Folk music continues to be a mainstay in today’s musical scene. Even though it’s not as mainstream as pop or hip hop, the ethereal feel of folk and its haunting melodies can be seen in many popular songs: think Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” or Fleetwood Mac’s ever-popular folk rock song “Dreams”.
Part of folk music’s allure is its simplicity that actually takes a lot of skill to master. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, perhaps trying to play folk music is the experiment you need to get your creative juices flowing again. For those interested in getting started with folk music, below is a primer on how to approach it both in terms of equipment and technique.
Folk music is all about acoustic sounds, so the right instrument will be able to carry crisp sounds as is. The musical instruments featured on Adorama includes an extensive range of acoustic guitars which are your best bet in this regard, as they’ve been pre-selected by the music team to include quality brands like Fender and Washburn. It goes without saying that paying high costs for a good guitar upfront will save you money in the long run. Folk guitars are steel-stringed (to powerfully carry sound while still remaining acoustic) and thus take a lot of practice to master, which is also where having a good-quality pick comes in.
You can also extend beyond just the guitar and try out a range of instruments. The Columbus Washboard Company is the only manufacturer of washboards in the country, and despite its relatively low profile this instrument is still has a level of cult popularity amongst its supporters. A washboard is an extremely versatile instrument, and can be played by strumming or tapping the instrument with anything from spoons to bottle caps.
Banjos, harmonicas, and fiddles are also well-known folk instruments — indeed, they’re so closely intertwined with the genre that their sounds are synonymous with folk music. While you might already have the necessary recording equipment at home, it’s the range of instruments that make folk music a worthwhile venture for any musician who wants to experiment with something new.
Because folk music relies on just a handful of instruments, the magic comes in how you play the instrument. For instance, people who play the fiddle tend to play it more aggressively than they would a violin to create an engaging rhythm. Similarly, guitar players rely on a bunch of different strumming techniques, from finger picking to playing open chords that allow them to carry a tune without the presence of a huge percussion band behind them. It’s also worth noting that some folk guitarists will often incorporate various strumming styles into one song alone.
This natural and balanced sound should also be carried into the final product, which means that mastering a folk track will be approached differently. To obtain this sound while mastering, you’ll need to rely on larger bandwidths for the EQ setting and use harmonic generation for your distortion. These two settings will amplify the sound coming from the instrument while also making it fuller, which is precisely what you want when it comes to folk music.
A quick glance at our News section proves that musicians from all across the board are making the most of these uncertain times by honing their sound and releasing new music. Budding musicians would do well to follow suit, and trying out new genres without the pressure of releasing anything can be a great experiment. If you’ve never dabbled in folk music before, consider this your sign to do so.