Folk songs have been around as long as there have been folks to sing them, and, despite being one of the oldest types of music, new so-called folk music is still being created today. But, we wanted to explore some of the defining characteristics of real folk music, as opposed to pop music which parades itself as folk music these days.
Historically speaking, when something happens in our world, musicians are often there to write about it and reflect on it. Not all folk songs are written about specific events or issues, but many certainly are, and we think this has been a characteristic of folk music since the beginning. This event sparked a national outcry, and when Neil Young heard about it, he quickly got his band together and wrote this song to talk about the event. In other words, folk singers are often protesting some form of injustice, in the name of freedom and equality.
Songs can be written in any number of ways, but, for most folk singers, they choose to write their folk songs with an acoustic guitar. Speaking of Woody Guthrie, who is perhaps the most legendary folk singer that has ever lived from the United States, and the man has written some of the most famous folk songs of all time, featuring mainly his voice and acoustic guitar.
Typically, folk songs are written by regular folk for regular folk. And these lyrics should be simple and straightforward. She said fine and in thirty seconds time she said, I want to live like common people. I want to do whatever common people do, I want to sleep with common people.
I said yeah? Smoke some fags and play some pool, pretend you never went to school. I want to live with common people, I want to live with common people [etc. In the days before records, the only way to keep a song alive was through singing it. This oral tradition helped to keep songs from being forgotten, but also as a way to popularize them and take them from place to place. This tradition is also assisted by the practice of busking, who tend to take their show on the road with acoustic instruments.
Today, certainly, songs are still sung, but, more often then not, you simply need to play someone a song which already exists in the form of some sort of digital media. Originally, when troubadours would travel the land, singing songs, and playing their lyre, mandolin, this was the first way in which the oral tradition manifested itself, as well as being a way to spread news across the land.
For these purposes, the song should be simple, with economical use of language, and memorable. Now, despite being about fictitious subject matter, this song still has all of the check points of a folk song that we have discussed, such as being simple, memorable, lively to sing, meant for anyone and everyone, and acoustic. It still mentions the names of places, as well as talks specifically about Puff the dragon. Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.
A stanza, or the use of stanzaic prose, is a major feature of a folk song, not to mention all kinds of songs. What is a stanza? The stanza is like a chapter of the story, referred to as exposition in film, and helps to develop the story that is frequently included with folk songs.
With a lot of folk songwriters, we see a proliferation of stanzas, because sometimes these stories reach epic proportions, kind of like the musical equivalent of Ben Hur. It fits the bill in many ways as a folk song, especially in that it has plenty of recurring metrical units, AKA verses! And the cops are putting the screws to him looking for somebody to blame. The refrain is basically the chorus in a song, and gets repeated, sometimes to the point of madness for the listener.Quite frequently this term is used to describe music that is created by indigenous people in any country you can think of.
Each of these types of folk music holds a host of treasures for the listener and the performer alike and is very worthy of a more comprehensive exploration than this article can provide. There are underlying characteristics, embedded in folk music from which we can draw a subtle commonality. One of the more obvious features of folk music is the range of instruments used and that they very often define the sound that is typical for that kind of music.
Many of these instruments are not used in many other contexts other than to play the music from that country and many of which will not be remotely familiar. If we track back to Irish folk music, then we can already find a collection of instruments that truly characterize music from that culturally rich country.
Alongside the pipes instruments like the banjo, the bodhran drum, and the fiddle bring a unique and compelling set of timbres to Irish folk music. Similar instruments to these parallel in other folk music including that of the Scandinavian countries, England, Wales and Scotland.
This may be as a result of instruments that developed through trade between these countries and almost certainly through the influence of the medieval traveling musicians. Looking further afield, the traditional music of Japan includes two main categories. Many other musical comparisons can be drawn between these numerous types of folk music.
Many of the musical forms orientate around both song and instrumental music. This makes the structure of many pieces of folk music relatively simple when compared to complexities that exist in classical music. That is not to say that folk music is in some manner of a lesser value, but that the focus of the music is entirely different without the need for more complex or extended structures.
Other common forms include a binary or AB form and ternary form where the A section returns often as a variation. Some significantly more complex structures are used in Indian traditional music. Where all of these types of folk music cross over is in the inclusion of improvisation in the performance of the music. This is a vital element of folk music as it offers the opportunity for each of the participating musicians to bring their interpretation to the performance of the piece as opposed to having everything notated with the expectation that accuracy is paramount to a successful performance.
Improvising is a very natural form of musical expression and exploration that fits seamlessly into folk music from every corner of the world.
It brings certain freedom to the musicians and vitality to the performance that has the potential to flow in unexpected ways. Not all of the improvisations you will hear involve extended or extensive solos but could be a subtle melodic or rhythmic variation that is the musical signature of that player or singer.
The melodies in many folk songs are from an age before the establishment of the present system of tonality. You can listen to a large number of traditional folk songs and discover that the modal harmony is strongly weighted towards the Aeolian and Dorian scales. This is often reflected in the instrumental pieces too as both instrumental and vocal ranges can be limited. The majority of folk music pieces are not intended for professional players to perform, but for amateur musicians who may not have the technical skills of professional players.
