Traditional Folk Music in Switzerland

Swiss Folk music is a genre that has been around for centuries. It is a type of music that is passed down from generation to generation and is unique to the Swiss culture. There are many different aspects to Swiss folk music, including alphorn music, Ländler music, and yodeling.

Swiss folk band
Swiss folk band with two accordian players and a double bass player. Photo by Karen Chow.

Swiss music is awesome for a variety of reasons. First, yodeling is an integral part of the Swiss musical tradition. Yodeling is a form of singing that involves rapidly changing the pitch of the voice. This unique vocal style lends a distinctive charm to Swiss music. In addition, Swiss music often features traditional instruments such as the alphorn and the accordion. These instruments add a richness and complexity to the music that is truly captivating. Finally, Swiss music has been influenced by a variety of other genres, including folk, jazz, and rock. This diversity gives Swiss music a unique flavor that is sure to please any listener.

Culture and Swiss Music

One of the best things about traveling is getting to experience different cultures, and there is no better way to do that than through music. Every culture has its own unique sound, and listening to live music is a great way to get a taste of the local flavor. When I was traveling in Switzerland, I got to see a lot of traditional music featuring yodeling, hammered dulcimer, and alp horn.

Swiss band
A large Swiss band featuring alphorn, dancing, and including lots of horn players and drum set. Photo by Karen Chow

It was so much fun to watch the musicians and dancers in their traditional costumes, and it really gave me a feel for the culture. Experiencing live music is one of the best ways to connect with a new place, and I always make sure to catch a show whenever I’m traveling.

The Origins of Swiss Folk Music

Swiss folk music has its origins in the country’s rural Alpine regions. For centuries, folk music was passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition. In the 17th century, the first musical manuscripts began to appear, which helped to preserve the traditional folk songs of Switzerland. Many of these early manuscripts were lost during the Napoleonic Wars, but some were rediscovered in the 20th century and have since been published.

Alps sunset
Spending time in alpine regions was where yodeling was developed.

One of the most important collections of Swiss folk music is the Sammlung von Schweizer Volksmusik (Collection of Swiss Folk Music), which was compiled by Hans Georg Nägeli and published in 1816. This collection contains over 1,000 folk songs from all over Switzerland. It is an invaluable resource for those interested in learning more about traditional Swiss folk music.

Traditional Instruments Used in Swiss Folk Music

A wide variety of instruments are used in Swiss folk music, including acoustic guitars, accordions, alphorns, banjos, bass drums, clarinets, cymbals, double basses, flutes, harmonicas, harpsichords, mandolins, percussion instruments, trumpets, violins and zithers. The most commonly used instrument in Swiss folk music is the accordion. Other popular instruments include the alphorn (a type of horn made from wooden tubing), the hammered dulcimer (a stringed instrument that is played with mallets), the fife (a small flute-like instrument), the hurdy-gurdy (a stringed instrument that is played by turning a crank), and the yodel (a form of singing that involves changing one’s pitch mid-sentence).


An alphorn is a wind instrument that is typically made from a natural materials such as wood or bone. Alphorns have been used for centuries in many different cultures, and they are still popular today. Many people enjoy playing the alphorn because of its unique sound.

The Alphorn is so long, and the sound can reverberate across the mountain valley to the other side. Photo by Karen Chow

The long length of the horn amplifies the sound, making it both loud and clear. Alphorns are also often used in traditional folk music, and they are sometimes used in more modern styles of music as well. Whatever the genre, the alphorn is sure to add a unique touch to any musical performance.

My son had a chance to try playing the alphorn. It is surprisingly difficult to make a sound from it. Photo by Karen Chow

Swiss Zither

The hexenscheit is a Swiss zither, from the Berner Oberland region. It is an older and simpler version of the zither, which produces a metallic sound when the strings are plucked with the fingers. The hexenscheit has been present in Switzerland for almost 200 years, and there is even a museum devoted entirely to Swiss zithers in Trachselwald. The Swiss zither is a beautiful instrument that has been used in music for centuries. It is known for its unique sound, which is produced by the plucking of strings that run across the length of the instrument.

1850s Swiss Zither. Photo from Ebay.

