, and The Tallest Man on Earth. These artists have helped bring folk music back into the mainstream and introduced it to a whole new generation of fans.

The Future of Folk Music

Folk music has been around for centuries, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, folk music is seeing a resurgence in popularity. More and more people are interested in folk music, and there are a number of reasons for this. In this article, we’ll take a look at the future of folk music and what you can expect to see in the years to come.


Traditionalists are often older musicians who have been playing for many years. They may be respected members of the community, such as a town’s fiddler, or they may be professionals who have toured and recorded. Traditionalists tend to value the music of their elders and often play music from memory rather than reading it from notation. In some cases, traditionalists may invent new tunes in the style of older musicians, but they will generally avoid contemporary trends in folk music.


Folk music has been around for centuries, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the genre is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts, with a new crop of talented singers and songwriters emerging and reinvigorating the genre for a new generation of fans. But what does the future hold for folk music? Here’s a look at some of the innovative artists who are paving the way for the future of folk music.

One of the most exciting things about the current state of folk music is the increasing diversity within the genre. Artists like Anais Mitchell and Rhiannon Giddens are expanding what it means to be a folk musician, infusing their music with elements of other genres like jazz, soul, and rock. This fresh approach to folk music is helping to attract new listeners and usher in a new era of popularity for the genre.

In addition to broadening the sonic palette of folk music, these innovators are also bringing a new level of social consciousness to their songs. Artists like Neko Case and Jason Isbell are using their platform to address issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia, giving voice to marginalized groups within society. This increased focus on social issues is helping to create a more inclusive environment within the folk community and attracting listeners who are looking for music that speaks to their values.

The future of folk music is bright thanks to these innovative artists who are pushing boundaries and expanding what it means to be a folk musician. With their unique perspectives and commitment to social justice, they are attracting new listeners and helping to ensure that folk music continues to thrive for years to come.

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