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What is the Kodaly Method of Music?

Who or what is Kodaly anyway?  Zoltan Kodaly was a Hungarian composer and music educator who lived from his birth in 1882 until he died in 1967.  He wrote many songs and pieces of music and during the 1930s became very interested in music education in the schools.  He was concerned with the way children were learning to sing and was inspired to address some of the issues in music education.  Kodaly wrote many articles on the way children learn and the best way to teach singing.  His work eventually resulted in what we now call the Kodaly Method.  Right after World War II, many pedagogues followed Kodaly’s principles and popularized them throughout Hungary and other countries as well.  We now use the Kodaly Method throughout the world.

The Kodaly Method is based on these principles:

  • Singing & Folk Music

The voice is considered the most natural instrument and one that everyone carries.  Learning to sing in tune develops good listening and ear training skills and paves the way for playing an instrument.  The Kodaly Method teaches music by singing simple folk songs from countries around the world.  Naughty Kitty Cat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Apple Tree are all examples of folk songs we use in our curriculum to teach singing and reading.

  • Solfege

The major scale is made up of eight tones: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do.  The Kodaly Method teaches that by using these eight tones to notate and sing music, children develop their inner ear and learn to sing in harmony.  Hand signs are used for each tone to connect music with the body.  The Moveable ‘Do’ System helps students to learn to sing the scale in different key signatures on the staff.

  • Rhythm Reading

Children learn to read, write, and perform music through the Kodaly method.  There are symbols of rhythm and melody Kodaly used to help students understand musical compositions.  We use the Kodaly symbols of rhythm in our music classes to teach our youngest learners how to read and write musical patterns.

  • Sequencing

Kodaly believed that learning should be a joyful and meaningful experience.  He emphasized a sequential learning process.  First the children are introduced to a simple song, usually accompanied with a game.  Once the children become familiar with the song, they learn to read and write the patterns of rhythm and melody in the song.  After they have mastered this, they are able to perform the song with accuracy.


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.”  -Zoltan Kodaly

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.”  -Zoltan Kodaly

Experiencing the beat of the music is not always as easy as it seems.  In our culture, music is all around us.  In the car, on the radio, at a coffee shop, in the background of movies, accompanying dance performances. We listen and we sing along, but we often have a hard time finding the beat and staying with it.

What is the beat?  The beat of the music is like the heart beat in our bodies.  It is the steady pulse that is always there, keeping the music alive.  All music has a steady beat.  The rate of the beat can change (just like when we run our heart beats faster and when we sleep our heart beats slower), but it stays steady.  The problem is we are not all trained to find the beat.  So what can you do to practice find the beat?

Here are a few exercises that will help you feel the beat.  Some we do in our class and you can try them as well.

  • Tap your knees as you are listening to the music and say the words, “beat beat heart beat” over and over
  • Use a straw or stick and imagine the way a conductor would conduct, bringing the stick down on the beat and up on the off-beat
  • While you are standing in line at a coffee shop, tap your toes along with the music
  • Use a percussion instrument, like a drum or an egg shaker, to accompany a piece of music, playing and shaking on the beat

The way beats are grouped is called the meter of the music.  The most common groups are three and four.  If the music is grouped in beats of four you can practice feeling the beat by counting “1 2 3 4” along with the music.  The same is true if the music is grouped in beats of three, like a waltz.

Finding the beat is not only important in music class.  Music surrounds our everyday lives, everyone should know how to find and keep the steady beat in music so you can dance with a partner, clap along at a pop concert, play with an orchestra, sing with a choir, and tap along to the radio.



My child only sings low tones. How do I help?

Singing is both a natural and learned behavior.   Everyone is born with the ability to sing, yet, singing is a skill that has to be nurtured.

We have four ways to use our voices: Singing, Speaking, Shouting, Whispering.  When we speak, we use the lower range of our voices and children often carry those low tones into their singing voices.  However, singing involves an extended range of tones both above and below typical speech.  In music class we play games and explore sounds to help get use our full singing range and to differentiate from our shouting and speaking voices.  Here are some the exercises we use in class (it’s really fun to try out at home as well!):

  • Make sirens from high to low like a firetruck.
  • Be a cat and make high “meows.”
  • Be an owl that says “hoo.”  First be an daddy owl with a low voice.  Then be a mommy owl with a high voice.
  • Use an instrument like a slide whistle to listen to and identify high and low sounds.
  • Remind your child that singing “higher” is not necessarily singing louder.  Sing lightly, don’t shout.

If you need a little laugh, you can hear a clip from our Kindergarten/First grade lesson on high and low sounds.

“All children can and should learn to sing.” Jean Ashworth Bartle, Sound Advice