There are several genres within the vocal folk music tradition in Norway; herding calls, lullabies, ballads, country songs, stev, and religious folk songs.
In all types of vocal folk music, the transmission of the text is the most important element; a good singer is supposed to tell a story with the song. The words are sung as they would be spoken naturally, and the melody fits the verses such that it can vary somewhat from verse to verse.

Vocal folk music is also distinguished by having what are called svevande tonar, "floating" intervals; that is, intervals that are a little wider or narrower than those in the ordinary tempered scale which forms the basis for most other Western music. These intervals are called "floating" because they can change depending upon the direction of the melody and the singer's inflection. Many vocal folk musicians also ornament the melodies with krullar, intricate melismatic ornaments, and glissando is also often used. In Telemark and Setesdal vocal folk music is called kveding.


Stev are songs with a fixed rhyme and verse pattern. They have four lines per verse in a fixed rhythm, and the singer marks the rhythm by tapping their foot.

Lokk (herding calls)

Lokk is singing or calling to barnyard animals to beckon them home to be milked or fed. This type of singing can range from improvised melodies to elaborate calls that are sung the same way each time and are preserved by being handed down from singer to singer.

Bånsullar (lullabies)

Lullabies were used in the traditional farming society to lull babies to sleep. The melodies are simple and are occasionally improvised.

Religious folk songs

Melodies to Protestant texts are called religious folk songs (religiøse folketonar), and originated after the Reformation.Melodies to Catholic texts are called heilagviser, and are a type of ballad.

Balladar (ballads)

Ballads have their roots in the Middle Ages, and they were still being sung in living tradition at the time when they were first collected and notated by researchers in the 1800's and 1900's.

Bygdeviser, skillingsviser (Country songs and "penny" songs)

Bygdeviser and skillingsviser are newer songs from the 1800's and 1900's, usually composed by well-known authors and set to existing melodies.


Yoik is the traditional song of the Saami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia.