“Everyone prefers the kind of music which he came to know in childhood. Good taste developed early is difficult to ruin. Therefore, we must be careful about the first impressions. Their effects can be felt for a lifetime.”
Principles of Zoltán Kodály
Zoltán Kodály's vision on music education is mentioned under the name Kodály Method. It is more precise to say Kodály Concept because the Hungarian composer did not work out any detailed methodological process of teaching music. He formulated principles rather than teaching techniques, a step-by-step process and advice for teachers. The adaptation of the principles to the reality was elaborated and developed by his students and his followers. The basic principles of the Kodály Concept were formed, articulated and gradually put into practice after the composer's attention had turned to music pedagogy, especially in the frame of general schooling around 1925.
"Let music belong to everyone!"
Kodály insisted to make music education compulsory in the playschools and school curriculum. "There is no sound spiritual life without music." "Music is an indispensable part of universal human knowledge." He expressed, "it is only natural that music has to be made part of the school curriculum." He also said, “Let us take our children seriously! Everything else follows from this… only the best is good enough for a child.”
When to start?
"Music education starts nine months before the birth of the child!"
Within the school-system, music teaching must start in the playschools from the age of three years, so that the child can grasp the fundamentals of music at an early age. The development of musical hearing can only be successful if started early before the age of six. Formal music education should start from the age of three years with a disguised and playful approach. From birth till the age of three years, mother and child music sessions take care of a baby’s first doze of good music that will remain for lifetime.
Not a torture but a joy
The most important task for the teacher is to "teach music and singing in such a way that is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for lifetime." He should feel happy and satisfied before he leaves the class. The following week, the child must have a reason to return back for his music class.
First train the teachers
"Teaching in schools will improve if we first train good teachers!”
Teachers will develop the student's ear, give a general musical knowledge and create love and passion for music." For this reason, "we require good selection of music either specifically created or from music from one’s own culture, which will be available for children and beginners".
Active participation through singing
In the century of audiovisual technology, it’s obvious that Kodály emphasized that "only activity can lead someone to a real understanding and appreciation of music. Simply listening to music is not enough." Several times he emphasized that "if one were to attempt to express the essence of this education in one word, it could only be - singing." He explained his opinion with two arguments: First, the human voice is the only "instrument" which is available for everyone. Second, "our age of mechanization leads along a road ending with man himself as a machine; only the spirit of singing can save us from this fate."
Valuable art for children: folksongs as starting point
"Only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children!"
Kodály pointed out, "Music is intellectual food that cannot be replaced by anything else"; therefore it is essential that "only art of intrinsic value is suitable for children!" Where can we find good material, which represents the "art of intrinsic value" and, at the same time, is suitable for musical activity based on vocalism? Kodály's answer to this question is that "each nation has a great many songs which are especially suitable for teaching. If we select them well, folk songs will become the most appropriate material thought which we can present and make conscious new musical elements."
All these factors are not enough to build an up-to-date musical culture: "The way to the understanding of music is available to all: it is musical reading and writing." Through musical literacy "everyone may join in great musical experiences." Of course, all the musical elements should be introduced and practiced. He suggested practicing rhythm "much earlier and much more thoroughly than is customary today."
Relative solmization - fluent sight-reading
Help should be given to the students to establish a conscious ability of musical reading and writing: "with solmization [...] one reaches fluent sight-reading faster. This is, naturally, true for relative solmization only, since here, by singing the name of the tone, we have already defined its function in the tonality."
Part-singing: hear and appreciate music
Musical abilities and skills should also be developed by "part singing, which develops the capacity to hear and appreciate music and opens up the masterpieces of world literature even to those who do not play any instrument at all." This is why Kodály composed hundreds of two-part and dozens of three-part singing exercises for all levels of music education.
Today, creativity is known as an important factor of pedagogy. Zoltán Kodály, as early as in 1929, wrote in one of his articles: "all healthy children would improvise if they were allowed to" [...], but "they cannot be left to their own resources in forming their concept of music".
Vocal music first, then instrumental
His pedagogical concept determined a link between the vocal basis and instrumental teaching as well: "He who was taught vocal music first and then instrumental playing, will be more ready to grasp the melos of any kind of music [...] Through singing the student acquires a reading ability which makes it easier for him to get close to the work of great spirits."
Constant practice required
To carry out all these tasks and the whole complexity of the aims of music teaching in the school, a certain number of music lessons should be given in the frame of general education as well. Kodály himself always fought for a minimum of two singing lessons a week both in elementary and high school. But "in the case of a subject requiring constant practice", short everyday meetings with the teacher "would be worth more than two hours a week."
The good musician's features
Kodály's music educational concept is known as a system for general schooling. It is true because he wanted to give real musical culture to everybody and also to educate a demanding audience as large as possible. But we cannot forget that, as a professor of the Academy of Music, he also did a lot for the training of would-be professionals and paid attention to highly gifted music students. In one of his speeches at the Academy of Music in Budapest (1953), he described a many-sided demand for professionals: "The characteristics of a good musician can be summarized as follows:
- A well-trained ear,
- A well-trained intelligence,
- A well-trained heart,
- 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."