15 Types of Folk Music

Folk music is super old and has a lot of variety. Basically, it’s a kind of acoustic music that folks play on guitars, banjos, and fiddles. It’s usually got simple melodies and lyrics that tell stories about the people who sing it.

There are tons of different types of folk music, and each one has its own special history and style. Here, we’re gonna check out some of the coolest kinds of folk music from all over the world.

1. Country Folk 

Did you know that country folk music was born in the early 1900s in the Southern United States? It’s a cool mix of traditional folk music and popular country tunes that really captures the essence of the region.

One of the defining features of country folk music is its simplicity. The melodies are straightforward, and the lyrics are all about the real, everyday experiences of the people who play and sing this music.

So, whether you’re a die-hard country fan or just looking to explore some new sounds, give country folk music a listen and get ready to tap your toes and sing along!

2. Traditional Folk 

When you think of folk music, the OG stuff that comes to mind is traditional folk music. This genre is as old as your grandpa’s hat and is usually passed down from generation to generation. 

The best part? These songs tell the stories of the history and culture of the folks who sing them. You’ve probably heard of some classics like “The Wabash Cannonball”, “Oh Susanna”, and “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”. So, kick back, grab a banjo, and let’s dive into some good old-fashioned tunes.

3. Roots Folk

If you’re a fan of music, you might have heard about roots folk. It’s a blend of traditional folk, country-folk, and rock music that will get you tapping your toes in no time! The reason it’s called roots is because it was the building block for many popular music genres we know and love today. We’re talking about jazz, R’n’B, and rock n roll, just to name a few!

Roots folk has a special charm that will take you back to the good old days. It’s perfect for those lazy afternoons when you just want to relax and unwind. The blend of different styles creates a unique sound that will transport you to a simpler time.

4. Acoustic Folk 

Acoustic folk music is a modern version of traditional folk music that’s played using acoustic instruments like guitars, banjos, and fiddles. It’s a beautiful blend of the old and the new, incorporating elements of rock, blues, and jazz. You can listen to acoustic folk music while relaxing or doing some work, as it has a soothing and calming effect.

You might have heard of some of the popular acoustic folk artists, like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Joni Mitchell. They have contributed to this genre with their unique style and beautiful melodies that are loved by many.

5. Bluegrass Folk Music

Have you heard of bluegrass folk music? It’s a unique genre that originated in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States and was made popular by the legendary Bill Monroe in the 1940s. This upbeat and lively music is known for its fast tempo and improvisation, which is sure to get your toes tapping in no time.

The banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitar are the most commonly used instruments in bluegrass music. You’ll often hear skilled musicians showing off their talents through impressive solos and harmonies. Some of the biggest names in bluegrass include Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, and Lester Flatt.

So, if you’re in the mood for some foot-stomping, heart-pumping music, give bluegrass folk a listen!

6. Folk Rock

If you’re a fan of folk music and rock music, you’re in for a treat with Folk Rock. It’s a cool subgenre that originated in the 1960s in the United States, and was popularized by legendary folk singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Folk rock blends acoustic guitar, electric instruments, and other cool sounds like mandolin and banjo to create a unique and captivating listening experience. You might have heard some of the greatest folk rock songs like “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, and “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles.

7. Celtic Folk 

If you love lively traditional music that gets you tapping your feet, then Celtic folk music might be right up your alley. This genre of folk music developed in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and even Brittany in France. It’s got a unique sound that’s created using a variety of traditional Celtic instruments, such as the Bodhran drum, fiddle, bagpipes, tin whistle, and accordion.

Believe it or not, Celtic folk music has been around for centuries, but it’s still as popular today as it was back then. People from all over the world love it and often flock to festivals and dancing events, like ceilidhs (pronounced “kay-lee”), to enjoy the music and dance the night away.

8. Old-timey Folk 

Old-timey folk is a music genre that originated in North America back in the 1900s. Its roots come from the traditional music of the British Isles (England, Scotland, and Ireland) and Africa. What makes it stand out is its mellower sound, compared to other types of folk music, as it’s usually played on acoustic instruments.

If you’re looking to enjoy some old-timey folk, you’ll likely hear instruments such as the banjo, harmonica, and fiddle. The lyrics of old-timey folk music often revolve around simple things such as love, nature, and work.

