Kodály method

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The Kodály method , named after Zoltán Kodály , the most important Hungarian composer and musicologist after Béla Bartók and Franz Liszt , is a music-pedagogical concept.

General principles: method or concept?

Kodály's ideas about music education came to be known as the Kodály Method. More precisely, it is a music-pedagogical concept, since Kodály himself only formulated educational principles and not a systematically structured course or teaching units for teachers, but the implementation of his principles was implemented retrospectively by his students and followers in consultation with Kodály, after Kodály himself in 1925 turned to music education. A defining experience in Kodály's life is the simple folk music of the rural population. The examination of Hungarian folk music runs like a red thread through Kodály's life's work. Kodály was a professional musician until 1925 and was active as a musicologist, ethnologist and pianist . After studying at the Budapest Music Academy , which he graduated with a diploma in composition in 1905, Kodály wrote his dissertation on the subject of "the stanzan structure of the Hungarian folk song" (1906). In 1911, in the book "Music Theory and Harmony" by Matrás Zoltai, Kodály speaks of the fact that training is the real goal of music theory, the goal of teaching should be sight-singing and the ability to write down a melody by ear .

Turn to pedagogy

The year 1925 marked the turning point in Kodály's work as well as in Hungarian music education. An experience caused him to rethink. While on a hike, he met a group of singing girls who were on a school trip. Her singing influenced him so much that he only saw a future with musically illiterate people. Kodály realized: It is more important who is a singing teacher in a village than who is the opera director. Since then, Kodály has placed general music education on the same level as professional training; and there was a link between educational and composing activities.

The educational philosophy

Zoltán Kodály's ideas for reforming music education go back to the problems as well as social and cultural circumstances in Hungary. The Kodály concept has links to other theories of the time and is based on Hungarian culture. However, it can be applied to other music-cultural needs. The universal genius Kodály, who was in one person an ethnomusicologist, cultural politician, composer, pedagogue, musicologist and linguist, aimed particularly at cultural-political changes in his writings and speeches. With his saying “Music belongs to everyone”, Kodály called for music in the sense of general education to be made accessible to all people: “We are convinced that humanity will be happier when it learns to make music, and whoever contributes to this development has not lived in vain. ” Because:“ Renewal must come from below. What use are the most beautiful curricula and the wisest guidelines if there is no one to put them into practice with passion and conviction. Soul-forming in an administrative way is not possible. But it is much easier to administer the souls formed by beauty and knowledge. Yes, but this would require a change in public opinion. "

Educational Legacy

In his 1929 article “Children's Choirs”, Kodály emphasized: “Music is common property” and thus campaigned for the democratization of Hungarian musical life. Similar to its central role played by the Greeks in antiquity, music is said to regain general importance in Hungary. Kodály's goal was to make music accessible to everyone, not just the educated. The human voice and its singing is everyone's instrument, and since the voice as an instrument is most easily accessible to everyone, this can lead masses to music and bring about large-scale cultural and political change. Kodály names three reasons for the musical deficit as the trigger for the reform of Hungarian music education: On the one hand, the neglect of the school as an institution, on the other hand, the ignoring of early musical education in kindergarten and the disinterested attitude of professional musicians. He called for a reform of the school system, whereby the state should ensure that music lessons are systematically expanded. Similar to what Leo Kestenberg called for in his school reform, Kodály is of the opinion that the future of education is decided in school because the school has the task of introducing children to their first musical experiences. The daily singing is also beneficial for the mental development of the children; choral singing promotes community thinking and educates the members to be disciplined people. However, the reform of music teaching is not feasible simply by revising the musical learning content. Better training and the upgrading of the music teacher status should also be realized. So he called for a way to improve singing lessons in schools. Just as everyone can write and read, mastering the notes is the basis of any understanding of music.

