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,


The folk music of Austria has been shaped by many influences over the years. In this blog post, we take a look at the origins and evolution of this unique musical tradition.

What is Folk Music?

Folk music is the traditional music of a people or country. It is usually passed down from generation to generation and often has a strong connection to the history and culture of the people. Folk music often tells stories about the lives of ordinary people and can be used to communicate important messages about social or political issues.

Austria has a rich tradition of folk music, which includes both modern and traditional songs. Many of these songs are about love, nature, and the country’s history. Some popular Austrian folk songs include “Auf der Schwäbsche Eisebahne,” “Böhmischer Wind,” and “Die G’sang vom Wind und Meer.”

The Origins of Folk Music in Austria

Folk music has been around in Austria for centuries, with its origins dating back to the Middle Ages. The music was originally used as a way for people to communicate and express their emotions. Today, folk music is still an important part of Austrian culture and is enjoyed by people of all ages.

The Alpine Region

Austria’s folk music has its roots in the Alpine region, which is home to a large number of small villages and isolated farms. The isolation of these communities meant that they developed their own distinctive musical traditions.

The music of the Alpine region is characterized by its simplicity and directness. The songs are often about love, work, and the beauty of nature. They are usually accompanied by simple instruments such as the zither or accordion.

The Alpine region is also home to Austria’s largest folk music festival, which is held every year in the town of Schwaz. The festival attracts musicians from all over Austria and is a great place to experience traditional Austrian music.

The Danube Region

The Danube Region is home to a number of traditional Austrian folk tunes and songs. The most famous of these is probably the “Schinderhanneslied”, which tells the story of a 19th-century highwayman who terrorized the region. Other popular folk songs from the Danube Region include “Die Tiroler sind lustig” and “Das Holzschuherl”.

The origins of Austrian folk music can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when traveling minstrels would entertain audiences with songs and stories. In the 16th century, the first known collection of Austrian folk songs was published, and by the 18th century, several different genres of folk music had developed in different parts of the country. Today, traditional Austrian folk music is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to groups like Die Wiener Sängerknaben (The Vienna Boys’ Choir) and Wiener Volksmusikanten (Vienna Folk Musicians).

The Pannonian Region

Pannonia is a historical province located in modern-day Austria. The region is named after the Pannonian Plain, which covers parts of Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. The term “Pannonian” can also be used to refer to the people who lived in the region during Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

Folk music has been an important part of Austrian culture for centuries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, folk music was often used as a way to communicate nationalist sentiment. In fact, many of Austria’s most popular folk songs were written during this time period.

The Pannonian region is home to a number of different folk music traditions. One of the most notable is the “Ländler”, a type of folk dance that originated in Austria’s Alpine regions. The ländler is typically danced to the accompaniment of zither music, and it often features couples dancing in a circle.

Another popular folk style from the Pannonian region is called “Schuhplattler”. This type of music is often played at festivals and other special occasions. It features rapid-fire hand clapping and foot stomping as its primary instruments.

If you’re interested in exploring Austria’s rich folk music heritage, there are plenty of ways to do so. There are numerous recordings of traditional Austrian folk music available, and many festivals and events feature live performances of these sounds. You can also find folk bands that play modern interpretations of these classic styles.

The Instruments of Folk Music

Folk music in Austria is often associated with the country’s Alpine regions. The music is typically characterized by its use of traditional instruments, such as the accordion, zither, and clarinet. These instruments are often used to play folk songs that tell stories of the people and the land.

The Zither

The zither is a musical instrument with a long history. It is believed to have originated in ancient Greece, and it has been played in Europe for centuries. The zither is particularly popular in Austria, where it is known as the “national instrument.”

The zither is a stringed instrument that is played with the hands. It has a rectangular body with a number of differently-tuned strings stretched across it. The player plucks the strings with his or her fingers to create the desired sound.

The zither has a wide range of tones that can be produced, making it suitable for a variety of music genres. It is often used in folk music, but it can also be used for classical and pop music.

The Hackbrett

The hackbrett is a stringed musical instrument. It is used in folk music in Austria. The hackbrett has a long neck and a rectangular body. The body is usually made of wood, but can also be made of plastic or metal. The strings are attached to the neck and run across the body. The strings are plucked with the fingers or with a plectrum. The hackbrett is often played with other instruments, such as the zither, accordion, violin, and double bass.

