Jan. 24
Session 1
this page:
1. Introduction to Kodaly and his philosophy and pedagogy

next page:
2. Introduction to musical development in young children
3. Introduction to learning and music learning theories
4. Introduction or Review of Hand signs--practice singing from 333
5. Teach/Learn sample pre-school song with analysis.
6. Homework

Online: Syllabus, Schedule, Handsigns, sample song,


Introduce Koops (see "About Prof. Koops" page)
Introduce class members: write your name, email (CLEARLY PLEASE!), instrument (and/or voice), year in school, any teaching experience .
Write at least one thing you hope to get out of this class.
At least one of you may in the future work to establish the first Kodály Organization of Latvia!

1. Introduction to Kodaly and his philosophy and pedagogy

Zoltan Kodály 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."

'We must try to teach youth a good music, as early as possible. Besides good teachers, we need good literature, for beginners and children. I have spent a lot of time writing choir pieces and music schoolbooks for children. I will never regret the time that I have been doing this, instead of writing greater works'.

What is Kodály Teaching?

By Darren Wicks

The Kodály concept of music education continues to attract great attention around the world, primarily because of its ability to offer children stimulating and enjoyable music lessons while at the same time helping them become musically literate and develop musical appreciation.

The Kodály concept is an approach to music education inspired by a Hungarian composer and educator, Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967). Its primary goals are to make music accessible to all people and to cultivate a love and appreciation for music that is supported by understanding and direct musical experience.

Throughout Kodály's writings are the notions that a person cannot be complete without music and that music serves to develop a person on all levels – emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Kodály believed that it was the right of every individual to be taught the basic elements of music. It was only natural, then, that music should be given a prominent place in the school curriculum alongside other disciplines.


Kodály believed that musical aptitude is a characteristic of every person and that, ideally, a music education should begin as early as possible in a person's life - first at home and then later within the school curriculum.

He 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.

In educating children, Kodály asserted that only music of the highest quality should be used. Just as only the most nutritious food is given to infants, so too the highest quality of music must be given to the musically infant in order to cultivate an aesthetic appreciation for fine music. For Kodály, fine music meant genuine folk music and recognised composed music of the great composers.

Kodály believed that singing should be the foundation of all music education. "It is a long accepted truth," wrote Kodály, "that singing provides the best start to music education; even the most talented artist can never overcome the disadvantages of an education without singing."1

The use of the voice is one of the most defining features of the Kodaly approach. The voice is the most accessible of all instruments and this makes it most suitable for musical instruction. It offers direct access to the world of music without the technical problems associated with playing an instrument. Moreover, singing without the aid of an instrument leads to a highly developed aural skills.

Children's songs, singing games and folk dances are an integral part of early training and are used to enhance learning and enjoyment. "Kodàly musical training always involves active music-making. Musical learning evolves from a variety of experiences including singing games and dances, folk songs and art songs; singing songs in unison, rounds, canons and in parts; singing themes from great instrumental music; and listening and moving to music. All these are the cornucopia from which musical concepts are drawn and through which musical skills are practiced."2

Kodály believed that musical instruction should reflect the way that children learn naturally. Just as one learns to speak first and then read and write later, so the sound should be taught first before the symbols. The developed inner ear will then be able to recall the sounds when they are presented later as symbols. He also advocated that musical skills should be carefully sequenced into patterns that reflect an understanding of child development. Great care is taken to lead the child from the known to the unknown and from direct experience to abstract concepts and symbols.

Music literacy remains a key component of the approach and is developed gradually and sequentially. Kodály envisaged a deep literacy that went beyond just knowing letter names. Instead the musically literate should be able to look at notation and think sound. “The good musician understands music without a score as well as understands the score without the music. The ear should not need the eye nor the eye the (outer) ear” 3


Although he was a major figure in the transformation of music education in Hungary during the early to mid 1900s, Kodály never set out to create a “Kodaly Method”. Instead, he sought to address what he saw as some major weaknesses in the music education offered in his country. These weaknesses were evidenced by a low level of musical literacy amongst Hungarian musicians, a glaring ignorance of the musical traditions of their own heritage and the inadequate training of music teachers.

