The Kodály Concept


The Kodály Concept is

  • Is a philosophy of education and a concept of teaching.
  • Is a comprehensive program to train basic musical skills and teach the reading and writing of music.
  • Is an integration of many of the best ideas, techniques, and approaches to music education.
  • Is an experience-based approach to teaching.

Essential and Key Elements of the Concept


  • We should first learn to love music as human sound and as an experience that enriches life.
  • The voice is the most natural instrument and one which every person possesses.
  • Kodály called singing “the essence” of this concept.
  • Singing is a powerful means of musical expression.
  • What we produce by ourselves is better learned; and there is a stronger feeling of success and accomplishment.
  • Learning through singing should precede instrumental training.
  • It is in the child’s best interest to understand the basics of reading music before beginning the difficult task of learning the technique of an instrument.
  • What do we sing?
    • Folk songs and games of the American Culture
    • Traditional children’s songs and games
    • Folk songs of other cultures
    • Music of the masters from all ages
    • Pedagogical exercises written by master composers
  • Singing best develops the inner, musical ear.
“If we ourselves sing often, this provides a deep experience of happiness in music. Through our own musical activities, we learn to know the pulsation, rhythm, and shape of melody. The enjoyment given encourages the study of instruments and the listening to other pieces of music as well.”(Kodály, 1964)

Folk Music

  • Folk music is the music of the people. There can be no better material for singing than the songs and games used by children for centuries.
  • Folk Music has all the basic characteristics needed to teach the foundations of music and to develop a love of music – a love that will last a life time.
  • Folk music is the classical music of the people, and, as such, is a perfect bridge leading to and working hand-in-hand with-art music.
“The compositions of every country, if original, are based on the songs of its own people. That is why their folk songs must be constantly sung, observed, and studied.” (Kodály, 1964)


  • Solfège is the best tool for developing the inner ear.
  • It is an invaluable aid in building all musical skills:
    • Sight singing
    • Dictation
    • Ear training
    • Part hearing
    • Hearing and singing harmony
    • Perceiving form
    • Developing memory
  • The moveable do system, highly developed in English choral training, was advocated by Kodály as a tool for teaching musical literacy.
  • Use of the pentatone (do, re, mi, sol, la) was recommended by Kodály for early training of children because of its predominance in their folk music.

Music and Quality

  • We believe that music enhances the quality of life. So that it may have the impact it deserves, only the best music should be used for teaching:
    • Folk music, which is the most representative of the culture
    • The best music composed by the masters
  • Quality music demands quality teaching:
    • Teachers need to be as well-trained as possible
    • Teachers’ training must be well-rounded
    • Teachers need to develop their musical and vocal skills to the highest degree possible
“The pure soul of the child must be considered sacred; what we implant there must stand every test, and if we plant anything bad, we poison his soul for life.” (Selected Writings, p. 141)

Development of the Complete Musician

  • Kodály training is a complete and comprehensive approach to music education which meets the National Standards for Arts Education as published by MENC, © 1994.
  • The development of all skill areas begins very early with simple tasks required of all the students. As knowledge grows, skills are developed further in a sequential manner.
  • In addition to music reading and writing which are begun at an early stage, the following skill areas are also developed: part-singing, part-hearing, improvisation, intonation, listening, memory, phrasing and understanding of form.
  • An awareness and knowledge of musical styles develops as skills become more proficient.
“The good musician understands the music without a score as well and understands the score without the music. The ear should not need the eye nor the eye the (outer) ear.” (Kodály quoting Schumann: Selected Writings, p. 192)


  • Presentation of materials, concepts, and development of skills can be done in a meaningful way only if the curriculum is well sequenced.
  • A carefully planned sequence, well taught, will result in successful experiences for children and teacher. Success breeds success – and fosters a love of music.
  • A Kodály sequenced curriculum is an experience-based approach to learning rather than a cognitive developmental approach.
“Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as a secret writing of a language with which he has no connection. The way should be paved for direct intuition.” (Selected Writings, p. 120)

Kodály, the Educator and HumanistKodaly with roses children

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), prominent Hungarian composer and musician, directed a significant portion of his creative endeavors to the musical education of the Hungarian nation-an interest which developed over many years. Such efforts were initiated with the folk song collection beginning in 1905. As he became aware of the great need to improve the quality of singing and music training of teachers and children alike, he began composing for children’s choruses in the 1920’s and required his composition students to do the same. Folk music provided inspiration, as well as the musical basis, for many of the compositions. By 1929 he was determined to reform the teaching of music and to make it an integral part of the education of every child.
In a lecture on children’s choirs in 1929, he said,
“Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture, but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime If the child is not filled at least once by the life giving stream of music during the most susceptible period-between his sixth and sixteenth years-it will hardly be of any use to him later on. Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime. This experience cannot be left to chance, it is the duty of the school to provide it.” (Selected Writings, p. 120)
Kodály believed that music is meant to develop one’s entire being-personality, intellect and emotions. He said, “music is a spiritual food for everybody. So I studied how to make more people accessible to good music.” (Kodály, 1966) Kodály realized this was part of everyone’s basic heritage and was necessary for human development and should be started at as early an age as possible. Jenö Ádám, an early and prominent colleague of Kodály, stated, “The most important thing is to actualize the instinctive love of the child for singing and playing, to realize the changing of his moods through the songs, his feelings, his experiences – in other words, to bring about the miracle of music”.
4460To learn more about Zoltán Kodály:
Who Was Kodály? 
Edited by Alan Strong 1993. Seven Articles previously published in the Kodály ENVOY. 64 pages.
$7.00 Members | $10 Public
WHO WAS KODÁLY? is a collection of seven articles of tremendous historical significance about Zoltán Kodály, the man behind the Kodály concept. These articles represent the Kodály Envoy: 1982 to 1992 written by former Envoy editors, Kodály’s 2nd wife, a noted Hungarian ethnomusicologist, an American elementary music teacher, and an American Ph.D.