The traditional Slovak repertoire includes two groups of ballads, differing in terms of genesis and development: ballads from the oral tradition, and ballads with a model in printed song sheets. The category of song type provided the starting point for a study of their variability, making it possible to follow the variant process in a broader circle of song variants. In three selected cases the author has been able to illustrate the forms in which the variant process affected several layers of the song structure, the textual poetics, and the musical style. Besides variant changes of the action and its episodes, there was also a regrouping of features relating to type and musical style, resulting from the song’s adaptation to a different singing occasion. These changes prove that the ballad’s variability is closely connected with the genesis and development of the song type and also with the social function of singing.