The Kodály method uses a child-developmental approach to sequence, introducing skills according to the capabilities of the child. New concepts are introduced beginning with what is easiest for the child and progressing to the more difficult. Children are first introduced to musical concepts through experiences such as listening, singing, or movement. Concepts are constantly reviewed and reinforced through games, movement, songs, and exercises.
The Kodály method incorporates rhythm syllables similar to those created by nineteenth-century French theoretician Emile-Joseph Chêvé. In this system, note values are assigned specific syllables that express their durations. For example, quarter notes are expressed by the syllable „ta” while eighth note pairs are expressed using the syllables „ti-ti”. These syllables are then used when sight-reading or otherwise performing rhythms.
Rhythm and movement
The Kodály method also includes the use of rhythmic movement, a technique inspired by the work of Swiss music educator, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze. Kodály was familiar with Dalcroze’s techniques and agreed that movement is an important tool for the internalization of rhythm. To reinforce new rhythmic concepts, the Kodály method uses a variety of rhythmic movements, such as walking, running, marching, and clapping. These may be performed while listening to music or singing.
The Kodály method uses a system of movable-do solfege syllables, in which, during sight-singing, scale degrees are sung using corresponding syllable names (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti). The syllables show function within the key and the relationships between pitches, not absolute pitch. Kodály was first exposed to this technique while visiting England, where a movable-do system created by Sarah Glover and augmented by John Curwen was being used nationwide as a part of choral training. Kodály found movable-do solfege to be helpful in developing a sense of tonal function, thus improving students’ sight-singing abilities. Kodály felt that movable-do solfege should precede acquaintance with the staff, and developed a type of shorthand using solfege initials with simplified rhythmic notation.
Hand signs, also borrowed from the teachings of Curwen, are performed during singing exercises to provide a visual aid. This technique assigns to each scale degree a hand sign that shows its particular tonal function. Kodály added to Curwen’s hand signs upward/downward movement, allowing children to actually see the height or depth of the pitch. The signs are made in front of the body, with „do” falling about at waist level and „la” at eye level. Their distance in space corresponds with the size of the interval they represent. The hand signs were featured in the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Kodály collected, composed, and arranged a large number of works for pedagogical use Along with Béla Bartók and other associates, Kodály collected and published six volumes of Hungarian folk music, including over one thousand children’s songs. Much of this literature was used in Kodály method song books and textbooks. High quality music was needed in short and simple forms in order to bridge the gap between folk music and classical works. For this purpose, Kodály composed thousands of songs and sight-singing exercises, making up sixteen educational publications, six of which contain multiple volumes of over one hundred exercises each.
Studies have shown that the Kodály method improves intonation, rhythm skills, music literacy, and the ability to sing in increasingly complex parts. Outside of music, it has been shown to improve perceptual functioning, concept formation, motor skills, and performance in other academic areas such as reading and math.