The zither is also notable for its versatility, as it can be used to play a wide range of musical styles. In addition to its distinctive sound, the Swiss zither is also known for its aesthetic beauty. The instrument is often decorated with intricate carvings and inlays, making it a work of art as well as a musical instrument. For these reasons, the Swiss zither remains a popular choice for musicians around the world.

Hammered Dulcimer

The hammered dulcimer is a unique musical instrument that produces a beautiful, ethereal sound. It is believed to have originated in the Middle East, and it has been used for centuries in a variety of traditional music styles. The dulcimer gets its name from the two rows of metal “hammers” that are used to strike the strings. Each string has a different pitch, and the hammers are struck in different rhythms to create the melody.

hammered dulcimer
Hammered Dulcimer Player | Canon P – Canon 50mm F/1.8 – Koda… | Flickr

The dulcimer can be played solo or in an ensemble, and it is often used in folk and world music. If you’re looking for an instrument that will add a touch of magic to your music, the hammered dulcimer is definitely worth exploring.


Appenzell is a small canton in the northeast of Switzerland, and it is known for its traditional music. Talerschwingen is a traditional way of making music by spinning a coin in a bowl. The sound of the coin spinning in the bowl is said to resemble the sound of a cow bell.

Talerschwingen, making music by spinning coins in a bowl. IMG_7629 | talerschwingen I | Robert Weishaupt | Flickr

This musical tradition is still practiced today, and it is a great insider tip for visitors to Appenzell. The Appenzellerland is also home to a type of yodeling called natural yodeling. This type of yodeling is only sung on syllables.

Try to be depressed while listening to this yodeling. It’s impossible.

If you are interested in learning more about the traditional music of Appenzell, then seeing a concert is the perfect activity for you. You will have the chance to learn about the history of Appenzell music, and you will also be able to try your hand at Talerschwingen.

Swiss Chalet Music Box

The Swiss Chalet is a popular style of music box that originated in the Swiss Alps. These handcrafted boxes are known for their intricate wood carvings and delicate instruments. The most common type of Swiss Chalet music box plays a song called “Edelweiss.” This traditional folk song tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a mountain girl. The Swiss Chalet music box has become a symbol of Switzerland, and it is often given as a gift to tourists. However, these beautiful boxes are not just for decoration; they are also excellent quality musical instruments. The sound of a Swiss music box is sure to bring a touch of magic to any room.

Modern Swiss Music

The Swiss music prizes are a celebration of the country’s diverse and vibrant musical scene. This year, the award for the Grand Prix Music goes to the electronic duo Yello, consisting of Dieter Meier and Boris Blank.

Do you all remember this song from the 80s? I totally do! These guys just won the Swiss grand music prize 2022.

The duo has been making music together for over four decades and their work has had a significant impact on the electronic music scene. Their unique sound is characterized by a mix of melodies, rhythms and textures, which has inspired many other musicians. As cultural ambassadors, Yello have helped to present an open-minded Switzerland to the world. Their music is timeless and set impulses in the global music scene. The duo is deserving of this prestigious award and we congratulate them on their achievement. The winners of the Swiss music prizes are announced here: 2022 (


Swiss folk music is a rich and vibrant genre that has its roots in the country’s rural Alpine regions. For centuries, this type of music has been passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition. Today, there are many different aspects to Swiss folk music, including alphorn music, Ländler music, and yodeling.

Experiencing the music of Switzerland is a great way to get to learn more about the culture and enjoy this beautiful country.

If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Swiss folk music, be sure to check out the Schweizer Volksmusik-Sammlung —an invaluable resource for anyone interested in this genre. And if you are lucky enough to be traveling to Switzerland, consider hearing a concert of traditional Swiss music. Just hearing the sound of yodeling will bring a smile to your face.

Have you been to Switzerland before? Did you hear any Swiss music while you were there? Does yodeling put a smile on your face? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Thanks for teaching us a little bit about Swiss music! I would love to visit Switzerland some day – the landscape looks absolutely beautiful!

  2. This is SO COOL! I’ve been to Switzerland a number of times, and sadly I’ve never gotten a chance to hear any of this music. But what a special moment to see traditional folk music live.

  3. I love reading about traditions in other cultures! This was really cool! I would love to check it out someday!

  4. It will really depend on what city you’re going to. We looked for concerts and music festivals in the cities that we were staying in, and it was pretty easy to find. I hope you have a great trip!

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