Discover the Folk Music of Austria

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the folk music of Austria and learn about the culture and history behind the music.

Introduction to Austrian Folk Music

Austria is a country with a rich musical tradition, and that tradition is particularly evident in the folk music of the region. Austrian folk music has its roots in the Celtic and Germanic traditions, and it has been influenced by the music of other cultures as well. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history and evolution of Austrian folk music.

What is Folk Music?

Folk music is the music of the people. It is music that has been handed down from generation to generation, often without being written down. Folk music is often about the land we live on and our daily lives. It is a part of our heritage.

Folk music in Austria has its roots in the music of the country’s rural peasantry. Over time, this music has been influenced by many different cultures, including those of the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovakia. Austrian folk music includes a wide variety of styles and genres, from traditional ballads and waltzes to more modern folk rock and hip-hop.

The most popular Austrian folk instrument is the accordion, which is used in many different styles of folk music. Other common instruments include the clarinet, fiddle, flute, guitar, hammered dulcimer, lute, penny whistle, recorder , saxophone , trombone trumpet violin and zither .

Origins of Austrian Folk Music

Austrian folk music has its roots in the music of the Middle Ages. In the 12th and 13th centuries, minstrels known as Spielleute traveled around the country, playing music and telling stories. By the 14th century, this tradition had developed into a more formalized type of musical entertainment known as a meistersinger ballad. These ballads were often sung by traveling musicians at fairs and markets.

In the 16th century, a new type of folk music began to develop in Austria. This music was based on the traditional dance music of Central Europe. The most popular dances of this era were the waltz and the polka. These dances were often accompanied by folk songs, which were usually about love or nature.

As Austria became more industrialized in the 19th century, folk music began to decline in popularity. However, there was a revival of interest in folk music in the early 20th century, led by composers such as Anton Bruckner and Arnold Schoenberg. Today, Austrian folk music is still performed and enjoyed by many people.

The Sound of Austrian Folk Music

Traditional Austrian folk music is vibrant and lively, with influences from both the Alpine region and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Folk music plays an important role in Austrian culture, and the country has a long history of folk music performance and composition. In this article, we’ll explore the sounds of Austrian folk music and some of its key features.

Traditional Instruments

Traditional instruments used in Austrian folk music include the zither, accordion, clarinet, and trumpet. The zither is a stringed instrument with a flat body that is plucked or strummed. It has a unique sound that is often associated with Austrian folk music. The accordion is a portable keyboard instrument that is also commonly used in Austrian folk music. It has a bellows that helps produce a wide range of sounds and can be played either solo or in ensemble settings. The clarinet is a woodwind instrument that is often used to play melodic lines in Austrian folk music. The trumpet is a brass instrument that helps add excitement and energy to the music. It is often used to play fanfares and dance tunes.

Characteristic Sounds

Austrian folk music is known for its distinctive waltzes and polkas, as well as its alpine horns and yodeling. The alpine horn is used to communicate between mountain peaks, and yodeling was traditionally used by shepherds to communicate over long distances.

Traditional Austrian folk music is often played on the zither, a stringed instrument with a trapezoidal shape. The zither is plucked with the fingers, and the melodies are often accompanied by strumming chords. Other traditional folk instruments include the accordion, Alpine horn, and Cowbell.

Austrian folk music has been influenced by both Austria’s central location in Europe and its history as a melting pot of different cultures. Austrians have long been exposed to music from Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. In the 19th century, Johann Strauss II popularized the waltz with his famous orchestra performances in Vienna. Today, Austrian folk music includes both traditional styles and more modern influences.

Themes in Austrian Folk Music


Austrian folk music often tells stories of love, both happy and tragic. In the song “Die Mondscheinsonate” (“The Moonlight Sonata”), a young woman is in love with a man who is called away to war. She promises to wait for him, but he is killed in battle. In “Zwei Herzen im Dreivierteltakt” (“Two Hearts in 3/4 Time”), a man and woman fall in love and dance together joyfully.

Love songs are not the only type of Austrian folk music, but they are certainly among the most popular. Other common themes include nature, religion, and work. Folk music was traditionally passed down orally from generation to generation, so it often reflects the everyday lives of the people who sang it.


Nature is a popular theme in Austrian folk music, with songs about everything from animals and plants to the changing of the seasons. In the spring, many Austrians enjoy singing about blooming flowers and birds returni to their mountain homes after winter. Summer brings songs about walking in the forest or swimming in cool mountain lakes, and autumn brings tunes about hunting and gathering grapes for wine. Winter brings its own share of beautiful songs about snowflakes falling and Christmas time.


Themes in Austrian folk music often revolve around work, with songs about farmers and other types of laborers. Other common themes include love, nature, and drinking. The music is often fast-paced and lively, designed to get listeners up and moving.

One of the most popular instruments in Austrian folk music is the accordion, which adds a lively sound to many of the songs. Other instruments commonly used include the fiddle, drums, and guitar.

Famous Austrian Folk Songs

Austrian folk music is known for its Alpine influences. Polkas, waltzes, and yodeling are all popular genres of Austrian folk music. Many famous Austrian folk songs have been made popular by film and television. Some of these songs include “The Sound of Music,” “Edelweiss,” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”


“Bauernmadln” is a famous folk song from Austria. The lyrics tell the story of two young women who are in love with each other, but their families disapprove of their relationship.

The song is a touching ballad that speaks to the difficulties of being in love with someone who is not considered acceptable by society. Despite the obstacles, the two women remain devoted to each other and hope to one day be able to marry and live happily ever after.

“Der Jager”

“Der Jager” is a well-known Austrian folk song about a hunter who goes out into the forest to hunt for game. The hunter gets lost in the forest and is eventually found by a group of hunters who take him back to their camp. The song is sung in both German and Austrian dialects, and is often performed by choirs or folk groups.

“Die Alm”

“Die Alm” is a famous Austrian folk song that dates back to the 18th century. The song is about a young man who leaves his home in the countryside to seek his fortune in the city. However, he quickly becomes homesick and longing for the simplicity of life on the Alpine pastures.


In conclusion, Austria offers a wealth of folk music traditions to explore, from the more well-known polkas and waltzes to the lesser-known alpine yodelling and alphorn playing. Whether you’re a fan of traditional music or you’re looking for something a little bit different, there’s sure to be something here to suit your taste. So put on your lederhosen or dirndl and get ready to enjoy some Austrian folk music!

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