by Erzsébet Gaál
Motivation is one of the key elements in all teaching. To motivate is to provide the student with an incentive for learning the material being studied. In music teaching, this incentive for learning should be found in a joyful learning experience that can be achieved by using the appropriate teaching material combined with the proper teaching method. In Kodály's teaching method there is a balanced combination of these two elements that is applicable from the very beginning of music studies to the most advanced professional level. For example, for young children, the desire to learn to play on their instruments the authentic native folk songs they know, understand, and sing combined with the application of a child development approach is a powerful motivator; t is also one of the basic principle tenets of the Kodály Method.
Listening or playing to complex music from early childhood may improve a child's ability to learn, memorize, think logically, and be more creative generally. Such is the belief engendered by the cutting edge of today's educational research. Much of today's published educational research centers around the development of a child's neurological capacity to learn. For example, in Owensboro, Kentucky, all children in Daviess County's elementary schools received piano lessons in the year 1997-98. The idea was to develop the mind, not strictly to make music. Everything in those schools - from learning to play chess, to being regularly exposed to the visual and performing arts, to learning the ABC's in Spanish as well as English - was calculated to increase neuron connections following the basic idea of the Graduation 2010 project. During the next 12 years, a research team at Western Kentucky University will follow up on this research in the hope that this project with a common sense approach will have a major impact on the students' achievement and capacity to learn.
In Hungary, similar research was done between the years of 1969-1973 focusing on the effect of the Kodály Method in teaching elementary school children. Among the research findings, it was determined that additional music education resulted in a combination of high creativity with emotional sensitivity, greater thoroughness or exactness in the children's school work, and inner control in the children's personality. Furthermore, the research demonstrated that the Kodály musical training not only increased the students' level of creativity but increased it to the level where it surpassed the level predicted by measures intelligence. In addition, the results proved a closer relation between creativity and intelligence. Finally, this Hungarian research considered the effects of musical education and social status on the interrelationships between intellectual abilities and their relations to personality traits.
The researchers, Ilona Barkóczi and Csaba Pléh, also raised the question of how all of this can be achieved by employing the Kodály Method. They feel very strongly that "the Kodály Method applies procedures and methods of general value besides the specific musical ones. One of the most basic among these [procedures] is the flexible application and interchange of the stricter, reasoning type strategies and the more playful, divergent strategies of problem solving even within one task. (e.g., analysis and practice of a rhythm in different media - intonation, clapping, writing, knocking - followed by the creation of a different rhythm.) Thus there is an overt effort to integrate convergent and divergent thinking, logic and fantasy."
How do we apply the materials and the tools of the Kodály Method to the teaching of the harp at any level of development?
With the increasing popularity of small harps, it appears that children begin harp study at a very early age without having any music study background. It can be an awesome opportunity for a teacher to begin a child on an instrument, but at the same time the responsibility of teaching the basic elements of music inevitably falls on the harp instructor. In this situation the use of the Kodály Method can be most helpful.
Most beginning harp books follow a subject-logic approach. Rhythmically, the whole note is presented first, then the halves and quarters. This is a mathematically reasonable progression, but a very difficult one to comprehend for the beginning student who has not even been taught to feel the basic beat yet. Melodically, the diatonic major scale is introduced first in the subject-logic teaching, even though the average young child cannot accurately sing the diatonic major scale. Lois Choksy explains in her book entitled The Kodály Method that, "in a subject-logic approach there is no relationship between the order of presentation and the order in which children learn easily. The subject-logic approach expects him to intellectualize about something that does not in reality exist in his own experiences."
As to the material, Kodály not only put authentic folk music at the center of music education but also encouraged it to be used at the beginning of instrumental teaching in addition to sol-fa teaching. His reasons were that the first musical language a child learns must be his own; secondly, the simple, clear forms of folk songs, and their self-explanatory mode of expression suit the heart and mind of a child; Kodály also preferred folk songs for beginning instrumental teaching because folk music is living music with a high standard of musical content. Kodály explained this as follows "Folk songs offer such a rich variety of moods and perspectives, that the child grows in human consciousness, and feels more and more at home in his country".
