How can aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology be integrated into instrumental education?


The characteristics of a good musician can be summarized as follows


1 a well-trained ear

2 a well-trained intelligence

3 a well-trained heart 

4 a well-trained hand.


All four must develop together, in constant equilibrium. As soon as one lags behind or rushes ahead, there is something wrong. Sol-fa and the science of form and harmony together teach the first two points. To complete this teaching, a musical experience as varied as possible is indispensable; without playing chamber music and singing in choirs, nobody can become a good musician.’ Zoltán Kodály1


Which aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology did I want to integrate into instrumental education?


The principal question for my research focuses on the following three aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology: Singing, the PPP principle, and Polyphonic skills, because these aspects are not included in traditional instrumental education. I would like to investigate the possibilities for developing the pupils’ inner hearing, and I believe it is also important in instrumental education to think differently about our powers and to use them to the full2’ as Sir Ken Robinson has written.



Kodály said about singing: The most simple instrument is the voice, everybody has a voice.3

Singing while using relative solmisation and hand signs, from J S Curwen, rhythm language (the Kodály methodology uses the French rhythm system by E.J.Chevé. In The Hague we use the Takadimi system developed by Richard Hoffman, William Pelto and John W. White along with a number of colleagues at Ithaca College4), stick notation and flashcards.


PPP principlePrepare Present Practice 

This is a general didactic principle, based on the holistic approach to the learning process, and originating from twentieth-century experience-based learning.

Although PPP was not developed by Z. Kodály himself, these days it is nevertheless regarded as a general principle of the Kodály way of working.

The Music from Within’ Syllabus produced by Vocaal Talent Nederland deploys a comparable didactic principle in which learning is regarded as belonging to the whole:

The basic principles in giving lessons are experience, awareness and practice5.


A presentation of the whole provides the pupil with a direct experience of music, intonation, character, the build-up and release of tension, structure, etc

Experience prepares the pupils for the second phase:


The music now becomes the subject of a detailed analysis of musical elements such as form, rhythm, melody, harmony.

Awareness prepares the pupils for the third phase:


The various elements are now applied separately. Perhaps an element occurs in a new, alternative context. This enlarges the pupils experience and leads to new types of experience, awareness and practice – but at a higher level than previously.

Whenever you gain awareness and are trained in such a way that the elements now form part of yourself, you are ready for new thoughts and experiences – in other words, you are ready to learn something new.

This means that you go back to the experience – the whole.

In my research I have interpreted PPP as follows:

Prepare, unconsciously being exposed to musical experiences ; learning by doing.

Present, becoming aware of these musical experiences and going into details in more depth.

Practice, practising these details in various contexts.


Also used are the principles of: Sound before Sign’ and From Folk Song to Art Music


Polyphonic skills 

The training which enables us to deal with polyphonic textures, the development of harmonic hearing and the establishment of a feeling for form are, within the greater realm of music education, three distinct areas which are inseparable one from another. Without the facility to recognise and hear clearly several voices, we cannot speak of harmonic hearing, and without the sense of function, the ordered arrangements of musical form remain inexplicable.

The development of the ability to understand form has two important goals: 

1 To shape the members of a future concert-going audience in such a way that music will not simply pass through them like some indigestible pulp, but rather to accustom them to be able to make sense of a work which they hear for the first time.

2 To develop in children the skill with which they may conceive tones which form interdependently a vital continuity rather than a inert mass.6

In my research, I have interpreted Polyphonic skills as the ability to do two or three things simultaneously.


I elaborated on the above three aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology in three different contexts, namely:


BASIS Instrumental methodology for beginning wind players at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague; learning to play an instrument in the context of a broadly-based musical developmentI wanted to see how I could integrate these aspects into the development of instrumental methodology.


CMM (Creative Music Making) workshop weekend, 6 and 7 February 2016 Scholen in de Kunst Amersfoort. Learning to compose on your instrument; learning to work on your instrument in a group. I wanted to see how these aspects could influence education forms in which the emphasis lies on the development of an active approach to musical creativity.


Workshop with the bassoon students at the Royal Conservatoire, 15 March 2016

Using instruments to reproduce, rehearse and study traditional repertoire. I wanted to see how it would be possible to further develop these three aspects at the level of professional study in instrumental education.


I wanted to try out and to think differently about (and thereby add new insights to) not only beginners’ education, but also the active aspect of creativity in instrumental education at all levels – beginners, further studies and at the level of professional study.