Although the genre is upbeat and fun, it can also be quite nostalgic and sad. Some of the most popular old-timey folk songs include classics like “In the Pines”, “Keep On the Sunny Side”, and “The Wreck of the Old 97”. So why not give it a listen and get your old-timey groove on?

9. Folk Metal

Have you ever heard of folk metal? It’s a pretty cool genre of heavy metal music that mixes in elements of traditional folk music. It first appeared in Europe back in the 1990s and became really popular thanks to bands like Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, and Finntroll.

So, what makes folk metal unique? Well, one of the things that sets it apart is the use of folk instruments like the accordion, violin, and bagpipes in combination with the classic heavy metal instruments like electric guitars, drums, and bass. It creates this really cool sound that’s different from anything else out there.

If you’re into heavy metal or folk music, you should definitely give folk metal a listen. It’s a fun and interesting twist on two classic genres that’s worth checking out!

10. Anti-folk

Anti-folk? It’s a genre that sprouted in the 1980s within the lively New York City folk music scene, and it’s definitely not your typical folk music. Artists like Beck helped to bring this unique style into the mainstream.

What sets anti-folk apart from its traditional cousin is its use of unconventional instruments, like electric guitars, drums, piano, and bass. It’s all about combining different sounds and styles to create something fresh and unexpected.

11. Neofolk

Neofolk music is a unique genre that came about in the 1980s from the punk rock scene. It mixes folk and industrial music to create a distinct sound. One of the key features of neofolk is the use of acoustic instruments, folk lyrics, and themes that are often dark or melancholic in nature.

Neofolk artists experiment with songwriting by incorporating modern instruments like electric guitars and synthesizers. Some of the pioneers of this genre include bands such as Current 93 and Death in June. If you’re interested in exploring new types of music, give neofolk a try!

12. Love Folk

Love Folk music is all about love and romance, and it’s super relatable because we’ve all been there, right? This genre of music is filled with upbeat, cheerful tunes that just make you feel good inside. Plus, it’s also great for bringing up some nostalgia.

One of the most popular Love Folk songs out there is “Lass of Glenshee”. This lovely tune tells the tale of a king who falls in love with a woman he sees while riding his horse through the town. It’s just one example of the many beautiful stories that Love Folk music has to offer.

So, if you’re feeling down and need a little pick-me-up, why not give Love Folk a try? It’s sure to put a smile on your face and warm your heart.

13. Event or Location-Related Folk

Have you heard of event or location-related folk music? It’s a type of folk music that’s closely tied to a particular location or event. For example, have you heard of Cajun folk music? It’s a type of music that originated in Louisiana among the French-speaking folks who settled there. It’s known for its lively fiddle, accordion, and guitar melodies.

Another fun example of event or location-related folk music is Mariachi folk music. This type of music originated in Mexico and is typically played by a group of musicians known as a Mariachi band. The sound is full of life and perfect for celebrations.

14. Hero and Villain Folk 

Have you ever heard of hero and villain folk songs? They’re these old ballads that tell stories about brave heroes and sneaky villains. They were used to teach people about important values back in the day.

One of the most famous hero songs is “Robin Hood.” You probably already know this one – it’s about the cool outlaw who took from the rich and gave to the poor. What a hero! It’s a really catchy tune, too.

On the other hand, we have “John Henry,” a popular villain song. This one’s about a guy who worked super hard his whole life, but in the end, he met his demise. It’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s still a really interesting story.

15. Murder Folk

Murder folk music is a genre of folk music that tells stories of murder and violence. Yep, you read that right! Murder and violence are the main themes of this music, which can give you goosebumps and chills.

Interestingly, most murder folk songs are based on true events, so you’re actually listening to stories that really happened. But don’t worry, there’s usually a moral lesson to the songs too. One of the most popular murder folk songs is “Omie Wise,” which tells the tale of a woman who is murdered by her lover.

Final Thoughts

Folk music is all about traditional tunes and tales that reflect the culture they come from. It’s a diverse genre that’s easy to connect with, and the emotions it stirs up can be really powerful. 

If you’re into exploring different types of music, these are 15 folk music genres you should definitely check out. They all have their own unique style and story to tell.

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