Kodály Method

Zoltán Kodály

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, linguist and philosopher.  He realised that there were many aspects of musicianship lacking in the traditional music education of the day.  His method was to teach conservatoire students who were very good at playing their instrument but who could not hear the printed music in their heads before they played it.


‘Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instil a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime.’


He, along with Béla Bartók, collected many Hungarian folk songs and he realised that these were like pebbles which had been honed and smoothed over the years – that they were microcosms of musical perfection and that they possessed, in a small form, many of the musical characteristics of larger pieces of art music; therefore they could be used in an educational context to help people to understand and appreciate great works.

Kodály wanted his nation to become musically educated and literate.  He and his colleagues and followers researched the best existing ways to learn and teach music, and they developed a way of teaching often referred to as ‘The Kodály Method’ (although it is preferred to think of this as an approach or a set of principles).


‘Many people are looking for the door

to the treasury of music in the wrong places. 

They obstinately keep hammering on the locked gates and pass right by

the open doors that are accessible to everybody.’


The singing voice is used as the primary instrument through which to learn music.   It is both free and portable!  It is also the most direct way of making a musical response.   Singing is an internal skill – YOU make the sound (playing an instrument is an external skill – you make something else make the sound). 


Singing immediately activates the inner hearing – the ability to hear music in your head.  So anything learned through singing goes much deeper than through learning an instrument.


‘Music should belong to everyone…music is a spiritual food for which there is no substitute…there is no complete spiritual life without music…there are regions of the human soul which can be illuminated only through music.’

The main tools used in the Kodály method are solfa (adapted and developed from the ‘tonic solfa’ system of the Victorian John Curwen) and rhythm names (adapted from the system of time names developed in 19th century France).   Using these tools, students of all ages learn to ‘speak’, read and write music in an enjoyable and accessible way.


Students learn to understand and appreciate art music throughout the ages (e.g. Renaissance, Classical, 20th century). Musicianship also opens the doors to so many possibilities!   The training is applicable to anyone, whatever their preferred genre or style (e.g. classical, folk, pop);whether you are a teacher, an amateur musician or a professional, there is something here for everyone!


The approach has a worldwide following and is applied in many different countries, settings and age groups.

What will I learn in Kodály Musicianship?

Accurate pitching and good intonation


Understanding of scales, intervals and harmony


Musical memory development




The ability to write down music that you hear

Knowledge and understanding of art music


Accurate rhythmic reading


Good co-ordination


The ability to sing in parts with good ensemble skills


Improvisation and composition


What is Musicianship?

Musicianship is the key for the magical door we call ‘MUSIC’. It reveals all its secrets and unlocks the door, giving us familiarity and deep understanding of it.


Musicianship with the Kodály philosophy is an holistic, sequential, step-by-step approach. The knowledge is built up alongside the skills in steady, logical steps, making sure no bricks are missing or loose in the wall of this beautiful castle. The only rule in the castle is joy, bearing in mind that your every move needs to come from live music. The power that makes the castle stand and thrive is singing.

There is no ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Football’; there are no nervous and embarrassing moments of some mystical theory that make us think the only one really ‘got it’ was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


It feels like the Russian Matryoshka doll. You first understand how the big doll ‘works’ then you feel adventurous, you discover the smaller doll inside, then the next doll, then the next. However, the ‘Kodály Matryoshka’ never ends; you will always discover more and more as you gain deeper understanding of music. The achievement, the progression, the opening doors of the castle will give you a lifelong friendship with music and with the Kodály world which you never want to let go.


Esther Hargittai

'Our passions are the true phoenixes.   When the old one is burnt out, a new one rises from its ashes.'

Johann von GOETHE