Peter Renshaw writes: In many ways we are now living through an exciting cultural revolution that is challenging well-worn assumptions about arts practice and is inviting us to redefine how artists of all kinds can engage more meaningfully with society as a whole from birth until death.’ ….arts organisations and Higher Arts Education institutions should become cultural catalysts that understand there are different forms of excellence rooted in different social, cultural and educational contexts. Making these connections and responding to them creatively are an essential part of what it is to be an engaged and responsive artist or cultural organisation. Central to this re-engagement is a search for forms of excellence that embody the vibrancy of innovation and risk-taking7.

These remarks of Peter Renshaw should not be seen in isolation. Education in general is looking for alternative models as can be seen in the Discussion Paper 21st century skills8.

In many models mentioned in this Paper, innovation and creativity are regarded as an important part of present-day traditional education. But how does this creativity and innovation work in instrumental education and .


What is creativity?


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book Creativity’ that the first question is not what is creativity but where do we find creativity? Creativity only occurs in a system consisting of three related parts. The first part is the domain that consists of a collection of symbolic rules and procedures. The second component is the field possessed by all people who function as guardians of the domain. The third part is the human being. Creativity occurs whenever somebody – the human being – uses the symbols for a certain domain and has a new insight that is selected by the appropriate field in order to become part of the relevant domain or that changes an existing domain into a new one. The definition that arises from this is therefore: creativity is every deed, every idea or every product that changes an existing domain. The most important implication of the system model is perhaps the fact that the level of creativity at a given place and at a given moment is not only dependent on the amount of individual creativity. It is also dependent on the degree to which the domains and fields involved are open to new ideas.9


If we analyse this pronouncement we can see that it is not so easy to give a simple answer to the question what is creativity?. In my research I looked at two aspects of creativity in instrumental education, namely, how aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology influence creativity and in what way is it possible in traditional instrumental education to approach music in various ways such as singing to text, singing using solmisation, singing in rhythm language, singing to absolute musical note names (instrument names), investigating some music in an auditive way on your instrument, singing/playing a piece of music in canon, investigating a piece of music in another key, leaving notes out of a piece of music, leaving out/adding a beat in each bar of a piece of music, performing a piece of music with body percussion, clapping the rhythm of a piece of music while you walk your heartbeat, walk the rhythm of piece of music while you clap your heartbeat, playing an instrument by ear, playing an instrument from sheet music, playing an instrument from hand signs, playing an instrument from stick notation (flashcards), playing an instrument from stick notation with solmisation, making your own ostinato for a piece of music, being able to play the bass line or the second voice in a piece of music, being able to play a piece of music back to front both auditively and from sheet music or stick notation, improvising within the framework of classical music, improvising within the framework of light music, improvising from flashcards, exploring sounds that an instrument can produce beyond the normal idiom, exploring expression on an instrument, using the instrument as a part of the rhythm section, composing/making music, being able to write musical notation.


Because all these facets are too wide-ranging to be elaborated on within the limits of this Masters research, I have limited the observations for my question to three aspects of the Kodály philosophy and methodology and applied these to BASIS, the CMM weekend and the Workshop with bassoon students from the Royal Conservatoire. I would like to see how these three aspects can be integrated into the development of a methodology for instrumental education, how these three aspects can be integrated into education forms in which the focus is on being creative, and how you could further develop these aspects at the level of professional instrumental studies.

Kodály Zoltan(). Kodály Institute of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music.

Robinson Sir Ken(2013). Herontdek je creativiteit. Houten -Antwerpen: Unieboek/ Het Spectrum

Kodály Zoltan(2002). Music should belong to everyone: 120 quotations from his writings and speeches. Budapest: Gemini Nyomda

Hoffman R, Pelto W and White J.W(2011).

Marstal Inge Vocaal Talent Nederland(2012). Muziek van binnenuit. 

Herboly-Kocsár Ildiko(1984). Teaching of Polyphony, Harmony and Form in Elementary School. Budapest: Melkovics S.

Renshaw Peter(2010). Engaged Passions: Searches for Quality in Community Contexts. Delft: Eburon Academic Publisher

Voogt J.& Roblin N.P. 21st Century Skills: Discussienota.

Csikszentmihalyi Mihaly(1998). Creativiteit: over flow, schepping en ontdekking. Amsterdam: Boom