What is musicianship teaching with Kodály guidelines?

Music teaching with Kodály principles was the catalyst that changed Feversham Primary School, Bradford, UK from inadequate to be in the top 10% of schools in England when it comes to progressing children’s learning in core subjects like Maths and English; and research also proved the high values of Kodály musicianship teaching in children’s development (see under point section 8.  below). Therefore anyone working in the field of children’s education has a responsibility to familiarise themselves with its basic values.

However; Kodály musicianship teaching is a bit like teaching a child about how cinnamon smells or chocolate tastes: how would they know this if they have not smelled cinnamon or tasted chocolate before?

Or a bit like Life Support Courses, which you also learn and practice by active participation (supported with background reading) to have a basic understanding of it.

Kodály musicianship teaching is a practical way of music teaching, which can only be understood and processed through active participation in training courses and in consecutive Kodály music lesson observations, which has been supported by evidence:

  • Through a certain amount of active participation everyone has managed so far to develop a basic understanding of its high values, many of whom expressed a wish or a need for children (and adults) to be taught this way.
  • On the other hand, without active participation no-one has ever managed to understand its essence or its high value.

This practically means that you need to work for your own Kodály experience. Your own Kodály experience will give you an insight why Kodály musicianship teaching carries such high value in children’s general and music education, and how it will potentially will prevent future health care costs by promoting people’s mental health and well-being. You cannot send your friend/ colleague or your identical twin to go to the training instead of you. And of course, you can read about it; and I have gathered lots of useful information about it for you below. However, these will only make sense to you after you had your initial training course.


Book your introductory Kodály training if you are working in children’s education and you have not done so! Not for me, but because you are responsible for your children’s education. Book the course that is nearest to you. kodaly.org.uk can put you in touch with a teacher near you.

I seriously doubt you will ever regret it; it will be fun and high value of learning at the same time.

And if you like this training, go on further training and help me to train others.


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This is what people say after a certain (from introductory to advanced) amount of Kodály-training:

  • Brilliant!
  • Life-changing!
  • Revolutionary!
  • Systematic learning through singing.
  • All-inclusive.
  • Singing.
  • Singing, singing and singing (by Zoltán Kodály himself).
  • When combined with some elements of Dalcrose teaching, Kodály music teaching is the most effective child-friendly and adaptable way of music teaching I have ever seen (by Zsuzsa Kata Horváth).


Let’s take you step by step….


Questions and Facts About Kodály Musicianship Teaching

1. Definition of Kodály musicianship teaching

In short Kodály musicianship teaching is a progressive form of music teaching which makes learning fun and effective.

  • Kodály musicianship teaching is a multisensory way of music teaching (visual, aural and kinaesthetic),
  • which fits in very well and links firmly cross-curricularly with an education where creativity, communication, numeric and social skills, cultural values, healthy lifestyle and a caring attitude for our nature and environment matters a lot.
  • in this practical form of music teaching success is guaranteed  since children are well-prepared with singing activities in which they are ACTIVELY TAKING PART,
  • every activity takes pupils to the next step of their learning, or practise previously learned skills from a different perspective,
  • So it is a kind of PROGRESSIVE music teaching,
  • which brings lots of FUN FOR at least THREE REASONS:
  1. Unconscious learning: The practice scenarios are lots of fun themselves, they are often singing games and/or co-ordination exercises,
  2. Conscious discovery of new musical elements based on the material introduced in the practice scenarios: the discoveries about new musical knowledge make pupils fascinated,
  3. Practice/ repetition: the practice of previously learned musical elements boosts children’s self-esteem and confidence, and opens the way to collect more pleasurable musical experiences with new challenges.

This on-going circle makes children happy and presents them with new challenges

  • in the forthcoming music lessons,
  • on the other school lessons (children will be more receptive for new challenges)
  • and later in life, too.


2. Does this mean Kodály lessons are actually similarly organised very similarly to Maths or English lessons?

Yes, actually Kodály lessons are organised very similarly to Maths or English lessons, because progressively presented musical concepts are at different levels of understanding by the children at any given time:

  • some concepts are just being prepared with a game,
  • some concepts are about to be discovered,
  • some concepts are being practised, and
  • some concepts have been deeply understood and routinely used by the children.

