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The Kodaly Concept

The Kodaly Concept is a set of principles regarding music education. Its foundations were laid down in the writings and spoken advice given by Zoltan Kodaly (1882 – 1967), composer and educator born in Kecskemet, Hungary. Many use ‘Kodaly Method’ as a synonym for the Kodaly Concept; however, Kodaly himself never compiled his music education philosophies into one all-encompassing methodology. His principles were interpreted and applied in practice by his students and followers. We need to credit especially Jeno Adam in the Kodaly Concept being introduced to music education in schools.

The basis for the Kodaly Concept: music is for Everyone

The Kodaly concept is based on the belief that music is an art that is vital to the human soul. And as such, music is for everyone; it needs to be made available to everyone, especially in schools. According to the first principle of the Kodaly Concept, anybody can become a musician and a music lover, regardless of their talents and skills, and regardless of their social standing.

…And to connect with music, one needs to Practice music. That is the only way to understand the art, the great musical compositions. And Kodaly laid down the principles for this kind of music education and practice.

Image source:
Elementary School Music for Music Teachers in NYC Schools

Our musical mother tongue: folk songs

According to Kodaly, folk songs are the musical mother tongue of each nation. The folk songs of people’s own cultural heritage will reveal the most valuable treasures of their nation. Folk music will provide ample material for learning to read and write music. And learning to read sheet music, being able to recognize tunes, and being able to write down the notes can be learned only by singing: giving it our own voice.

Kodaly believed that music education in schools is crucial to a person’s life. It will have on influence on whether the individual will learn to appreciate music, whether he or she will become a musician. Singing is the way to the world of sounds, and in order to learn to sing clearly, one needs to have an opportunity to sing in choirs, to sing in polyphony.

To provide a means for this to be introduced in schools, in 1937 Kodaly publishes the first volume of his Bicinia Hungarica, containing some of his own compositions, biciniums (two-part exercises), folk songs, and tunes written to poems of Hungarian artists. The Bicinia series were meant to be used in children’s music education in schools. Volumes I through III give examples of correct singing through Hungarian folk tunes, whereas volume IV introduces Cheremissian melodies. This is due to the fact that the Kodaly Concept also requires that besides our own folk songs we are also familiar with the folk tunes of other nations as well.

The basis of the Kodaly Concept is that music reading and writing can be achieved through relative solfege. At the core of this stands the movable-do system. Kodaly adapted John Spencer Curwen’s (priest from Burmingham, England) ‘tonic-sol-fa’ system to establish the Hungarian one, and published his Pentatonic Music series to provide exercises to teach these. His compositions contain Hungarian, Cheremissian, and Chuvas melodies. Kodaly’s previously published 333 Reading Exercises also meant to aid in teaching solfege to children.

The Concept in schools, music in the Souls

The pedagogical principles were first applied in the new type, song and music elementary schools, and starting from 1948 they officially became part of the general educations system. Song and music elementary schools function throughout the country to this day, and they have music classes every day. Studies show that children raised in a music education environment perform better than their peers in other subjects as well. An explanation to this might be that singing develops the memory, concentration, and mathematics skills.

The Kodaly Concept is not just a Hungarian specialty: it is the basis of music education throughout the world. The concept was first introduced abroad by Kodaly himself, and it was widely adapted by other cultures, because its message is universal: it helps educate children to become well-rounded thinkers who appreciate art; it teaches rigor and conscientiousness; it reminds All of the treasures of the national past; and it spreads the joy that comes from singing and music.

Photo: pappani

For a few examples of the Kodaly Concept abroad, please visit the following sites: