7 Folk Songs In 6/8 Time

image 7 folk songs in 68 time banner

Do you want to reinforce 6/8 meter with your students? 

Are you looking to get a better feel for this fun time signature? 

Folk songs are an important part of how people learn and understand music. 

6/8 is an often forgotten meter in music, but I want to give my kids a contextual understanding, and I bet you do too.  

This is why I compiled this list of 7 folk songs in 6/8 time. 

Folk songs in 6/8 time have a skipping feel to their beat. There are two beats in each measure, and the beat is made up of three sounds notated by eighth notes. My favorite 6/8 folk songs are:

  • Farmer In The Dell
  • Johnny Works With One Hammer
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Ants Go Marching 
  • Charlie Over The Ocean
  • All Around The Cobbler’s Bench (Pop Goes The Weasel)
  • Oats, Peas, Beans, And Barley Grow

Check out the rest of the post for more information. 

What Does A 6/8 Beat Sound Like? 

I ask my kids this when I introduce them to the idea of 6/8. We’ve done many songs in 6/8 at this point (see below) and also talk about these songs are made of 3 microbeats for every macrobeat. 

This is all intellectual, but sometimes it’s good just to ask kids to describe what the 6/8 beat sounds like to them. 

I describe it as a skipping or rolling feel. 

Find a bunch of these in the folk song book, Sail Away.

It’s affordable and has 155 different folk songs to use in your room right away.

Check it out on Amazon by clicking above (it was on sale when I bought it!).

My kids come up with other answers (some you wouldn’t even believe). 

Some common ones I receive are:

  • It’s a bouncy feeling beat. 
  • It’s like a horse galloping. 
  • If someone had a peg leg, they might walk around in 6/8. 
  • 6/8 is like a march but super serious because there are more little beats inside it. 

You may also enjoy checking out songs with AB form.

What Is A Whole Note In 6/8?

Before we dig into 6/8 folk songs, we need to answer a question almost everyone asks me when talking about 6/8.

What is the whole note in 6/8? 

This one is honestly tricky. 

If a whole note is worth 4 quarter notes or 8 eighth notes, then the whole note would be worth 2 and 2/3 beats in 6/8 time, right? 

Not really, you wouldn’t ever see a whole note in 6/8 time. This would go over a whole measure, and at this point, the note would be broken apart and tied together.

But it isn’t unheard of to see a whole note in 6/8 time, though many notation programs won’t allow it. 

The whole note is traditionally known to be worth 4 quarter notes, but it’s also used to just show a note held for the entire measure.

If you do come across a whole note in 6/8 time, it would be worth two beats of 3 eighth notes. In this instance, it’s the same as a dotted half note. 

Check out these 17 folk songs every kid should know.

7 Folk Songs In 6/8 Time

#1 Farmer In The Dell

The Farmer In The Dell is a formulaic song perfect for young students. The logical steps are amusing for K-1 kids to sing, and the 6/8 feel is clear. 

Lyrics: 

1. The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell.

Hi-ho the derry-o, the farmer in the dell. 

2. The farmer takes a wife, the farmer takes a wife.

Hi-ho the derry-o, the farmer takes a wife.

3. The wife has a child…

4. The child takes the nurse…

5. The nurse takes the cow…

6. The cow takes a dog…

7. The dog takes a cat…

8. The cat takes a mouse…

9. The mouse takes the cheese…

10 The cheese stands alone…

This simple song may be played by having the class skip in a circle while one child is in the middle. 

On each verse starting with the second one, the middle child chooses another to swap with. 

It continues this way until the cheese stands alone and this player wins.

With each verse, I have students alternate skipping directions.  

#2 Johnny Works With One Hammer

I adore Johnny Work With One Hammer. For more details on my Johnny story, check out kindergarten activities. 

The normal game is simple. You add a move to the others for all five verses. 

  1. Tap right leg. 
  2. Tap left leg. 
  3. Step right foot. 
  4. Step left foot. 
  5. Nod head. 
image johnny works with one hammer sheet music

#3 Hickory Dickory Dock

While Hickory Dickory Dock isn’t a “song”, it is a chant commonly performed in 6/8 time. The nursery rhyme is excellent for practicing a steady macro and microbeat in 6/8. 

There are a lot of clock sounds kids can insert into the song. 

Lyrics: 

Hickory dickory dock, 

The mouse ran up the clock. 

The clock struck one and down he run. 

Hickory dickory dock. 

#4 Ants Go Marching 

It’s too bad most older students consider this a “baby song.” It’s really not if you stop to think about it. 

Keeping music literacy concepts in mind, this song is perfect for learning 6/8 time and basic rhythms, half notes or tied notes in 6/8, and songs in minor. 

Younger kids love to act out the song. 

Lyrics: 

1. The ants go marching one by one.

Hoorah! Hoorah!

The ants go marching one by one. 

Hoorah! Hoorah! 

The go ants marching one by one

The little one stops to suck his thumb, 

And they all go marching 

Down to the ground to get out of the rain. 

(Boom, boom, boom, boom)

2. Two by two…

Tie his shoe…

3. Three by three….

Scratch his knee…

4. Four by four….

Shut the door…

5. Five by five…

To take a dive…

6. Six by six…

Pick up sticks…

7. Seven by seven…

Look to heaven…

8. Eight by eight…

Close the gate…

9. Nine by nine…

Join the line…

10. Ten by ten…

Do it again…

#5 Charlie Over The Ocean

Charlie over the Ocean is an awesome and fun echo song. Click the link to learn more about it. 

image charlie over the ocean sheet music

#6 All Around The Cobbler’s Bench (Pop Goes The Weasel)

The All Around The Cobbler’s Bench or Pop Goes The Weasel is a fun tune and with an even more fun game. 

Older kids may scoff at singing the song, but in my experience, they LOVE to play the chase game going with it. 

It’s like Duck, Duck, Goose, when you get to the second POP! the walker tags someone and do the chase.

Lyrics: 

All around the cobbler’s bench

The monkey chased the weasel. 

The monkey thought ‘twas all in good fun. 

POP! Goes the weasel. 

A penny for a spool of thread. 

A penny for the needle. 

That’s the way the money goes.

POP! Goes the weasel. 

This video has the melody down (and the expanded lyrics involving disease which I usually leave out!).

#7 Oats, Peas, Beans, And Barley Grow

Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow is a folk song in 6/8 time my older elementary students enjoy. (Speaking of songs, check out Skip To My Lou.)

We treat it like a tongue twister which goes faster with each repetition. 

Lyrics: 

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow.

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow.

Can you or I or anyone know

How Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?

First the farmer plants his seeds. 

Stands erect to take his ease. 

Stomps his feet and claps his hands

And turns around to view his lands. 

Moves by line:

  • Pat the beat
  • Pat the beat
  • Point to someone else, point to self, shrug
  • Pat the beat
  • Mime planting seeds
  • Stand tall with hands on back
  • Do the moves like the words say
  • Turn around one time

Then we repeat faster and faster each time.

This video gives you an idea of how the song goes, although with slightly different lyrics.

Conclusion

I hope you find this list of 7 folk songs in 6/8 time helpful. Triple meter is important for everyone to be familiar with as it’s one of the most time signatures out there.

For those who want to improve their singing with awesome exercises and teaching all online for an affordable price, check out 30 Day Singer.

(My elementary students love it too!)

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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