The Kodaly Method: A Primer

Students playing musical instruments in classroom
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The Kodaly Method is a way of developing musical skills and teaching musical concepts beginning in very young children. This method uses folk songs, Curwen hand signs, pictures, movable-do, rhythm symbols, and syllables. It was first introduced in Hungary but is now used in many countries, either alone or in combination with other methods.

Who Created This Method?

The Kodaly Method is an approach to music education based on the philosophies of Zoltan Kodaly. Zoltan Kodaly was a Hungarian composer, author, educator, and expert on Hungarian folk songs. Although this method wasn't exactly invented by Kodaly, it was developed by his colleagues and students in the mid-20th century based on his teachings.

Zoltan Kodaly's Goals and Philosophies

  • Elevate the level of teacher training.
  • Improve musical literacy in schools.
  • Everyone is capable and has the right to musical literacy.
  • Singing is the foundation of musical learning.
  • Music education must begin with the very young.
  • The importance of using folk music (native folk songs and folk songs of other countries) and music of high artistic value.
  • Incorporating games, movement, playing instruments, reading and writing music with singing.
  • Sequential process following a child's natural learning development: Aural - oral - kinesthetic
    Written - pictoral - abstract
    Read - recognized

Types of Music and Instruments Used in the Classroom

Songs of high artistic value, both folk and composed, are used in the Kodaly classroom. Songs that are in the pentatonic scale are emphasized at the beginning level. According to Kodaly, "Nobody wants to stop at pentatony. But, indeed, the beginnings must be made there; on the one hand, in this way the child's biogenetical development is natural and, on the other, this is what is demanded by a rational pedagogical sequence." Other songs that may be used include chants, dancing songs, lullabies, nursery rhymes, songs for circle games and story songs.

Musical Instruments Used

The voice is the main musical instrument of this method. In his words, "Singing connected with movements and action is a much more ancient, and, at the same time, more complex phenomenon than is a simple song." Various rhythm and tonal instruments are also used, including xylophones and recorders.

Typical Lesson and Key Concepts Learned

Although the Kodaly Method follows a set sequence, the materials used in teaching musical concepts varies depending on the age of the student. The sequence followed may be simplified as: listen - sing - understand - read and write - create.

Using this method under the guidance of a certified Kodaly teacher, students can develop listening skills, sight-singing, ear training, learn how to play instruments, compose, improvise, sing, dance, analyze, read and write music.

Zoltan Kodaly Quotes

"Only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children! Everything else is harmful.

“We should read music in the same way that an educated adult will read a book: in silence, but imagining the sound.

"To teach a child an instrument without first giving him preparatory training and without developing singing, reading and dictating to the highest level along with the playing is to build upon sand.

"Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime."

Free Kodaly Lesson Plans

Additional Information

The following resources will help you learn more about the Kodaly Method, teacher certification, and other pertinent information: