The Kodály Approach

The Kodaly Approach

KMEIA logoWe asked Jennifer Samild from the Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia (NSW branch) about the Kodaly approach and its application in schools. Jennifer teaches music at Ascham School in Sydney and her greatest joy is working with choirs, of which there are many at Ascham.

What is ‘Kodály’?             

Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967)was a Hungarian composer, educator, philosopher and ethnomusicologist – a towering figure of the last century whose concept of music education has had remarkable influence world-wide.  His main aim was to educate all society to read music as easily as read words; to develop a love of music through experience and understanding; to discriminate between good music and bad music; and above all, to regard music as an integral part of life, placing the utmost importance on its role in education, just as the Greeks had done in the time of Pythagoras.

How is this used in Australian schools?  

The Kodály concept of music education continues to attract great attention in Australia, primarily because of its ability to offer children stimulating and enjoyable music lessons while at the same time addressing the need to teach the whole person in a sequential and logical manner.

It can readily be applied to the musical training of all age groups, from infant to adult, and in a variety of circumstances – day care centre, classroom, choir rehearsal, instrumental lesson and ensemble setting.

What age groups is this approach most suitable for?         

All ages, but ideally from pre-school as a foundation, then extending into primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is possible to start teaching this approach at any age, but easiest if started in infancy.

Kodály believed that children should first learn their own musical mother tongue – the folk songs of their own cultural heritage. It is through this musical mother tongue that the skills and concepts necessary to achieve musical literacy can be taught. As these skills develop, children are given the opportunity to study and perform Art Music of all periods and styles.

What are the benefits of using the Kodály approach in schools?

First and foremost, because the approach is based on singing, and every student possesses a voice, no expensive equipment is required. Direct access to the world of music is available without the technical problems associated with the playing of an instrument. Moreover, singing without the aid of an instrument is a powerful pedagogical tool that, in the hands of a good teacher, can lead to a highly developed musical ear.

Secondly, a Kodály-approach lesson is a lesson in which students are deeply involved and responsible for their own progress. It is highly structured and sequential, student-centred and designed for all.  Such a lesson is not going where only the gifted can follow – it provides music education for every child and affirms each student as being innately musical.

What kind of training does the teacher need?             

The teacher needs to have formal music training. Many musicians add to their qualifications by training in Kodály , whether or not they have been taught this way. A non-music-trained classroom teacher, with an interest in music and possibly instrumental expertise, may obtain Kodály qualifications and become a specialist. Instrumental teachers are likewise able to train to work alongside classroom Kodály specialists, or to enhance their own teaching. Thus if a school desired to employ the Kodály approach, it could bring in specialists to teach this way, or preferably encourage its own staff to train in Kodaly.

Each state has its own courses set up to enable training. These courses are intensive and exhilarating for the participants, as are courses, workshops and conferences which are all available.

What does it involve? 

Children’s songs, singing games and folk dances are an integral part of early training and are used to enhance learning and enjoyment. Kodály  musical training always involves active music making.

Solfa syllables and the moveable-do system are used to teach skills in pitch discrimination, intervals, harmony and analysis. These skills are reinforced with a system of hand signs. Rhythmic skills are developed by means of a system of time names (rhythm duration syllables).

Musical learning evolves from a variety of experiences including singing songs in unison, rounds, canons and in parts; singing themes from great instrumental music; games, improvisation and memory activities based on beat, rhythm, pitch and timbre; and listening and moving to music.

A large repertoire of folk and art songs is visited and re-visited at deeper levels. Reading and writing skills stem from these activities. Tuned and untuned percussion instruments are useful as accompanying instruments for playing and improvising.

How does learning through the Kodály approach in school prepare people for a life in music?

By developing students who ‘hear what they see and see what they hear’, a Kodály education aims to produce a complete musician. The acute aural skills learned are applied to performance on instruments other than the voice. The ability to hear many parts at once is vital for ensemble playing and enhances listening enjoyment. The musicianship acquired by this type of education results in deep knowledge of style and form; and the skills in improvisation practised over many years leads some musicians to become composers of note.

Where can teachers, parents and principals find out more about Kodály?

The best source is www.kodaly.org.au

A national conference will be held for four days in Sept-Oct 2014, in Sydney, which will provide a wonderful opportunity for information and participation.

Is this program best suited to primary schools, secondary schools, or both? 

It is suited to all schools, but the ideal situation is for it to begin as early as possible, and continue through to the end of school.

Is this program available to government and non-government schools?

Many non-government schools specifically require teachers to employ this approach. For instance, the job I presently hold was advertised this way – the school sought a teacher familiar with Kodály and Orff approaches. However, many government schools employ music teachers who also follow this approach, and there is no reason why this can’t happen. It is best, of course, if all the different music teachers are ‘on board’ with the same approach, as this ensures continuity for the students.

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