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Category Advisor: Dr Vic Gammon

There are many thousands of songs. There are many song collections and many versions of the same song. Where to start looking? That's the problem.

All songs currently in Folkopedia are listed on the

Note. Our intention is not to restrict this initiative to English Song, but to use the present headings as a starting point to view whatever develops from wherever it comes.

The Take 6 Transcription Programme

Take 6 (also more recently, and in an augmented form, known as The Full English) is a major initiative from the English Folk Dance and Song Society to put online some of the major manuscript collections of folk songs and folk music. Check it out here [1]

The Take 6 Transcription Programme is an initiative hosted by Folkopedia to make the content of these manuscripts available as PDF sheet music, MIDIs, MusicXMLs and abc files. Check it out here: Transcription_Programme

Traditional Songs by Theme

It's often difficult to categorise a song. Is the song of a Thames Bargeman a sea song or an industrial one? Likewise a Fishing song. Many industrial or rural songs had a political dimension. It doesn't do to worry too much about it - the categories are really just a rough guide to get to something that fits the browser's interest and in the spirit of the Wiki might lead to somewhere altogether unexpected! Some Song Books are arranged by theme. Here are some of the common themes in folk song:

Songs of Love and Marriage romantic, unrequited, happy and unhappy wedlock, spinsters and batchelors, broken tokens

Songs of Seduction brief, bawdy, passionate and tragic

Songs of Country Life millers, blacksmiths, cobblers

Songs of Good Company drinking, carousing, conviviality

Hunting and Poaching Songs the fox, the hare, transportation

Sea Songs press gangs, men o' war, fishing & whaling, jack on shore

Soldiers' Songs the king's shilling, bloody battles

Songs of Comedy and Diversion comical tales, legendary animals, marvels

Ritual Songs folk ceremonies, mummer's plays

Songs of the Road travellers, gypsies and journeymen

Political and Historical Songs rebellion, reform, great events


Children's Songs rhymes, game songs

Songs of Heroes and Villains Highwaymen, scoundrels, and adventurers, real and fictitious

Industrial Songs pits and mills

English ballad broadsides by theme at the National Library of Scotland

Traditional Singers

English Source Singers

Scottish Source Singers

Irish Source Singers

North American Source Singers

Australian Source Singers


section editor Chris Coe

This is a tricky section to think of including. One doesn't always associate folk song and 'performance' but some of the techniques applied by the traditional singers can bear scrutiny, especially by those who want to sing the same sort of songs.

The intimate fireside delivery of Walter Pardon.......

Lizzie Higgins taking a deep breath, expanding to be a 'giant' and setting forth..........

Johnny Doughty turning his cap sideways and singing the Herring's Head.....

And any one who has seen Jock Duncan perform the Two Sisters will have a vivid understanding of song delivery with gestures....

Watch this space.

--JohnnyAdams 22:46, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Scales and Musical Modes in Celtic, Anglo-American and English Folk Songs

The great folk song collectors, such as Cecil Sharp and Lucy Broadwood, were interested in the musical scales and modes (such as Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian) in which Celtic, Anglo-American and English folk songs have come down to us. To read more about scales and modes click on this link: Scales and Modes in Folk Songs.

Tune Analysis: How To Dissect, Interpret and Categorise Anglo-American, Celtic and English Folk Melodies

To learn how to analyse Anglo-American, Celtic and English folk song melodies click on this link.

Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian: Samples and Examples of the 4 Main Musical Scales in Celtic, Anglo-American and English Folk Songs

For samples and examples follow this link Samples and Examples

Folk Song: Definitions, Concepts and Controversies

What is "folk song," "authenticity," "revival," and so on? To find out follow this link.

West Gallery Music

For information and links on West Gallery Music go to West Gallery Music

Sea Shanties

External links

W.B. Whall (1913) 'Ships, Sea Songs and Shanties' can be read online here [2]. PDF page images are here [3].

A single PDF file of both volumes of Richard Runciman Terry's 'Shanty Book' can be downloaded here [4] Terry's Volume 1, in a number of different formats, is posted at Project Gutenberg here [5]. The online HTML version links to downloadable midi files.

[6] This links to PDF images from 1917 of the 'Bellman' magazine. Run a search (search term "chantey") for information about, and sheet music of, sea shanties. Alternatively, these resources can be more conveniently accessed by clicking on the links below.

File:Robinson Chanty-Man 0 Introduction.pdf

File:Songs of the Chanty-Man 1 of 4.pdf

File:Songs of the Chanty-Man 2 of 4.pdf

File:Songs of the Chanty-Man 3 of 4.pdf

File:Songs of the Chanty-Man 4 of 4.pdf



Record labels produce recordings of both song and instrumental music, and a list of these can be found here

Books & Bibliographies

Books of and about folk songs abound and seem to increase at an exponential rate. It is ironic that computerisation and digitalisation, which make this site possible, also make it much easier and cheaper to publish new books. In addition, many rare and inaccessible books from the past have been scanned and placed on the web in recent years, which has helped more and more people to find songs and contribute to scholarship and discussion. Probably the most complete and recent listing of books is the one given immediately below. After that, there follows a short selection of some important books.


English Folk Song Bibliography: An Introductory Bibliography Based on the Holdings of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Third Edition, edited by David Atkinson

  • Margaret Dean-Smith, A guide to English Folk Song Collections 1822 - 1952, Liverpool: University Press of Liverpool, in Association with EFDSS (1954) - An earlier attempt at a bibliography but with substantial descriptions and publishing details of the books as well as an alphabetical index of the songs included in these collections. Still a valuable reference - particularly when used in conjunction with the Roud index.


Probably the most important thing to know is what is available and in print now. The most up to date list is probably to be found at the Traditional Song Forum web site in the form of a list by publisher Dave Herron. Look on the library pages for Dave Herron's Chapbook.

Below is the place to put detail of ALL the folksong books that ever there were.

Songs in abc code

For information on abc code see here[7].

There is a wide variety of software, much of it free.

EasyABC is widely used software. With it you can view sheet music, listen to MIDI renditions of tunes, create and edit abc files, and convert MusicXML files into abc code.

TradMusician is an Android programme. With it you can display sheet music and listen to MIDI renditions of tunes. If you do this on your mobile phone you can improve sound quality by casting to a Bluetooth speaker.


The site also gives you access to the Roud Index, compiled by Steve Roud.

The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of 143,000+ references to songs that have been collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world.
It is the most important finding aid for traditional song ever compiled, and not even the most casual researcher can afford to do without it.

Other Nations

Click on the title to go to the page