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Folk Music Resources: Getting Started

A guide to library resources and materials about American folk music

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Defining Folk

Folk music is                   an ever-changing concept, and many scholars' opinions differ on what music is considered folk.  Some have a very strict definition, while others are much more loose.

Some core concepts of folk are:

- also called "traditional music" or "roots music"

- community-created, from rural or urban origins

- is mostly singing or dancing with acoustic or no accompaniment

- differentiated from art music or popular music

- often of unknown authorship, passed from generation to generation

For more thorough definitions and interpretations of folk music, check out the music dictionaries and encyclopedias at Oxford Music Online.

Folk Music in other Countries & Cultures

Try a SUBJECT search of folk music - Country 

Ex) folk music Brazil

Or check out our World Music Research Guide

Table of Contents

Getting Started with Searching the Catalog

To find materials in the BGSU Libraries Catalog about traditional folk music try a subject search on the following terms:

  • Folk music
  • Folk songs
  • Folk dancing
  • Folk dance music
  • Folk singers
  • Ballads
  • Spirituals (songs)
  • Sea songs

To find materials in the catalog about contemporary folk music, try a subject search on the following terms: 

  • Contemporary folk
  • Folk festivals
  • Folk-rock music
  • Folk-rock music - History and criticism
  • Folk singers

Musicians, Recordings and Scores

To find books about folk musicians, try a SUBJECT search of the individual's name (Last name, First name)

To find books, recordings, or scores (printed music) by folk musicians, try an AUTHOR search of the individual's name, or a TITLE search of an album title or a song title.

You can also limit your search results by designating a specific material type, such as CD or musical score.

Note: Many albums have excellent historical and biographical notes, and lyrics are frequently included on containers or inner liners.

Get Help!


Get help from the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives.

Jerome Library, 3rd Floor

Visit our website.


This guide was created by Liz Tousey, former Music Library Student and Circulation Supervisor.