Skip to main content
BGSU University Libraries

Folk Music Resources: Getting Started

A guide to library resources and materials about American folk music

Table of Contents

Woody Guthrie

General Histories and Guides
Songs, Lyrics, and Sheet Music
Finding Articles
Other Internet Resources
The Folk Revival Movement
Field Recordings
Studio Recordings
Folk Dancing
Folk Music of Other Cultures






Photo of Woody Guthrie by Al Aumuller. Image is from the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division. Stream Guthrie's music at the American Song database (BGSU authentication required).

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

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

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.

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.



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

Get Help!


Music Library

Get help from the Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives.

Jerome Library, 3rd Floor

Visit our website.