The importance of the voice as a cultural and political tool

The focus of the conception is the active singing and making music of the students. From this follows the next important principle, namely the emphasis on demanding choral singing. With the help of solfeggio, choral singing is intended to pave the way to art music as a hearing education. Because "only through listening education does the path to understanding music lead" and "only through the sensitization of musical listening is it possible to record the musical language of a work and only then can the content to be separated from the music be grasped" . Only by developing good hearing does every student become a capable musician. Singing should be encouraged in school at the latest, because children between the ages of 6 and 16 are most receptive to their most important musical experiences. That is why Kodály is particularly committed to the early start of hearing education in kindergarten. In his essay "Music in Kindergarten" (1941–1957) Kodály emphasizes that "an education of the musical ear is necessary and that systematically". "If the soul lies idle almost up to the seventh year, that which could only have been sown early can no longer grow". The role of the kindergarten is essential for the foundation of community education through music. The lessons in choral singing are based on progressive exercises from the "choir school". This is a course in musical education from the first beginning in kindergarten to concert maturity. The pieces are characterized by an easy singability with colored harmony, so that singing in demanding polyphony is possible from the beginning. The basis of the method is Hungarian folk music, which should be sung at a high musical level. Because folk music is the musical mother tongue and is therefore the starting point for music lessons. It should be mastered before getting to know other musical works. The aim of music lessons according to the Kodály pedagogy is the development of an accurate sound concept. Sight-singing and the ability to write down what is heard are trained, as well as the sense of rhythm and the ability to transpose are practiced. As a prerequisite, all children must be able to read notes before they can learn an instrument. They learn to read music in a group in solfeggio lessons. Group lessons are a central part of Kodály's conception of instrumental training. In the second year of singing training, the children can also have individual instrumental lessons, which are supplemented by solfeggio lessons.

Methodical teaching principles

Kodály subsequently adopted the relative solmization in his reform idea. The method originally comes from England, where as early as the 19th century a. a. John Curwen introduced this method in music lessons. The relative solmization plays a central role in the Kodály conception. It serves the musical education of the people, from which both listeners and specialist musicians should be drawn. The solfeggio serves to train the hearing and develop the musical understanding. In the solmization method, there is a different hand sign for each of the seven syllables that represent the steps of the scale . The syllables are called do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do . They can be modified as needed, so that when alterations fa to fi is, so to si and ti to ta depending on whether the sound is increased or to be decreased. The training in rhythmic imagination also takes place with syllables: ta-ti-ti : long-short-short, supported by movement elements from the rhythm of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze . The hand is a widely used aid for the representation of tone syllables, for clapping, for the accompaniment when walking, and offers the possibility to represent the solmization hand signals or the gestures when maneuvering. Furthermore, the hands can be used as a substitute for the system of lines and can be used as a means of illustration for shape progressions and modulations. The hand can also provide assistance in working out the theory of harmony. It begins with hand signals in kindergarten, with the sound material being systematically expanded step by step: In kindergarten, songs are first sung in solmized thirds , followed by progressive pieces with a pentatonic scale, major-minor triad , major-minor pentachord , Hexachord , seven-step scale to excessive and diminished intervals .

Spread and impact of the Kodály method

Kodály's demands for reform were spread by his students and have been evident since the school reform in 1948, when there was a uniformly structured school system in Hungary. Music lessons are based on the "Kodály method" in general schools and music schools. What was new was that special primary music schools were set up with a curriculum that includes music lessons every day. The 1964 conference of the ISME (International Society of Music Education in Hungary), which was founded in 1953 by Leo Kestenberg , was decisive for the spread of the Kodály method . The Kodály method was used worldwide. In the USA in particular , the method was uncritically adapted, although the adaptation continues to be disseminated with concern in Europe. Since the founding of the International Kodály Society (IKS) in 1975 in Kodály's hometown of Kecskemét , Kodály's ideas have also been further developed in the Kodály societies.


  • Endre Halmos: Zoltán Kodály's conception of music education in comparison with modern curricular theories. Wolfenbüttel / Zurich 1977
  • Conrad W. Meyer: The relative way. The Kodály method in German music lessons. Kodály Curriculum, 1980
  • Erzsébet Szőnyi : Aspects of the Kodály Method . Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1973
  • Ferenc Bónis (Ed.): Zoltán Kodály. Ways to music. Selected writings and speeches. Budapest 1983
  • László Eősze: Zoltán Kodály. His life and his work. Boosey & Hawkes, Bonn 1964

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