That said, there are many outstanding performances from groups who are professional musicians who have taken on the traditional mantel of folk. It remains a hugely popular musical genre with a healthy following throughout many European countries. CMUSE is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program — it is designed to provide an aid for the websites in earning an advertisement fee — by means of advertising and linking to Amazon.
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Please enter your name here. You have entered an incorrect email address!Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music.
Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that. Starting in the midth century, a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the second folk revival and reached a zenith in the s.
This form of music is sometimes called contemporary folk music or folk revival music to distinguish it from earlier folk forms. This type of folk music also includes fusion genres such as folk rockfolk metaland others. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, in U.
English it shares the same name, and it often shares the same performers and venues as traditional folk music.
The terms folk musicfolk songand folk dance are comparatively recent expressions. They are extensions of the term folklorewhich was coined in by the English antiquarian William Thoms to describe "the traditions, customs, and superstitions of the uncultured classes". One meaning often given is that of "old songs, with no known composers",  another is that of music that has been submitted to an evolutionary "process of oral transmission Such definitions depend upon " cultural processes rather than abstract musical types Folk music was already, " Lloyd rejected this in favour of a simple distinction of economic class  yet for him true folk music was, in Charles Seeger 's words, "associated with a lower class"  in culturally and socially stratified societies.
In these terms folk music may be seen as part of a "schema comprising four musical types: 'primitive' or 'tribal'; 'elite' or 'art'; 'folk'; and 'popular'". Music in this genre is also often called traditional music.
Although the term is usually only descriptive, in some cases people use it as the name of a genre. For example, the Grammy Award previously used the terms "traditional music" and "traditional folk" for folk music that is not contemporary folk music. From a historical perspective, traditional folk music had these characteristics:  [ verification needed ]. In folk music, a tune is a short instrumental piecea melodyoften with repeating sectionsand usually played a number of times.
A collection of tunes with structural similarities is known as a tune-family.
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In some traditions, tunes may be strung together in medleys or " sets ". Throughout most of human prehistory and history, listening to recorded music was not possible. Music was made by common people during both their work and leisure, as well as during religious activities.
The work of economic production was often manual and communal. Manual labor often included singing by the workers, which served several practical purposes.
It reduced the boredom of repetitive tasks, it kept the rhythm during synchronized pushes and pulls, and it set the pace of many activities such as plantingweedingreapingthreshingweavingand milling. In leisure timesinging and playing musical instruments were common forms of entertainment and history-telling—even more common than today, when electrically enabled technologies and widespread literacy make other forms of entertainment and information-sharing competitive. Some believe that folk music originated as art music that was changed and probably debased by oral transmission, while reflecting the character of the society that produced it.During these challenging times, we guarantee we will work tirelessly to support you.
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Article Edit. Learn why people trust wikiHow. To create this article, 16 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. Together, they cited 5 references. This article has also been viewed 87, times. Learn more Explore this Article Steps. Tips and Warnings. Related Articles. Form a band, or get a mixing studio like "Garage Band" or something, and a microphone.
Start with a percussion instrument, and develop the other instruments around that rhythm. You could use a drum set, some shakers. The tempo should be upbeat, but not too fast.How to Write a Folk Song : Chord Structure of the Verse
The song you are writing will most likely invoke emotions of happiness among listeners. Decide what the song will be about. There are buckets of songs out there that are written about love, longing, life It doesn't really matter if the topic itself is unique and indie.
You just have to find a way to present it that is interesting and thought provoking. So choose a topic that is close to your heart and begin.Folk rock is a hybrid music genre combining elements of folk music and rock musicwhich arose in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in the mids.
Performers such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds —several of whose members had earlier played in folk ensembles—attempted to blend the sounds of rock with their pre-existing folk repertoire, adopting the use of electric instrumentation and drums in a way previously discouraged in the U.
The term "folk rock" was initially used in the U. The commercial success of the Byrds' cover version of Dylan's " Mr. Dylan's controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival on 25 Julywhere he was backed by an electric band, was also a pivotal moment in the development of the genre. During the late s in Britain and Europe, a distinct, eclectic British folk rock style was created by PentangleFairport Convention and Alan Stivell.
What Are The Characteristics Of A Folk Song?
Inspired by British psychedelic folk and the North American style of folk rock, British folk rock bands began to incorporate elements of traditional British folk music into their repertoire, leading to other variants, including the overtly English folk rock of the Albion Band and Celtic rock.
In its earliest and narrowest sense, the term "folk rock" refers to the blending of elements of folk music and rock musicwhich arose in the U. In a broader sense, folk rock encompasses similarly inspired musical genres and movements in different regions of the world. Folk rock may lean more towards either folk or rock in instrumentation, playing and vocal style, and choice of material.
While the original genre draws on music of Europe and North America, there is no clear delineation of which other culture's music might be included as influences. The term is not typically associated with blues-based rock music, African American music, Cajun-based rock music, nor music with non-European folk roots.