Regarding the techniques of the Kodály Method, the very first step is to establish the feeling of the basic pulse. This can be done through steady walking or clapping while singing children's songs. For example: Hey, Hey, or 'Round and 'Round. These children's songs are composed of quarter- and eighth-note fragments in simple duple-meter, with a minor third and the major second above it in the melody. This pattern is common in children's songs all over the world. The next step is to take the same examples, but this time clap the rhythm of the songs. The third step is to clap the rhythm while singing the song internally, and to play the game "name that tune" by clapping the rhythm of a song then guessing the song. Finally, it is possible to clap a rhythm ostinato while singing the song.
Once the rhythm is established in the music, we turn our attention to the melody. Using the Curwen hand signs, we can sing the songs. First we can solfčge in sol-fa letters, then on the music staff. We can also use the hand signs while singing the song internally just like we did with the rhythm exercises. Following this, we can add the "name that tune" game by showing the sol-fa signs and guessing the song. These early activities help develop students' ability to audiate, or hear music internally - a crucial aspect of musicianship.
The Kodály Method also includes a multi-sensory approach to learning that uses aural, visual, and kinesthetic approaches. The combination of senses makes learning more interesting and active for children. Thus, students can thoroughly understand every element of music before they play the songs on the harp since they associate sounds and motions with notation rather than with finger numbers. Furthermore, this multi-sensory approach to learning is even especially important in harp playing because both visual and kinesthetic aspects are more involved in harp playing than in the playing of any other instrument. Kodály emphasized the following in instrumental teaching: "Agile fingers do not suffice; the music must be understood and appreciated, and relative sol-fa constitutes one possible form of a true comprehension."
If everything is incorporated in the instrumental teaching that the child has learned in clapping the rhythm, in singing with words, with sol-fa or letter names, it will provide training in memory, sense of form, and phrasing. Singing provides a natural breathing to music that can be adapted to harp playing. By the same token, singing provides a sense of legato that is one of the most difficult technical challenges of harp playing. Therefore, it is a great advantage to use singing as a vehicle from the very beginning of harp studies. In addition, focusing on musical elements in teaching from the very beginning of harp studies will free students from the constant pressure of technical exercises, a practice that often discourages them from persevering. Kodály stated, "The playing of instruments faciliates much musical learning..., but singing must always be at the center."
Erzsébet Szönyi, a Kodály Method specialist, said that "Complex instrumental music can also be enjoyed through singing their themes; this is active music-making. Kodály considered the human voice to be the instrument which is most immediately available to man and as the best means of approaching and appreciating music." Gábor Ugrin, one of my solfčge professors at the Conservatory of Music in Budapest, told us to include a voice warm-up before our daily instrumental practice. By doing so, we set the stage for a better instrumental tone quality in that we have transferred a beautiful tone quality from voice to instrument. In addition, over time we improved our expectation of sound quality that showed up in a more beautiful tone quality on our instrument. For harpists, creating a beautiful sound quality is another major concern.
Szönyi brings another example for improving musicianship when she says "All music can be related to singing; in the best performances of top-ranked orchestras, the string and wind instruments simply sing - cantabile. Kodály refers to Toscanini as a most fitting example; Toscanini's cracked voice, with which he made known to his players the shaping he required of melodic passages, resulted in the most beautiful and expressive interpretations. Toscanini encouraged them: 'cantare, cantare'. Instrumentalists too can best interpret a work if they first sing it to themselves."
In addition, Kodály emphasized another way of practicing which is to sing one part of the music while playing the other part on the instrument, thus becoming aquainted with the independent life of the different parts of the music. Furthermore, he encouraged students to practice transposing their music which is possible from the very beginning with the aid of the movable-do system. For this purpose, Mildred Dilling's book entitled Old Tunes for New Harpists is a good resource book. This book provides a variety of different nations' folk songs and folk tunes arranged for the harp, which are also excellent for helping students improve their skills in transposing.
Understanding the music being played by analyzing it, solfčging it, and transposing it, is excellent training for intelligent pedal work in harp playing. Making a good layout of repair points with adequate pedal charts in advanced harp music is a crucial part of harpists' everyday challenges. The foundation of this work, however, has to be laid in the formative years of harp study. Excellent pedal work also makes memorization more secure, which is another great challenge for harpists.
