Kodály Strings includes a 30 min. weekly private lesson along with a 60 min. weekly group class. In our weekly one-hour group class, the children learn basic musical structure and ear training through the use of singing games, moveable-do sol-fa, reading and writing activities, and other activities familiar to most North American Kodaly programs. They also learn to play their instrument together in an ensemble, and they learn to perform solo for each other in a casual setting, including concert etiquette.
In our weekly half-hour private lesson, which is attended by a parent, each student gets the individual attention they need, particularly with violin technique, which allows the teacher to customize the program according to the needs of each student.
With this model for lessons, the children experience a comprehensive program for developing complete musicianship. It’s amazing to see how much they learn and internalize in such a short time!
Please join us if you want this complete musicianship training for your child. This program is for parents who are willing to bring their child twice a week to violin lessons and to supervise practice at home. You will be amazed with the results!
Here’s what parents are saying about Kodály Strings:
“Our 8-year-old son has thrived under Kodály Strings instruction. He is consistently excited to go to his lessons and complains the 60-minute group lesson goes by too quickly! This program is well developed, thoughtfully progressing through skills to build a solid foundation and good habits. The program creator, Cynthia Richards is able to translate her years of violin experience into a language children understand and enjoy. We are so happy to see our son developing serious violin skills and even more happy to see him love doing it.” JG
“The Kodály Strings method of teaching has been very successful for our daughter. The curriculum is very well rounded, teaching technique, theory, composition, artistry, and ear training. The weekly group class provides a social gathering for the children where they learn to be comfortable performing in front of others and enjoy playing together as an ensemble. I have been very impressed with the overall experience for my daughter and highly recommend it.” MKW
“It is tough to keep the attention of 7-year-olds, especially when it comes to the arduous task of teaching music, but Kodály Strings does an amazing job of not only engaging the kids but actually helping them learn music and have fun at the same time. The group class provides the party element and the private lesson ensures that the kids get the individualized attention they need to progress rapidly. You can’t go wrong with this set-up.” ERB
“Bad musicians cannot hear what they are playing; mediocre ones could hear it, but they don’t listen; average musicians hear what they just played; only good musicians hear what they are going to play.”
-Edgar Willems (1890-1978) Belgian music psychologist and pedagogue
How Does Kodály Compare to Suzuki and Traditional Methods?
hearing vs. reading:
The student hears the song first from a teacher, a parent, or a recording playing it; hence, sound to sound.
intuitive vs. cognitive:
The “mother tongue” approach. Children learn how to speak their own language through hearing it spoken. They perceive it without having to reason or concentrate; it’s just part of their environment. The music is likewise presented through listening and can be perceived at a very young age.
The Suzuki “mother tongue” concept of learning is itself child developmental. Rhythms and bowings begin with small note values, much easier than long ones with extended bow strokes. Generally speaking, however, the technical demands progress rapidly from piece to piece. In my opinion, there are some large gaps in the learning sequence which make it not child developmental: too many new things all at once.
The principle advantage is that a young child can get to the technique of the instrument very quickly. There are no prerequisites which involve reading. I call it quick technique.
The biggest weakness of staying with the Suzuki approach for very long is the lack of literacy. Most Suzuki teachers now find a way to introduce note-reading of some form or another from traditional sources. The necessity of a prescribed repertoire I find particularly limiting and tiring as a teacher.
hearing vs. reading:
The student reads the note and then plays it; thus, sight to sound.
intuitive vs. cognitive:
The music must be read first, before it can be played. Reading language or music notation takes cognitive skill and concentration. The difference between Suzuki and traditional is like the difference between speaking a language and reading it.
In past decades, a subject-logic approach was used in traditional violin methods. Rhythmically, it began with the whole note and then proceeded to halves and quarters: certain to kill any enthusiasm for playing the violin. Since those days, several wonderful pedagogues have taken a more child developmental approaches to technique. The work of Paul Rolland was especially significant. However, one needs only to look at the preliminary instructions about music notation and fundamentals given in most method books, to realize that the student must intellectualize certain abstract concepts about music before he can begin to play.
Having to decode the page before you can play, tends to slow down the process of acquiring excellent technique. There’s only so much brain available to think of everything. I call that slow technique.
Learning by these methods, students who persevere until their technique catches up with their ability to read music notation, can become great sight readers and independent learners. Reading notes, however, does not necessarily mean that students will know in their heads what the notes are supposed to sound like. I call this visual literacy.
hearing vs. reading:
The student’s model is his/her own singing voice. The song is taught by rote from the teacher’s singing, often in singing games. The rhythmic and melodic elements of the song are derived and given a name and a symbol, which the student will recognize when placed on the staff; thus, sound to sight.
intuitive vs. cognitive:
Singing is intuitive to all children. The first instrument is the singing voice. Learning to play an instrument is easier and more musical if the songs are sung first and then transferred to the instrument. Next, reading the symbols on a page of music, which were learned first from sound, calls upon the child’s cognitive skills. First intuitive, and then cognitive.
The learning sequence begins at the best starting place for children’s voices and experience. Rhythmically, it begins with feeling the basic beat. Melodically, children are able to sing a range of only five or six tones with no half-steps. While the best first tones for singing are pentatonic, the best for starting a string instrument are those which are step-wise starting from the open string. Learning those first music elements one at a time through singing, and then transferring them to the instrument at the appropriate time is the order of things for a smooth, natural, child-developmental learning sequence.
There are actually two learning tracks going on simultaneously. The intuitive one, starting from sound, transfers to the instrument very easily, and results in quick technique. The reading track is going on at the same time to create literacy. It’s important for teachers to have their objectives clearly in mind: am I working on technique or am I working on literacy? That determines your approach. The nice thing about this separation of tasks is that it allows a teacher to customize a student’s program according to his/her strengths and needs. Gradually, the students’ ability to play and their ability to read merge until they match.
One of the primary objectives is to educate the ear and achieve music literacy based on hearing. (See articles “To Hear or Not to Hear” and “What is Solfege and Why is it Important” in this blog) These students become even better sight readers, because they hear in their head what they are about to play. With careful step-by-step learning, students can achieve a high level of musicianship which this type of literacy makes possible.
Which is the best approach? It depends on the experience and result you are looking for. Many fine players have emerged from each of them. We recommend Kodály Strings as the most well-rounded and engaging path to complete musicianship.
One of the principal tools used in Kodály music education is the movable-do system of solmization, or solfege, or sol-fa which was originated by Guido d’Arezzo in the eleventh century. In this system the tonal center of a song is do in the major and la in the minor modes, whatever the key may be. One can move the tones of a melody anywhere on the staff, and the solfege syllables which disclose the relationship of the notes to each other remain the same. It becomes a very effective tool in revealing melodic/ harmonic structure and tonality to the musician.
Only the well-conducted teaching of sol-fa can develop the ability to connect tone-image with written note to the point where the one will evoke the other instantly.
F. Bonis, The selected writings of Zoltán Kodály,. New York: Boosey & Hawkes
Solfege helps the student to easily understand the structure of keys and harmonies.
In other words, sol-fa helps students hear what they see and see what they hear. It simultaneously reveals tonal relationships and gives them a name and a symbol. It is simply the thousand-year-old original, easiest, and best means of comprehending the architecture of music.
Most Americans’ knowledge of solfege is limited to the song in Sound of Music that is so familiar. But maybe you asked yourself like I did, “Why is Maria teaching the children how to sing that way? That’s not how I learned music.” I didn’t know that she was teaching them a skill which I did not possess. Many people who play an instrument consider themselves able to “read music,” even though they often cannot accurately sound out a single interval without their instrument. I was not taught to hear in my head what was on the page. A piece of the music puzzle was missing in my training; that is, until I finally took an aural skills class in college.
So, why wasn’t it taught? Was that something only European musicians learned? Bodman and others remember that up until the middle of the 20th century in America, sol-fa was in the curriculum. As teachers began to try to “simplify” music for their students, it was all too easy to take the shortcut and skip the sol-fa. The trouble is, the knowledge of musical structure based on the educated ear was sacrificed, and we became more technicians than musicians. (Now, you can even learn to play a keyboard instrument by pressing the key down that lights up for you. Sort of like, painting by the numbers.)
When I got to my college aural skills classes, I was very surprised that I was expected to have a skill that no one told me about all those years I was practicing. Now that I know its value, I have to ask, “Why didn’t someone teach me that from the beginning?”
-Cynthia Richards, creator of Kodály Strings