There are some exceptions which are mediated through folk revivalists. The American folk-music revival began during the s; building on the interest in protest folk singers such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seegerit reached a peak in popularity in the mids with artists such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
What are the Main Instruments in Folk Music?
At roughly the same time as these "collegiate folk" vocal groups came to national prominence, a second group of urban folk revivalists, influenced by the music and guitar picking styles of folk and blues artist such as Woody Guthrie, Lead BellyBrownie McGheeand Josh Whitealso came to the fore. The vast majority of the urban folk revivalists shared a disdain for the values of mainstream American mass culture  and led many folk singers to begin composing their own "protest" material.
During the s and early s in the UK, a parallel folk revival referred to as the second British folk revivalwas led by folk singers Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd.
Of particular importance to the development of folk rock by the British Invasion were the subtle folk influences evident in such Beatles' compositions as " I'll Be Back ", " Things We Said Today ", and " I'm a Loser ",  with the latter song being directly inspired by folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
He cites " She Loves You " as one of the first examples where the Beatles introduced folk chord changes into rock music and so initiated the new genre. This melding of folk and rock 'n' roll in the Beatles' music became even more explicit duringwith the release of " You've Got to Hide Your Love Away ", a folk-derived song with introspective lyrics, again influenced by Dylan.
Author and music historian Richie Unterberger has noted that the Beatles' impact on American popular culture effectively sounded the death knell for the American folk music revival. In addition to The Beatles, the two British groups that were arguably the most influential on the development of folk rock were the Animals and the Searchers. The song reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot singles chart and stayed there for three weeks, selling over a million copies in just five weeks in the U.English folk music is often strophic in structure and makes use of modes and heterophonic textures.
Scarborough Fair is an example of an English folk song, written in the Dorian mode, here performed by Martin Carthy. Scarborough Fair by Martin Carthy. Traditional instruments used in traditional folk music include the fiddle, melodeon, accordion and squeezebox.
The pipe and tabor is also a part of the English folk tradition, as are regional instruments such as the Northumbrian Pipes. Preserving the English folk tradition has long been considered important, and in the early 20th century Cecil Sharp was well known for seeking out a huge number of folk melodies and notating them so that they would not be lost.
Later the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was also inspired by folk songs, as can be heard in music such as his Norfolk Rhapsodies and and English Folk Song Suite Eliza Carthy talks about composing in the folk tradition.
In the early s, projects on English folk music included the Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme, which resulted in the preservation of much traditional English music. In England, folk music can be heard as part of Morris dancing, with its traditional white costumes, bells, sticks, handkerchiefs and colourful ribbons. The traditions and symbolism of traditional Morris dancing. England English folk music is often strophic in structure and makes use of modes and heterophonic textures. Eliza Carthy performing on stage with an accordion.Folk music can be found across all musical genres and in all cultures.
It has been a method of entertainment for numerous generations and it has been a means for people to record memorable events that have happened in their lives or in their communities. Folk songs have long been used by musicians to address political and social issues and situations. They tell us stories and entertain us; often teaching a lesson that otherwise may have been forgotten. Many folk songs have been handed down from generation to generation and carry with them bits of history along with reminders of where we came from and who we are today.
Folk songs are intensely personal to those who write them, and that should be one of the first things that you consider when you set out to write a folk song. What are you trying to convey with the song? Is it intended to be a message for other people about a situation that you feel strongly about? Or perhaps you want to tell a story about your heritage or culture? The following steps can help you along your way. Jot down key points for later reference. If you intend to create a song about your culture, or if your intention is to write about a legend or a historical figure, visit libraries and cultural centers to learn all that you can.
Go with the flow: Writing music is not the same as writing a research paper or a business report, you need to encourage your creative flow. Write down a few key phrases that relate to what you want your folk song to be about. Consider them as you go about your day. Carry them with you in a small notebook that you can use if you are inspired by new lines for your song.
Start looking for the tune: As you begin to write down the lyrics for your song, also take the time to consider what kind of tune that it should be set to. What emotions are you trying to convey? Think about what kind of music would best suit your song. Play around with different tones by humming notes to see if you can determine exactly what kind of tune that your song needs.
A pocket recorder can be very helpful at this stage so that you can record any notes or tunes that seem appropriate. If you know how to play a musical instrument such as a guitar or keyboard, the creation of your tune will be a lot easier. Try playing around with different keys to see what emotions are evoked, switching up your strumming or keyboard rhythms to express different feelings. You can also develop a melody with the use of your voice. Start out by singing random notes and playing around with them, switching between flats and sharps, high notes and low notes.
Eventually, you will come across a melody that suits your song. The most common folk song structure is four-line verses, rhyming the 2nd line with the 4th line. Typically, a chorus is included between the verses. Or if you want something different, it is also common for folk songs to be arranged in a one-part song format, where the chorus is omitted and a repeating line is included at the end of each verse. Both of these methods are intended to make the song easy to follow as well as easy to remember.
Gather up all of the lyrics that you have jotted down and start putting them together to create your verses.