Exploring Nordic Sounds: What is Viking Music Called?

Viking Music

Step into the world of Viking music and discover the enchanting sounds that echo through Nordic history. Viking music, also known as Norse or Nordic music, is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Norse people. Its melodies range from epic narratives of heroic deeds and mythology to spiritual chants and dance tunes that were performed during festive occasions.

But what is Viking music called? In this article, we will delve into the captivating world of Viking music and uncover its true name. We will explore the origins of Viking music, delve into the musical traditions that shaped Norse culture, and examine the instruments commonly used by Vikings. From skaldic poetry and oral tradition to war drums and battle chants, Viking music is a distinct musical genre that continues to captivate audiences today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Viking music is a distinct musical genre that encompasses a range of melodies from epic narratives to spiritual chants and dance tunes.
  • Viking music emerged during the Viking Age, which spanned from the late 8th century to the 11th century.
  • Skaldic poetry and oral tradition were integral components of Viking music.
  • Viking music was brought to life through a variety of musical instruments, including the lyre, harp, and horn.
  • Viking music has found its way into popular culture, appearing in movies, video games, and TV shows.

The Origins of Viking Music

To truly understand Viking music, we must delve into the musical traditions of Norse culture during the Viking Age. This era, which lasted from the late 8th century to the 11th century, saw the emergence of a distinct musical style that reflected the values and beliefs of the Norse people.

For the Vikings, music was an integral part of daily life. It was used to commemorate important events, celebrate victories, and even to prepare for battle. Through music, the Vikings celebrated their culture and mythology, preserving their stories and traditions for future generations.

One of the defining characteristics of Viking music was its connection to nature. The Vikings drew inspiration from the natural world around them, infusing their music with the sounds of animals, wind, and water.

The Role of Skalds in Viking Music

Central to Viking music was the tradition of skaldic poetry. Skalds were Viking poets who composed and recited poems and songs that celebrated heroes, gods, and historical events. Through this form of oral storytelling, skalds played a crucial role in preserving the musical traditions of the Vikings.

Skaldic poetry was often accompanied by the sound of musical instruments, such as the lyre and harp. These instruments added depth and richness to the skaldic poems, enhancing their emotional impact and contributing to the development of Viking musical traditions.

The Instruments of Viking Music

Along with the lyre and harp, the Vikings used a variety of other musical instruments to bring their music to life. These included the horn, which was used in ceremonial events, and the lur, a type of trumpet that was used to signal during battles.

The Vikings also used percussion instruments, such as the frame drum and the tambourine, to add rhythm and depth to their music. These instruments were often used in conjunction with skaldic poetry and other forms of storytelling.

Eddas and Sagas

Eddas and sagas were ancient texts that played an important role in shaping Viking musical narratives. These texts contained mythical and historical stories that were often turned into songs and poems.

The Eddas, in particular, were a rich source of inspiration for Viking music. These texts contained stories of the gods and goddesses of Norse mythology, and many of their tales were transformed into epic songs and poems by skalds.

Through their music, the Vikings were able to connect with their cultural heritage and pass down their stories and traditions to future generations. Today, Viking music continues to captivate audiences around the world, preserving the spirit of this ancient musical tradition.

Skaldic Poetry and Oral Tradition

The Vikings were known for their skill in storytelling, and music played a crucial role in the delivery of their tales. Skalds, Viking poets, were revered for their ability to compose and recite epic poems and songs that celebrated heroic deeds, mythology, and historical events. These skaldic poems were an integral part of the Viking oral tradition and were passed down from generation to generation.

The use of skaldic poetry in Viking music was a way of preserving and celebrating the rich history of the Norse people. The poems were often accompanied by musical instruments, such as the lyre and harp, which added to the emotional impact of the storytelling.

One of the most famous skalds was Egill Skallagrímsson, who lived in the 10th century. He was known for his ability to compose poems that were both beautiful and powerful. Egill’s poems often dealt with themes of love, death, and revenge, and were said to have moved his listeners to tears.

The Role of Skaldic Poetry in Viking Music

Skaldic poetry was not only a form of entertainment but also served a practical purpose in Viking society. The poems were often used to praise and honor warriors, kings, and other important figures. They were also used as propaganda during times of war, to rally troops and instill a sense of courage and unity.

