What is the Kodaly Approach?

The Kodaly approach develops musical aptitude in kids and adults. The approach focuses on helping children develop musical skills and music literacy through games and activities so the learning flows easily and is absorbed through sequential activities designed to illuminate each musical element. The skills promoted include:

Of course, these aren’t the only skills developed in a Kodaly approach. The philosophy was compiled by a Hungarian composer, Zoltan Kodaly. His objective was to improve the quality of Hungarian music. He brought together French rhythm names with English solfege hand-signs because he could see they were world’s best practice. The Kodaly approach grew with the help of other talented teachers.

Benefits of the Kodaly Approach

The Kodaly approach makes music learning an engaging activity. It isn’t a tedious task a child is forced to undertake anymore. Instead, it becomes enjoyable. It ensures deep understanding of musical concepts and musically literate students. Here are some of the benefits to note:

Another notable aspect is the progression in the teaching. The Kodaly approach works at an individual’s pace. There’s no need to rush or slow down. Each student learns in their way as lessons are provided in well scaffolded segments ensuring secure understanding at each step of the way.

Not Just For Kids

There’s a misconception that the Kodaly approach is just for kids. However, people of different age groups have also witnessed phenomenal growth in their musicians’ capabilities. Kodaly is flexible and easily adapts to anyone’s musical prowess and aptitude. Even professional artists find it a worthwhile practice.

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Comparing Kodaly to other Method of Musical Teaching

A Kodaly approach focuses on the individual’s capacity to use their voice. The firm belief behind the teaching is that a person’s voice is the most natural and readily available instrument in the world. Thus, it encompasses the conventional practices of the ‘do-re-mi.’ However, instead of consciously improving the vocal capabilities, it works on helping a student find their vocal abilities and is based on ‘moveable do’ where the ‘do’ in the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ Is moveable to enable easy singing in any key.

Ergo, the Kodaly method has become a highly-effective practice in teaching music.
The method also focuses on more group activity and effort than a one-on-one education. Therefore, more students can learn it without compromising the quality. It helps a student enhance their creativity. They also learn to collaborate better with the musicians.

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The Teaching of Kodaly

Singing becomes the primary focus as it is the best instrument a human being can have. Meanwhile, Group exercises and activities help build a sense of community and collaboration. With that in mind, here are some critical notes of the Kodaly approach:



Solfege/Solfa is essential training for singing in tune and understanding scale degrees – pitch. It helps an individual recognise various notes and pitches. As mentioned earlier, Solfa is the do-re-mi of the musical system. However, in the Kodaly method, the activity focuses more on helping the student with recognising the music and determining where the notes would fit. Overall, it helps them become better at grasping the musical context. As a result, a musician develops essential instincts for musical aptitude.


Understanding Hand Signs

While the method focuses on vocals, it is incomplete without visual aids. Kodaly method helps a musician learn various hand-signs that they can use with the syllables. For instance, the placement of the hand elevation also plays a role in determining the pitch. More importantly, when both hands are in use, the distance between the two also shows the interval between the pitches and the change.
So with the help of visual hand gestures, a student develops easy recognition of each pitch.


Working on Rhythm

The Kodaly approach uses French time names/rhythm names. These rhythm names verbalise the actual number of sounds on a beat. For example, the quarter note or crotchet is a ‘ta’. Four even sounds on a beat are ‘tika-tika’. This approach focuses on ear training and rhythm plays a crucial role. It is integral for holistic musical learning. This skill requires a heightened understanding of music literacy and aural skill development.


Adding Solfege

Kodaly also gathered the Curwen hand signs as world’s best practice from England. The use of solfege and the associated hand signs, enabled a sequential understanding of pitch and the intervals between notes. Each note of a scale can be given a solfa syllable and hand sign enabling the aural identification of notes and the distances between notes in any key. Kodaly used the moveable ‘doh’ which means transposition is very easy into any key. Being able to aurally distinguish intervals is the key to true musical understanding and musicianship. These Kodaly processes are invaluable in the development and final mastery of true musicianship where we aim to hear what we see and see what we hear.


The Freedom of Creativity

A student learns local, traditional, or folk songs and music to work with the Kodaly approach. This allows for creative expression once a concept is well-known. To be able to create during improvisation or composition activities, a student needs to thoroughly understand the musical content before they are able to bend, break and reimagine and thus enjoy and be successful. It might be changing a word or words to a short song, it might be improvising a melody using a syllable such as ‘doo’, it might be creating a two-part rhythm where the rhythmic elements contrast and complement each other and can be performed with a partner or group or as an individual challenging their own ability to perform two different things at once.


Power of Collaboration

The objective behind Kodaly isn’t just to offer ear training, but to also help with the collaborative aspects. The Kodaly approach isn’t usually one-on-one teaching. It focuses on groups of students of all ages. There will be duets and small and large group sessions that the development of social skills in students; they learn to understand each other. As a result, they learn not only improvisation but collaboration.

Overall, the five fundamentals of the Kodaly approach help students in becoming better musicians. These become the foundation for them to thrive. As a result, musical education becomes relatively easy for them and therefore enjoyable.
In today’s world, the Kodaly approach has become a reliable way to help young minds get exposure to the musical world. However, it is equally beneficial for adults. After all, the Kodaly approach teaches both the mind, body and spirit through the exploration of various concepts of rhythm and relative pitch.

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