This draws one more similarity: little practice more often is the key to success in music teaching (as in Maths or Reading).


3. Singing is at the heart of Kodály musicianship teaching

If it was one word to describe Kodály lessons, it would be SINGING.

  • On Kodály lessons our main instruments are our voices and our whole body, not for the cheap budget (which comes handy, too), but for getting the best possible results in classroom music teaching.
  • This is because singing develops an internal skill: the imagination of the musical sound in your inner ear, so you will be able to sing from notated music without having to play the notes on a pre-tuned instrument first (which you do as an external skill).
  • This is very similar to the process when we learn to imagine in our inner ear how a phoneme, a syllable, a word, a sentence or a paragraph sounds before and without the help of someone reading them for us first.
  • So as opposed to playing an instrument which already produces the sound for you, when you sing, you have to think of how to produce that sound.
  • Therefore singing is the easiest way to check someone’s understanding about musical pitch, rhythm, and many other musical characteristics. As Zoltán Kodály himself says “

Nobody can play well if they do not feel and know where the essence of the melody is, and if they cannot bring it to life with their voice… To teach… an instrument without first… developing singing… is to build upon sand.”


4. In what way is musical notation and music reading practised differently on Kodály lessons as opposed to music lessons without Kodály principles?

Musical notation and music reading on Kodály lessons

  • are introduced gradually, giving pupils plenty of opportunities to practice
  • with excellent music education tools for easy rhythm (French rhythm names) and pitch reading (Sarah Ann Glover’s relative solfa names with  a visuospatial aid called Curwen handsigns, and absolute pitch names)
  • which are using one-syllable musical phonemes to facilitate simultaneous pronunciation of each musical note at the time when the note appears in the music, and are adaptable for every situation (unlike using ‘coffee’ and ‘tea’ for rhythmic notation does not work when we only use on quaver note, e.g. in syncopation or combined with semiquavers)
  • the understanding of these tools
    • facilitates learning about more complex musical concepts, such as scales, intervals, chords and further musical terms used for musical analysis, and
    • is the key to understand the art of musical rhetoric; therefore it is  absolutely essential for any musically informed performance on any instrument or voice.
  • Each child will be engaged in learning different forms of musical notation at their level, and it is expected that with twice weekly Kodály lessons each child will be able to notate a song by listening and will also be able to sight-read a song from sheet music by the time they leave primary school.


5. Pupils on Kodály lessons are continuously engaged in musical analysis

Pupils learn the basics of musical analysis first on short musical motives and on children’s songs and rhymes (which are musical miniature masterpieces), and later on vocal and instrumental music examples of high value.

By leading pupils through singing activities in which everyone takes part actively, teachers help pupils to reveal musical concepts with musical analysis, starting with as simple concepts as

  • Higher and lower,
  • Faster and slower,
  • Louder and softer.

Then making tasks gradually more and more difficult, always linking each statement with a practical musical experience, e.g.

  • Exactly how much higher or lower?
  • Exactly how much faster or slower?
  • Exactly how much louder or softer?

An answer for the first question could be that two notes are exactly as wide apart as we start to sing ‘Twinkle, twinkle’ at first (which is an experience that children gained through actively taking part in singing practice), and later children would also know that this interval is called a perfect fifth.

The analytic tests get progressively more and more difficult, and pupils will be able to analyse music horizontally and vertically, and in many different layers, which will have an impact on their listening, reading, performing and teaching skills (in the case of teacher trainees).


6. Kodály musicianship teaching is always based on quality music examples, approached by singing

The practice scenarios on Kodály lessons are always based on good to excellent quality of musical examples. Initially, folk songs are used as miniature masterpieces to represent basic musical elements for children, which also make excellent examples to learn about cultural values. Later on all kind of good quality vocal and instrumental music examples are approached through singing activities. Zoltán Kodály says

‘Folk song is the school of good taste…those who develop a taste for what is good at an early age will become resistant later to what is bad.’


7. Kodály lessons help screening early for the musically talented pupil

  • It is important to screen for musically talented children from an early age onwards.
  • This is because unlike other career paths which can be mastered with success in adulthood (e.g. studying Law at university), without firm music foundations laid in early childhood, music is difficult to master at a high level in secondary school and adulthood.
  • Kodály lessons actually help both teachers and pupils to detect which pupils have a strong potential to become musicians as adults, since the music teacher is able to test regularly how far each pupil has got with their understanding of musical concepts.
  • Knowing this, these pupils can get the extra encouragement and support from their teachers, peers and family.


