Folk music is one of the easiest and most fun musical styles for the beginner guitar player to get into. You can enjoy it almost immediately and, through folk songs you can express your own feelings and uplift the emotions of your audience. Folk music is basically about daily life. Sometimes the songs are based on spirituals like Michael Row The Boat Ashore, social change like If I Had A Hammer or tales of love like Lemon Tree.
For the singer and guitar player an important thing to remember about folk music is that it acts as focal point for a number of people to get together and undergo an uplifting of the emotions by taking part in group singing. We are all familiar with the scenario of a family or school sports team helping to pass the time on a road trip by singing 99 Bottles of Beer. Yankee Doodle, Shoo Fly, This Old Man, She'll be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Three Blind Mice, Buffalo Gals, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Hush, Little Baby, Lazy Mary, Bingo, I've Been Working’ on the Railroad, On Top of Old Smokey, London Bridge, The Farmer in the Dell, The Crawdad Song, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Rock-A-Bye Baby, The Riddle Song, Oh! Susanna, Mister Frog Went A-Courtin’ and Frere Jacques are all simple folk songs that are loved by everybody and can be easily played on the guitar.
Another famous folk song is Banks Of The Ohio which is a gruesome ballad about a young girl being murdered by a rejected suitor. There are many such songs dealing with love gone wrong leading to murder. Greensleeves is an English folk song with dubious subject matter. Dating from the sixteenth century, many musicologists suggest that it is about a lady of loose virtue. House Of The Rising Sun is a song about wasted life but judging by its popularity it is responsible for bringing people much happiness. Another easy folk song is Foggy Mountain Top which contains all the elements of a great folk song - unrequited love, a crime of passion and remorse for a wasted life.
To play these easy folk songs you can simply use a plectrum to accompany your singing by strumming chords. But there are easy fingerstyle guitar techniques that you will find to be quite effective. The simplest is to play the bass note of each chord followed by a down stroke with the first finger across the third, second and first strings. A variation on this technique is to pluck the treble strings instead of strumming them. In practice, you will find yourself using a combination of these two methods. From here, with a little help from some internet research, you will find that you can expand your fingerstyle technique to using the thumb, first, second and third fingers to pick melodic accompaniment to your folk songs. A very popular and easy to play folk guitar style is called Clawhammer. In this technique your thumb plays a regular pattern while the fingers pluck a melody or accompaniment on the treble strings. To find some tabs and videos featuring these methods of playing folk songs, just try searching for “guitar finger picking".
For more inspiration in your search for easy folk songs to play on the guitar, try searching some famous folk artists on the internet. Some good ones to start with are Burl Ives, The Weavers, Peter Paul And Mary, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
Ricky Sharples has been playing guitar his whole life, and is presently engaged in building a blog which features free guitar lessons, videos, articles and reviews to help you Learn The Guitar for free. Ricky updates the blog constantly so if you are interested in learning to play guitar there will be an enormous variety of tips, tools and tutorials for you.