Kodály wished to see a unified system of music education evolve in Hungary, capable of leading children toward love and knowledge about music from earliest nursery school years to adulthood. His vision stirred the support of a great many colleagues, friends and students and his supporters did much to codify and bring to fruition his goals and philosophy. In implementing Kodály s ideas, they sought out the very best educational practices, tools and techniques from around the world.

Solfa-syllables and the moveable-do system were used to teach skills in pitch discrimination, intervals, harmony and analysis. These skills were reinforced with a system of hand signs first developed by John Curwen in England. Rhythmic skills are developed by means of a system of rhythm duration syllables in which common rhythmic patterns are given a sound name that reflects the way they sound.


Under Kodály s guidance, an approach to music education evolved that drew on the best of educational thought from around the world. The approach is child-developmental and based on teaching, learning and understanding music through the experience of singing. The tools used to implement the approach are the movable-do system of solfa, rhythm syllables and hand signs.

The approach is relevant for classroom and instrumental music teachers, ensemble directors as well as amateur and professional musicians of all ages. One does not need to be 'a singer' to enjoy or benefit from this form of music making. The teaching and learning of music through use of the singing voice enables the most direct of musical responses, provides the opportunity for musical understanding at the deepest level and frees the student from the technical problems associated with instrumental music.

Kodály teaching continues to gain interest around the world where it has been adapted and implemented in a variety of settings from infant to adult training. The movement is characterised by a strong emphasis on teacher training and the development of a teacher s own musicianship skills. Professional associations in many countries around the world now seek to promote Kodály s philosophies and further its implementation.


1. Zoltan Kodály in preface to Musical Reading and Writing by Erzsebet Szonyi (London: Boosey and Hawkes, 1978).

2. Lois Choksy, et al. Teaching Music in the Twentieth Century (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1986).

3. Kodaly quoting Schumman in Selected Writings of Zoltan Kodaly (Toronto: Boosey and Hawkes, 1974).

Background on Kodály:
(born Kecskemét, 16 December 1882; died Budapest, 6 March 1967).
Brought up in the country, he knew folk music from childhood and also learnt to play the piano and string instruments, and to compose, all with little tuition. In 1900 he went to Budapest to study with Koessler at the Academy of Music, and in 1905 he began his collaboration with Bartók, collecting and transcribing folksongs. They also worked side by side as composers, and Kodály's visit in 1907 to Paris, bringing back Debussy's music, was important to them both: their first quartets were played in companion concerts in 1910, marking the emergence of 20th-century Hungarian music.

Kodály, however, preferred to accept rather than analyse folk material in his music, and his style is much less contrapuntal and smoother harmonically. His major works, notably the comic opera Háry János, the Psalmus hungaricus, the 'Peacock' Variations for orchestra and the Dances of Marosszék and Galánta draw on Magyar folk music (unlike Bartók, he confined himself to Hungarian material). His collecting activity also stimulated his work on musical education, convincing him of the value of choral singing as a way to musical literacy. He taught at the Budapest Academy from 1907, and after World War II his ideas became the basis of state policy, backed in part by his own large output of choral music, much of it for children, as well as other exercise pieces, and was widely used as a model abroad.

The Kodály philosophy was not invented by Zoltan Kodály, but is a system of music education which has evolved from the Hungarian schools under his inspiration and guidance. In 1950 the first "music primary" school was set up in Kesckemet, Hungary. (Kodály was born in Kesckemet in 1882.) Here, school children received for the first time, singing lessons every day of the school year. The next years saw a rapid rise in the perfection and dissemination of this teaching concept of music education and instruction.
The musical objectives of Kodály musical training may be listed as to develop the ability of all children to:
  • 1. Sing, play instruments and dance from memory, a large number of traditional singing games, chants, and folk songs, drawn first from the child's own heritage of folk song material and later expanded to include music of other cultures and countries.
  • 2. Perform, listen to, and analyze the great art music of the world.
  • 3. Achieve mastery of musical skills, such as musical reading and writing, singing and part-singing.
  • 4. Improvise and compose, using their known musical vocabulary at each developmental level.

