Learn Some Popular Methods for Teaching Music to Children

Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, and Dalcroze Methods

Green kazoo in girl mouth
Grant Hamilton / Getty Images

There are various approaches used by educators when it comes to teaching music. Some of the best ways of teaching children music are to build upon a child's innate curiosity and teach children in a way that they learn best, similar to how a child learns their native language. 

Each teaching method has a system, an underlying philosophy with clearly defined objectives and goals. These methods have been in use for a long time, so they are time-tested and proven to have success. One thing that all these methods have in common is that they teach children to not just be listeners, but encourage children to be the creators and producers of music. These methods engage the child in active participation. 

These methods and variations of them are used by music teachers in private lessons and throughout schools worldwide. Here are four of the most popular music education methods: Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, and Dalcroze.

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The Orff Approach

Glockenspiel Photo by flamurai. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Orff Schulwerk Method is a way of teaching children about music that engages their mind and body through a mixture of singing, dancing, acting, and the use of percussion instruments, such as xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels, which are known as the Orff Instrumentarium.

Lessons are presented with an element of play helping the children to learn at their own level of understanding while emphasizing arts integrations with stories, poetry, movement, and drama.

The least methodical of the four approaches, the Orff method teaches music in four stages: imitation, exploration, improvisation, and composition.

There is a natural progression to the method before getting to instruments. The voice comes first through singing songs and creating poems, then comes body percussion, like clapping, stomping, and snaps. Last comes ​an instrument, which is viewed as an activity that extends the body. 

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The Kodaly Method

In the Kodaly Method, singing is stressed as the foundation for musicianship. Getty Images

The Kodaly Method's philosophy is that music education is most effective when started early and that everyone is capable of musical literacy through the use of folk and composed music of high artistic value.

Zoltan Kodaly was a Hungarian composer. His method follows a sequence with each lesson building on the last. Singing is stressed as the foundation for musicianship.

He begins with sight-reading, mastering basic rhythms, and learning pitch with a "hand-sign" method. The hand signs help children visualize the spatial relationship between notes. Hand-signs combined with solfege singing (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) aids in singing that is on-pitch. Kodaly is also known for a system of rhythmic syllables to ​teach steady beat, tempo, and meter.

Through these combined lessons, a student naturally progresses into a mastery of sight reading and ear training. 

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The Suzuki Method

Violin. Public Domain Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Suzuki Method is an approach to music education that was introduced in Japan and later reached the United States during the 1960s. Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki modeled his method after a child's innate ability to learn their native language. He applied the basic principles of language acquisition to music learning and called his method the mother-tongue approach.

Through listening, repetition, memorization, building vocabulary—like language, music becomes part of the child. In this method, parental involvement is helpful to a child's success through motivation, encouragement, and support. This mirrors the same type of parental involvement that helps a child learn the fundamentals of their native language.

Parents often learn the instrument along with the child, acting as musical role models, and maintaining a positive learning atmosphere for the child to succeed.

Although this method was originally developed for the violin, it is now applicable to other instruments including the piano, flute, and guitar.

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The Dalcroze Method

The Dalcroze Method connects music, movement, mind, and body. Copyright 2008 Steve West (Digital Vision Collection)

The Dalcroze method, also known as Dalcroze Eurhythmics, is another approach used by educators to teach musical concepts. Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, a Swiss educator, developed the method to teach rhythm, structure, and musical expression through music and movement.

Eurhythmics begins with ear training, or solfege, to develop the inner musical ear. This differs from Kodaly’s use of solfege in that it is always combined with movement.

Another component of the method concerns improvisation, which helps students sharpen their spontaneous reactions and physical responses to music.

At the heart of the Dalcroze philosophy is that people learn best when learning through multiple senses. Dalcroze believed that music should be taught through the tactile, kinesthetic, aural, and visual senses.