What is the Kodály method?


The Kodály method is based on the work of the Hungarian composer, educator, and linguist Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967).  While he produced a fair number of works for the concert stage, he is best known for his work collecting and indexing folk songs and his creation of a literacy-based system of music education based on folk repertoire and intended to foster a musically independent citizenry.  Lois Choksy (1974) states that “although interested in the training of professional musicians, Kodály’s first concern was the musically literate amateur. He wished to see an education system that could produce a people to whom music was not a way to make a living but a way of life.”

Kodály-inspired teaching is based on six key principles:

  1. All people capable of lingual literacy are also capable of musical literacy
  2. Singing is the best foundation for musicianship
  3. Music education to be most effective must begin with the very young child
  4. The folk songs of the “mother tongue,” that is, the child’s own language, should form the basis of instruction
  5. Only music of the highest artistic value should be used
  6. Music should be at the heart of the curriculum, a core subject area

Kodály’s method has three essential pieces: Prepare, Present, and Practice.  In the preparation phase, students are introduced to musical concepts through a sound-before-sight process.  They experience a musical concept in a variety of ways without ever naming it with standard notation or conventions.  Examples of this would be moving walk and jogging patterns to prepare quarter and eighth notes, singing “high” and “low” in minor thirds to prepare sol and mi, or learning songs by rote with targeted musical elements in them.  In the present phase, the concept that students have been working with is made conscious, that is, is named with standard notation and conventions. The practice phase is lengthy and constitutes all of the same repertoire and activities done in the preparation phase, this time with the standard notation and conventions.  In later practice, new repertoire with the targeted element is also added.

Kodály-inspired teaching is based on these fundamentals and is focused on joyful music making and the acquisition of music literacy.  Within these essential elements, teachers have the freedom and flexibility to bring in their own musicianship and artistry by teaching in a way and with materials that are relevant and responsive to the students in their learning community.

For more on Kodály and his vision, check out the resources below:

Choksy, Lois. The Kodály Method: Comprehensive Music Education from Infant to Adult. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Choksy, Lois, Robert M. Abramson, Avon E. Gillespie, and David Woods. Teaching Music in the Twentieth Century. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986.

Forrai, Kaitlin, trans. Jean Sinor.  Music in Preschool, Second and Revised Edition.  Kaitlin Forrai, 1998.

Houlahan, Mícheál and Philip Tacka. Kodály Today: A Cognitive Approach to Elementary Music Education. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Kodály, Zoltan. The Selected Writings of Zoltan Kodály. London: Boosey and Hawkes, 1974.

Midwest Kodály Educators of America. www.mkmea.com. Accessed 06 August 2018.

Organization of American Kodály Educators.  www.oake.org. Accessed 06 August 2018.