The Kodály Method of teaching music was developed in the 1920s by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), a Hungarian composer and music pedagog. Kodály developed a set of principles that he believed should be implemented in music education to foster better musicianship and a love for music in society.
Musical technique should be introduced to children based on their inherent abilities. New or more difficult skills and ideas should only be taught to children after they have shown progress and familiarity with the prerequisite skills. Musical experiences are first introduced through listening, singing, and movement.
Rhythm Verbalization and Notation
Kodály developed a standard of using nonsense syllables to verbalize rhythm. In his method, quarter notes are recited as “Ta”, eighth notes “Ti”, and four sixteenth notes “Ti-ri-ti-ri”. For example, a measure of music notated ♩♩♪♪♩ is recited as “Ta ta ti-ti ta”. Additionally, time signatures and notation should only be presented to students after they have shown fluency with the syllables.
Rhythm and Movement
Influenced by Dalcroze’s Eurhythmics, Kodály stressed a physical approach to learning rhythm in addition to vocalization. Movement is an important tool when internalizing rhythmic patterns and values. Walking, marching, clapping, and tapping while listening and singing to music, are great ways to feel the beat and match tempo.
Solfège and Hand Signs
As with rhythm, Kodály saw the importance of internalizing melodic intervals by singing syllabically and using the body to show the relationship between notes before learning the notation. He further developed the practice of using the Solfège syllables and their corresponding hand signs when learning to sing and recognize pitch.
The Kodály Choral Method
Kodály believed the songs children had known since birth were the best source for teaching music. This approach allowed the Kodály method to be used in every culture with a foundation of folk song. To help bridge the gap between folk song and classical music, Kodály composed over 1000 of his own songs and sight singing exercises.
Over the decades, studies have shown that Kodály’s principles have improved rhythm skills, intonation, musical literacy, and the ability to sing complex parts for thousands of children worldwide. More information about the Kodály Method and the present day Kodály Institution can be found here.