The Kodály approach is used by the Conservatory High School in Sydney.
Most students start Secondary School with little or no music knowledge. Many of us are working to change this situation, but for the time being, Secondary School music teachers are in a ‘make or break’ position in helping young people become lifelong learners of music.
Two decades ago, music was often taught in an abstract way, with music theory presented on paper, with little connection to the actual sounds of music. Fortunately, most schools now realise that music is for playing, and have instigated opportunities for their students to learn instruments and play in ensembles in an ever widening variety of genres.
However, it is possible to teach music in a way that develops literacy as well as deep musicality, where the music is embedded in each student, and those skills can be applied to any instrument.
Children learn through doing, playing and singing. In the Kodály approach, musical elements are experienced before being named and once learned are practised, and thoroughly understood before new elements are added, in a well researched pedagogical sequence, within a framework of folk songs and singing games.
The pedagogical sequence and vocal, play based approach, originally developed for young children has also been adapted for older beginners. Although older children and adults can understand intellectual abstractions, most older beginners flourish within a learning environment that emphasises aural learning, supported by kinesthetic and visual tools.
When music is taught or learned using Kodály’s approach, skills vital to advanced music making such as “inner hearing”, rhythmic co-ordination and harmonic hearing are strongly developed at an early stage.
Developing musical literacy complements literacy in other areas. The Kodály approach supports and develops motivation to achieve at a high standard, as fully engaged musicians, with resilience for learning, who can read, write, play, improvise and compose to a high standard.
Tools of the Kodály approach include relative solfa, (moveable do, re mi etc.) the use of hand signs and rhythm names, These tools are most effective when used within a well planned logical sequence.
Teachers trained in the Kodály approach are challenged to continually improve their own musicianship and teaching practise, with long and short term planning that keeps learners at the centre. The training is rigorous yet completely non competitive. Teacher training is challenging, liberating, musical, and transformative.
In Aotearoa we have the opportunity to develop our own unique Kodály inspired practice.
Like language acquisition, musical skills and concepts are best learned through an aural/oral approach and immersion in sound. After this the student associates this sound to a symbol, whether that be notation or a concept.
A Kodály inspired classroom has:
- Active music making in every class
- A singing-based approach to learning musical concepts
- The use of a function-based movable doh system
- The use of a function-based rhythmic solfege
- Development of partwork skills through group performance and individual “Sing and Play” tasks
- Analysis of music according to the concepts of music (pitch, duration, structure, tone colour, texture, dynamics/expressive techniques)
- Learning activities based around the question: “You may know it, but can you show it?”