The Accordion

The accordion is a very popular instrument in folk music, and has a wide range of sounds that can be produced, from a soft and gentle melody to a loud and fast polka. It is played by pressing the buttons on the front of the instrument while simultaneously moving the bellows (the two large metal plates that open and close) to pump air through the reeds. The speed at which the bellows are moved will determine how fast or slow the music is played, while the pressure applied to the buttons will affect the volume.

The Styles of Folk Music

Austrian folk music is diverse and has been influenced by many different cultures over the years. There are four main styles of folk music in Austria: Alpine, Wienerlied, Schrammelmusik, and Böhmische. Alpine folk music is the most popular style and is characterized by its use of yodeling and polka. Wienerlied is a style of music that is sung in the Vienna dialect and is often about love or nostalgia. Schrammelmusik is a type of folk music that is played by a small band and often includes the accordion. Böhmische, or Bohemian folk music, is influenced by Czech folk music and is often lively and upbeat.

Polkas and Waltzes

They are the seminal dances of Austrian folk music, and both have been exported around the world. The polka is a fast, square dance in 2/4 time, while the waltz is a slower tempo 3/4 dance. Polkas and waltzes can be found in folk music from all over Europe, as well as in many other genres including country, pop, and rock.


Schrammelmusik is a style of folk music that developed in the city of Vienna in the late 19th century. It gets its name from the Schrammel brothers, Johann and Josef, who were important figures in the genre. Schrammelmusik is generally performed by a small ensemble consisting of two violins, an accordion, and a guitar. The music is characterized by its sentimental melodies, simple harmonies, and vigorous rhythms.


Ländler is a folk dance of the alpine regions of Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Croatia. It is also known as Schuhplattler or ‘slap dancing’. The Ländler is a slow to moderate tempo round dance in 3/4 time. The music for this dance is written in two parts; the first part is called Oberlandler or Aufzug (the actual name depends on the region), and the second part Unterlandler. The Oberlandler has a very steady beat and is mostly in single file while the Unterlandler portion has more movement and changes of formation.

The Folk Music Revival in Austria

In the 1960s, there was a folk music revival in Austria. This was a time when people were interested in their cultural heritage and were looking for a way to connect with their past. The music of this era was a way to do that.

The New Wave of Folk Music

The New Wave of Folk Music in Austria is a revival of traditional Austrian folk music. It began in the early 1990s and has since gained popularity both in Austria and internationally. This revival was spearheaded by a new generation of musicians who were interested in exploring their cultural heritage and rediscovering the musical traditions of their country.

This new wave of folk music has been incredibly successful in revitalizing interest in traditional Austrian music and culture. It has also had a significant impact on the Austrian music scene, with many new folk bands springing up in recent years. If you’re interested in exploring the folk music of Austria, there are plenty of great bands to check out. Here are just a few of the most popular:

-KUKAboom: A five-piece band from Vienna that plays traditional Austrian folk songs as well as original compositions inspired by folk music.
-Die Wienerlieder: A Vienna-based trio that performs traditional Viennese waltzes and other types of Austrian folk music.
-Duo Heuberger: A duo from Salzburg that specializes in playing traditional Alpine folk music.
-Mala Gradna: A five-piece band from Graz that plays a mix of traditional Croatian, Slovenian, and Austrian folk songs.

The Young Generation of Folk Musicians

The Young Generation of Folk Musicians is a group of young Austrians who are keeping the folk music tradition alive. This vibrant scene has its roots in the 1960s when a group of young people started to revive traditional music. They were inspired by American folk musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, as well as by the traditional music of their own country.

The Young Generation of Folk Musicians is made up of a number of different bands, all with their own style. Some bands play purely traditional music, while others have developed a more modern sound. But all the bands share a love of Austrian folk music and a commitment to keeping this rich tradition alive.


In conclusion, the folk music of Austria is varied and interesting, with a rich history dating back centuries. Today, this music is still an important part of Austrian culture, and is enjoyed by people of all ages. If you have the opportunity to visit Austria, be sure to listen for this unique and beautiful type of music.

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