8. Kodály lessons equip children with life skills essential to be successful in most career paths and find harmony in their personal lives

Kodály lessons prepare children for a successful career in many different paths and to find harmony in their lives through developing

  • team working skills
  • analytic and reasoning skills
  • communication skills
  • memory
  • numeric skills
  • fine and gross motor co-ordination skills
  • self-esteem and confidence
  • creativity
  • empathy
  • discipline

The singing activities on Kodály lessons also encourage pupils

  • to lead a healthy lifestyle by looking after their physical, mental and spiritual health,
  • be aware of the health and well-being of others and nurture values of equality and diversity,
  • look after their environment, and
  • find their place in our world.


9. Where can I learn about music teaching music with Kodály musicianship?

Liverpool Kodály School organises Teacher Training Courses. You can also search for courses and tutors at the British Kodály Academy website.

Introductory courses at LKS are of high value for all musicians and for every school teacher trainee/ teacher or Ofsted examiner, since one can learn how to get the best school results through effective collaboration with the music teacher.

Intensive advanced Kodály methodology (the art of teaching Kodály musicianship) courses are only recommended for those who had previous musical training. As a guideline if one is able to sing the middle part in a choir of 3-4 voices on their own, then one is ready to go on to the advanced Kodály methodology courses. Do not ever loose heart if you are not at this standard yet, since  Solfége tuition and practice can set you on your way.


10. I am an instrumental teacher. Could you please demonstrate how one can use Kodály music education principles in instrumental teaching?

Yes, Liverpool Kodály School organises Teacher Training Courses for instrumental teachers, too. Since the Kodály concept is based on systematic learning through singing, one would first need to learn and understand Kodály music education guidelines through the teaching of singing scenarios, organised as part of the introductory (and advanced) Kodály teaching courses. Then one can progress either to demonstration of Kodály music education guidelines in instrumental practice, or to Advanced Intensive Kodály methodology courses. The following presents examples of quality whole class instrumental teaching with the Kodály concept which might give you an idea of what you can achieve through studying on our Teacher Training Courses. We hope that more and more instrumental teachers will complete the Advanced Kodály Methodology and the Instrumental Teaching with Kodály guidelines courses and join our Instrumental teachers’ network to offer high quality instrumental teaching for our and their pupils.


11. Can I book a Kodály specialist music teacher to deliver music curriculum in our primary school?

Yes, you can in the Liverpool area. Liverpool Kodály School offers twice weekly Kodály musicianship teaching to all your classes. Since Kodály teaching is a progressive form of music teaching, less than twice weekly music lessons won’t expose children to the minimum amount of teaching sessions that is recommended to learn musical literacy by the end of leaving primary school. Should your school be committed for such an engagement, your initiative collaboration with Liverpool Kodály School is to result in successful fundraising, therefore in the end you will only be paying for once weekly  music lessons instead of two, while treating every child with the gift of musical literacy, your school with further rise in English, Maths, Science, History, PE-dancing and attendance results, and your community to be even more proud of your school. Read more.


12. I understand music teaching should start at an early age. What is actually the recommended age to start music teaching?

As early as possible. Zoltán Kodály said mothers give their children their milk, their love, their care and their soul; and the latter includes playing musical games with their children. Therefore parents and carers should be every child’s first music tutors. To guarantee this, a child’s music tuition should start 9 months before the birth of their carer.

This is the reason nowadays one can attend Singing groups for bumps to 3-year-olds with carers, which are lead with Kodály music education principles: selecting high quality musical examples, some of which are suited for parents and carers to sing, and others suited for parents and carers to play with their children together. In these groups the leader communicates directly with parents and carers, and the children can join in the activities whenever they are ready. This will nurture an intimate relationship between carers and children, and will help parents and carers to fight their isolation, and will make a significant change on their family life.

 “Music does not lie. If there is something to be changed in this world,
then it can only happen through music.” by Jimi Hendrix

“The joy of community music making is a lifetime gift to share.” – by Zs K Horváth

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