The Kodály Method emphasizes another basic music skill, the inner hearing that also plays a crucial role in memorization. Szönyi encourages us to develop inner hearing to the highest degree as she says "a good musician will imagine the score in his mind before attempting [to play] it on his instrument." Playing through music in our minds while hearing it internally is a good test in memorization. Inner hearing is also very helpful in tuning. Harpists have an especially complex assignment in this regard. Almost every harp method book has at least one paragraph on tuning, but there is only one method book that calls for a well-trained ear. This was written by Henriette Renié who stated that "all methods of tuning are good for those with a good ear." Today, harpists are accustomed to the use of electronic tuning devices. However, professional tuners recommend that after having tuned the harp with the electronic tuner, we should do the fine-tuning by ear.
Technically, the harp is a most demanding instrument. Szilvay, who applied the Kodály Method to string teaching in Finland, states that because of the technical demands, "teachers should focus on developing intelligent musicians, not just technically proficient instrumentalists. This musical intelligence includes music literacy as well as knowledge and awareness of form and phrasing. Technique is a means for making music, not an end goal of study." Kodály's goals for music education included the equal development of four areas: a well-trained ear, well-trained intellect, well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand. As to new music repertoire, Kodály urged musicians to play pieces of music that were written by contemporary composers, or compositions that are not played frequently on the repertoire. Kodály said that "The greater the artist is the greater is his responsibility to perform pieces outside of the regular repertoire, that can be heard only on rare occasions because of their technical difficulties, or difficulties in understanding the content, or very new in the literature." For introducing young harpists to contemporary music, the book entitled Haiku for the Harp by Susann McDonald and Linda Wood Rollo is excellent material. The short pieces written by these two authors are based on Japanese poems. They invent a variety of new sound effects for the harp and supply a vocabulary for avant-garde music, such as improvisation, changing meter, or the use of additional tools (like brush) in performance.
In summarizing the Kodály Method, Dr. Brenda S. Mitchell said that "Kodály techniques help develop children's total musicianship, thus strengthening their abilities as well-rounded instrumentalists." However, the Kodály concept applies not only to music students who will become professional musicians, but also to those who will become the audience. Therefore, Zoltán Kodály went even further when he wrote; "Music educators give their pupils much more. As they make students better musicians, they also make them better human beings."
References Barkóczi, I. and Pléh, Cs. (1982). Music Makes a Difference. Kecskemét: Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music.
Bartók, B. and Kodály, Z. (1951). A Magyar népzene tára I-IV. [Corpus Musicae Popularis Hungaricae]. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó
Bondurant-Koehler, S. and Koehler, W. (1998). Orff Schulwerk and Kodály in Beginning Group and Private String Education. American String Teacher, 48 (1), 65-68.
Choksy, L. (1974). The Kodály Method. Comprehensive Music Education From Infant To Adult.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Dilling, M. (1934). Old Tunes for New Harpists. Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania:
Oliver Ditson Company.
Erdei, P. (1974). 150 American Folk Songs To Sing, Read And Play. USA: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Forrai, K. and Sinor, J. (1988). Music in Preschool. Budapest: Franklin
Kodály, Z. (1964). Visszatekintés I-II. [In Retrospect]. Budapest:
Kodály, Z. (1967). Folk Songs in Pedagogy. Music Educators Journal, 53 (3), 59-61.
Kodály, Z. (1989). Kodály Zoltán. Közélet, vallomások, zeneélet. Budapest:
McDonald, S. (1983). The Private Lesson. Thoughts for the Teacher. Thoughts for the Student. USA: Music Works - Harp Edition.
McDonald, S. and Wood, L. (1986). Haiku for the Harp. USA: Music Works - Harp Edition.
Mitchell, B. (1998). More Ideas from Practicing Teachers: Using Kodály in Beginning String Instruction. American String Teacher, 48 (1), 69-71.
Mitchell, B. (1998). String Teaching Plus Kodály Equals. Colourstrings. American String Teacher, 48 (1), 73-77.
Prokhorov, V. (1998). Will Piano Lessons Make My Child Smarter? Parade Magazine, (6), 14-17.
Renié, H. (1946). Complete Method for Harp. Paris: Alphonse Leduc.
Sándor, F. (1969). Musical education in Hungary. Budapest: Boosey & Hawkes and Corvina Press.
Szönyi, E. (1990). Kodály's Principles in Practice. An approach to Music Education through the Kodály Method. Gyomaendröd: Kner Printing House.
Copyright 1999, American Harp Society, Inc..
Printed originally in the Winter 1999 issue of the AHS Teachers Forum. Used by permission.