Skalds were highly respected members of Viking society, and their ability to compose and recite poems was considered a valuable skill. They were often patrons of kings and chieftains, who would support them in exchange for their services as poets and musicians.

Skaldic poetry continues to inspire contemporary Nordic musicians, who draw from the rich tradition of the Viking oral tradition. Today, many artists use skaldic poetry as a source of inspiration, incorporating its themes and imagery into their music.

Musical Instruments of the Vikings

The music of the Vikings was brought to life through a variety of musical instruments. These instruments were used to accompany the skaldic poetry, sagas, and narrative songs that were an integral part of Viking culture. Let’s explore some of the most commonly used Viking instruments.

Instrument Description
Lyre A stringed instrument that was played with a plectrum. The lyre was a versatile instrument and could be played solo or as part of an ensemble.
Harp A large, vertical instrument that was played with the fingers. The harp was often used to accompany poetry and had a deep, resonant sound.
Horn A brass instrument made from an animal horn. Horns were used in various forms, such as drinking horns or signal horns, and could produce a range of sounds.

These instruments were not just played for entertainment purposes but were also used in religious ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. The lyre and harp were particularly significant in ritual music and were often played to invoke the spirits of the dead.

Eddic and Sagas: Musical Narratives

The rich narrative tradition of the eddas and sagas provided inspiration for many Viking musical compositions. Often, these narratives were transformed into epic songs, known as narrative songs, that celebrated the deeds of great heroes and gods.

Many of the surviving eddas and sagas contain detailed descriptions of musical performances, highlighting the importance of music in Norse culture. In fact, some sagas even describe how music was used to enhance the emotional impact of the stories being told.

For example, the epic saga of Ragnar Lodbrok tells of a legendary Viking hero and his death in the pit of poisonous snakes. The saga describes how a skilled musician played a harp and sang a melancholy song to mourn the fallen hero, adding an emotional dimension to the story.

The eddas and sagas were not only a source of inspiration but also served as a means of preserving Viking history and culture. Through the medium of music, the sagas brought to life the rich tapestry of Norse mythology and history, enabling future generations to connect with their ancestral heritage.

War Drums and Battle Chants

When we think of Viking music, images of fierce warriors charging into battle with weapons in hand may come to mind. It was in these intense moments that the use of war drums and battle chants played a crucial role.

The beating of war drums echoed across the battlefield, instilling a sense of rhythm that helped the warriors maintain a cohesive unit. The sound of the drums was so powerful that it could be heard from a great distance, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Battle chants were also an essential part of Viking warfare. These rhythmic vocal expressions were used to rally the troops, boost morale, and intimidate the enemy. The chants often praised the bravery and strength of the warriors, invoking a sense of pride and honor.

As the Vikings were a seafaring people, it is believed that some of these chants may have been used to keep time when rowing their longships. The synchronized movement of the oars would have been aided by the rhythmic chanting, allowing the crew to maintain a steady pace and conserve their energy.

The use of war drums and battle chants in Viking warfare was not only practical, but it also held deep cultural significance. It was through these rhythmic and vocal expressions that the warriors were able to connect with their Norse heritage and honor their ancestors.

Fun Fact:

“Viking” actually means “pirate” or “raider” in Old Norse. While the Vikings were certainly known for their pillaging and raiding, they were also accomplished traders, explorers, and artists.

Ritualistic and Spiritual Music

Viking music was not limited to war and storytelling. It also had a spiritual dimension, playing an essential role in rituals and ceremonies. The Vikings believed that music had the power to connect them with their gods and spirits, and spiritual chants were an integral part of Viking religion.

The rituals and ceremonies where music was an essential element included feasts, weddings, funerals, and sacrifices. These gatherings were an opportunity for the Vikings to celebrate, mourn, and communicate with their deities. Ritual music was performed by the Vikings to create a sacred atmosphere that could help them connect with their gods and draw their attention.

Viking spiritual chants were often sung in unison, creating a sense of unity and togetherness. The lyrics of these chants were usually simple and repetitive, making them easy to memorize and sing. Viking spiritual chants were often accompanied by simple instruments such as flutes, drums, and lyres, creating a mesmerizing soundscape.

The Vikings believed that when they sang spiritual chants, their gods and spirits would listen to them and answer their prayers. They also believed that chanting could help them enter a trance-like state and communicate with the spiritual realm. Therefore, chanting was an essential tool for the Vikings to connect with their gods, ancestors, and the spirit world.

The spiritual dimension of Viking music is a testament to the deep connection that the Norse people had with their religion and spirituality. Today, there are contemporary artists and bands who draw inspiration from this rich tradition and incorporate spiritual chants and rituals into their music. This revival of Viking spirituality through music is a testament to the enduring power of this ancient musical form.

Folk Songs and Dance Tunes

Beyond the epic narratives and spiritual chants, the Vikings also enjoyed more lighthearted music. Folk songs and dance tunes were performed during festive occasions, celebrations, and gatherings. These upbeat melodies were typically accompanied by lively dances that brought people together in joyous revelry. Today, contemporary Nordic music continues to draw inspiration from these traditional sounds, creating a vibrant and diverse music scene that celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Vikings.

One of the most iconic instruments in Viking music was the lyre, a small harp-like instrument that was used to play melodic tunes. The lyre was often used in combination with the human voice to create catchy songs that were easy to sing along to. Another popular instrument was the horn, which was used to create a deep, resonant sound that added a sense of grandeur to festive occasions.

Despite the fun and festive nature of folk songs and dance tunes, they also served an important social function. These songs often told stories of everyday life, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of the Viking people. They also brought communities together, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and shared experience. Today, contemporary Nordic musicians continue to pay tribute to this rich tradition, infusing it with modern elements while staying true to its roots.

Modern Interpretations and Revivals

Viking music may have faded into history, but it has been given new life through contemporary artists and bands who have reimagined it for modern audiences. The Viking music revival has brought about a new appreciation for the ancient musical traditions of the Norse people.

Many contemporary Nordic musicians have been inspired by Viking music, infusing it with modern elements while staying true to its roots. Some have even formed bands specifically dedicated to reviving Viking music, such as Heilung and Wardruna.

The popularity of Viking-inspired media, such as the TV series “Vikings” and the video game “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” has also contributed to the revival of Viking music. The use of traditional instruments and vocal techniques in these media has sparked interest in the ancient musical traditions of the Vikings.

Viking music festivals have also emerged as a way to celebrate and showcase the revived genre. These festivals feature both traditional and contemporary Viking music performed by bands and artists from around the world. The annual Urkult Festival in Sweden and the Midgardsblot Festival in Norway are just a few examples of these events.

Contemporary Nordic music has also been heavily influenced by Viking music. Many artists draw inspiration from the rhythms and melodies of the ancient Norse people, infusing them with contemporary sounds and creating a unique genre that is both modern and traditional.

In conclusion, the Viking music revival has brought new life to an ancient musical tradition. With contemporary artists and bands infusing it with modern elements and the emergence of Viking music festivals, this genre continues to captivate audiences and preserve the spirit of the ancient Nordic sounds.

Viking Music in Popular Culture

The sounds of Viking music have not only left their mark on Norse history, but they have also made their way into popular culture. Today, Viking music can be heard in movies, video games, and TV shows, adding a sense of authenticity and depth to portrayals of Viking culture.

Viking Music in Movies

Viking music has been used in many films, from the epic historical dramas like “Braveheart” and “Gladiator,” to the action-packed adventures of “The 13th Warrior” and “The Viking Sagas.” These films often feature music that is reminiscent of Viking instruments and melodies, creating an immersive experience that transports viewers to a time of warriors and legends.

Viking Music in Video Games

Video games have also incorporated Viking music into their soundtracks, creating a unique atmosphere that complements the game’s setting and storyline. Games like “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” feature music that draws inspiration from Nordic culture, adding an extra layer of depth to the gaming experience.

Viking Music in TV Shows

TV shows have not been left out of the Viking music trend, either. Shows like “Vikings” and “The Last Kingdom” feature music that captures the spirit of Viking culture, creating a sense of authenticity that enhances viewers’ immersion in the drama and action of the show.

Viking music has found a place in popular culture because of its distinct and captivating sound. The deep connection between Viking music and Norse mythology, history, and culture has made it a perfect fit for books, films, TV shows, and video games. Through its use in popular culture, Viking music continues to inspire new generations and help preserve its legacy.

Exploring Viking Music Today

While Viking music may have emerged in ancient times, it continues to captivate audiences today. One way to experience Viking music is to attend one of the many Viking music festivals that take place around the world.

These festivals often feature not only traditional Viking music but also contemporary interpretations and performances by modern artists. They provide a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in Viking culture and appreciate the beauty of the Nordic sound.

Viking Music Festivals

Festival Name Date and Location
The Viking Festival June, York, England
Midgardsblot August, Borre, Norway
Hemisfair October, San Antonio, Texas

Another way to explore Viking music today is to delve into the Nordic music scene. From traditional folk music to contemporary interpretations, there is a wide range of Nordic music to discover.

Many artists have drawn inspiration from Viking music, infusing it with modern elements and creating a distinct sound that honors the ancient tradition while also appealing to modern audiences.

Contemporary Nordic Music

  • Wardruna: A Norwegian band that creates music inspired by Norse traditions, using both traditional and modern instruments.
  • Heilung: A Danish-German band that combines traditional Nordic instruments with modern technologies to create a unique sound that transports listeners to another realm.
  • Skáld: A French band whose music draws inspiration from Icelandic sagas and Viking mythology, blending ancient melodies with modern arrangements.

Whether experienced at a festival or through contemporary Nordic music, Viking music continues to thrive and inspire. Its enchanting sounds and rich cultural heritage have transcended time, offering a window into a bygone era that still resonates today.

The Enchanting Sounds of Viking Music

Viking music, also known as Norse or Nordic music, is a fascinating aspect of the cultural heritage of the Vikings. It is a testament to the rich history and unique musical traditions of the Norse people. From the powerful skaldic poetry to the resounding war drums, Viking music is a captivating journey through the sounds that defined a civilization.

Despite the true form of Viking music being lost to time, its spirit continues to live on through modern interpretations. Contemporary artists and bands have reimagined Viking music, infusing it with modern elements while staying true to its roots. Through their work, the enchanting sounds of Viking music continue to inspire musicians and listeners alike.

Viking music can also be found in popular culture, adding depth and authenticity to portrayals of Viking culture in movies, video games, and TV shows. Its use in these mediums has helped to keep the spirit of Viking music alive and introduce new audiences to this unique musical tradition.

Today, Viking music is celebrated through festivals and performances around the world. Whether at a traditional Viking music festival or in the contemporary Nordic music scene, audiences can experience the enchanting sounds of Viking music for themselves and immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the Norse people.

The sounds of Viking music carry with them echoes of a bygone era, but their power and beauty continue to captivate us today. Through the enchanting melodies and rhythms of Viking music, we can glimpse the rich cultural heritage of the Norse people and appreciate the music that shaped their world.


What is Viking music called?

Viking music is also known as Norse or Nordic music.

When did Viking music emerge?

Viking music emerged during the Viking Age, which spanned from the late 8th century to the 11th century.

What is skaldic poetry?

Skaldic poetry is a form of oral storytelling performed by Viking poets known as skalds.

What instruments were commonly used in Viking music?

The Vikings commonly used instruments such as the lyre, harp, and horn.

How were eddic and sagas used in Viking music?

Eddas and sagas, ancient texts containing mythical and historical narratives, were often transformed into musical form in Viking music.

What role did war drums and battle chants play in Viking warfare?

War drums and battle chants were used to motivate warriors and instill a sense of unity on the battlefield.

Was music a part of Viking religious practices?

Yes, music played a role in Viking religious practices, with ritualistic and spiritual chants being performed during ceremonies.

Did the Vikings have folk songs and dance tunes?

Yes, the Vikings enjoyed folk songs and dance tunes, which were performed during festive occasions and gatherings.

Is Viking music still being made today?

Yes, there has been a revival of Viking music in contemporary times, with artists and bands reimagining and performing this ancient musical tradition.

How is Viking music used in popular culture?

Viking music is often used in movies, video games, and TV shows to add depth and authenticity to portrayals of Viking culture.

Where can I experience Viking music today?

You can experience Viking music at Viking music festivals and explore the contemporary Nordic music scene.