How to learn a folk song (in 6 easy steps)

I can be profoundly moved by music.  The latest piece is a beautiful work of art.  A soundscape that was recommended by my friend, Dan, from Wolcensmen (I sang some lyrics for his last album, Fire in the White Stone a couple of years ago.)

Here is the music I’m now listening to on repeat.  Anyone else do this?   I kind of wish there were actual words to this and I would learn it.  In any case I suppose I could learn the piano chords or my sis could do it on the harp and we could make a wonderful sound.  Even better would be to go and sing it in echoey tunnel somewhere for the reverb.  Let’s see how long I am obsessed with the tune for  anyway….  That is usually the way to learn a song –  repetition born of obsession!

Speaking of which, here are my tips for learning a folk song in six easy steps:

** no musical knowledge or ability to read notes is needed**


1. Get a book about the early collectors of traditional English songs (such as the one below)


2. Have a nice cup of tea ☕️ while sitting in your front room by the fire🔥 Read said book and enjoy the stories of love, war, heartache, may blossom etc 🌿💛

3. Choose a song/story that particularly moves you


4. At this point you can either learn the song by reading the transcribed music or, if like me you have no clue about musical notation, go on YouTube and search up the song. At this point you will probably find many different versions of the song in both tune and lyrics


5. Choose the version you like the sound/feel of best and listen constantly on repeat while pottering about doing your day to day tasks.  This way it requires zero effort and doesn’t feel like practice.  You will quickly get the tune in your head as well as some of the words


6. Once you have the tune in your head, after a few days go back to the book (or lyrics found online) and learn them. You may even take bits of different versions and mash them together thus using the verses you enjoy the most

THIS website is a good resource for lyrics and history of songs)

You will see these steps are particularly relevant to modern times…( YouTube and online lyrics etc) HOWEVER another GREAT way is to get down to your local folk club/sing-around (usually run by older folks/Morris men with beards) and just listen.  When you hear a song you like ask the singer about it and do your research online when you’re home.  Even maybe ask if you can record them singing it so you can learn directly 


Good luck and let me know how you get on!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top