The Organization of American Kodály Educators:
The Kodály Concept
  • Is a philosophy of education and a concept of teaching.
  • Is a comprehensive program to train basic musical skills and teach the reading and writing of music.
  • Is an integration of many of the best ideas, techniques, and approaches to music education.
  • Is an experience-based approach to teaching.

Essential and Key Elements of the Concept


  • We should first learn to love music as human sound and as an experience that enriches life.
  • The voice is the most natural instrument and one which every person possesses.
  • Kodály called singing "the essence" of this concept.
  • Singing is a powerful means of musical expression.
  • What we produce by ourselves is better learned; and there is a stronger feeling of success and accomplishment.
  • Learning through singing should precede instrumental training.
  • It is in the child's best interest to understand the basics of reading music before beginning the difficult task of learning the technique of an instrument.
  • What do we sing?
    • Folk songs and games of the American Culture
    • Traditional children's songs and games
    • Folk songs of other cultures
    • Music of the masters from all ages
    • Pedagogical exercises written by master composers
  • Singing best develops the inner, musical ear.
"If we ourselves sing often, this provides a deep experience of happiness in music. Through our own musical activities, we learn to know the pulsation, rhythm, and shape of melody. The enjoyment given encourages the study of instruments and the listening to other pieces of music as well." (Kodály, 1964)

Folk Music

  • Folk music is the music of the people. There can be no better material for singing than the songs and games used by children for centuries.
  • Folk Music has all the basic characteristics needed to teach the foundations of music and to develop a love of music - a love that will last a life time.
  • Folk music is the classical music of the people, and, as such, is a perfect bridge leading to and working hand-in-hand with-art music.
"The compositions of every country, if original, are based on the songs of its own people. That is why their folk songs must be constantly sung, observed, and studied." (Kodály, 1964)


  • Solfège is the best tool for developing the inner ear.
  • It is an invaluable aid in building all musical skills:
    • Sight singing
    • Dictation
    • Ear training
    • Part hearing
    • Hearing and singing harmony
    • Perceiving form
    • Developing memory
  • The moveable do system, highly developed in English choral training, was advocated by Kodály as a tool for teaching musical literacy.
  • Use of the pentatone (do, re, me, sol, la) was recommended by Kodály for early training of children because of its predominance in their folk music.

Music and Quality

  • We believe that music enhances the quality of life. So that it may have the impact it deserves, only the best music should be used for teaching:
    • Folk music, which is the most representative of the culture
    • The best music composed by the masters
  • Quality music demands quality teaching:
    • Teachers need to be as well-trained as possible
    • Teachers' training must be well-rounded
    • Teachers need to develop their musical and vocal skills to the highest degree possible
"The pure soul of the child must be considered sacred; what we implant there must stand every test, and if we plant anything bad, we poison his soul for life." (Selected Writings, p. 141)

Development of the Complete Musician

  • Kodály training is a complete and comprehensive approach to music education which meets the National Standards for Arts Education as published by MENC, © 1994.
  • The development of all skill areas begins very early with simple tasks required of all the students. As knowledge grows, skills are developed further in a sequential manner.
  • In addition to music reading and writing which are begun at an early stage, the following skill areas are also developed: part-singing, part-hearing, improvisation, intonation, listening, memory, phrasing and understanding of form.
  • An awareness and knowledge of musical styles develops as skills become more proficient.
"The good musician understands the music without a score as well and understands the score without the music. The ear should not need the eye nor the eye the (outer) ear." (Kodály quoting Schumann: Selected Writings, p. 192)


  • Presentation of materials, concepts, and development of skills can be done in a meaningful way only if the curriculum is well sequenced.
  • A carefully planned sequence, well taught, will result in successful experiences for children and teacher. Success breeds success - and fosters a love of music.
  • A Kodály sequenced curriculum is an experience-based approach to learning rather than a cognitive developmental approach.
"Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as a secret writing of a language with which he has no connection. The way should be paved for direct intuition." (Selected Writings, p. 120)