Mara's Musings

Mara Kelland is a folksinger/harpist/pianist and more from Auckland, New Zealand. This is where she shares bits and pieces.
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Posts tagged "Music education"

This method is a natural extension of being a folk music buff as the learning material is drawn, in the early years at least, from folksong.

When I was about 15, my singing teacher at the time introduced me to a method of writing called tonic sola. I had only heard of this in fun before [who hasn’t heard that do is a deer a female deer?] This lead me to investigate an discover Zoltan Kodaly and a book which had the music of every song I ever loved as a child.

Kodaly was a Hungarian who in 1925 heard children singing songs they had learnt at school. He thought they were substandard. So the seed was planted for the Kodaly Method.

The interesting thing about the method is that nothing is new - Solfege comes from England, rhythm duration syllables and some material are borrowed from Dalcroze.

The method has specific ideas and tools which are briefly as follows:

  • Singing as a means to learn.
  • A child developmental approach that draws from the folksongs of the students’ country.
  • A process of learning which is hear, immitate, create in nature.
  • The use of Solfege, rhythm syllables and other developmental tools to learn stuff.

Interestingly, to put some of these things in context, the first lesson of the Kodaly method after singing lots of songs and teaching how to step beat, soft loud etc, is the minor third. This is found in the chant “You can’t catch me”. It is first heard so much that it is internalised by the student then it is named so-mi and hand signals are given to it. [There is a whole song related to the gestures on YouTube]. The student is then taught to write So-Mi. Progressively over the years at school a musical language is built up until the student is musically literate.

An important thing to Kodaly was that music should belong to everybody. It should be taught daily a long with Maths and reading and writing. This is one of the many reasons I am writing this series be cause I firmly believe music should belong to everybody.

Some interesting links: Scholarly somewhat complex language. Includes a growing directory of schools where the Method is taught. Interstin website.

In this final posting on music education I will be talking about the way I teach music. Techniques I have seen inspire young people and that sometimes can work. My philosophy has pieces of all the methods and a bit of Rudolpf Steiner. But it has worked for me.

As Suzuki said we must create beautiful people. This is the ultimate goal of any creative art or experience. Steiner said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” “Piano ability is life ability,” said Haruko Kataoka, the master Suzuki piano teacher. With thesee three things in mind I set out to create my philosophy.

First before there can be any student there must be a literature to play. I use the Suzuki repertoire and other folksongs as a basis for early learning. I stress the importance of listening to the records. Suzuki came to the belief that listening was more important than practising.

Reading later I find works. How can we teach somebody to read when they cannot speak? And how can we teach somebody to read when they cannot love something and love it deeply before they have seen it concretely. Teaching an appreciation, a love of music, is highly important - paramount in the teacher’s eye.

When it comes to reading music I have some specific ideas. The student learns first to play a song then writes it down. They learn to read from there own writing as happens in the Steiner classroom.

Singing is important as though singing something one can develop a sense of tone. I have said to students, “Sing song X. Now, play it as if you were singing it.” It works.

Improvising is also important. I have my students improvise even if they know nothing. As everybody is capable of singing, everybody is capable of making up something at the piano.

In sum the important things to teach are love of music, good tone and good technique whatever means we use to do it.

Emile Jacques Dalcroze was a swiss music teacher in the early 20th century. He discovered that his University students had some skills lacking when it came to feeling a beat and counting.

I first came across him when I was very young and went to music classes where we met So-Mi and his brother La-Mi and many other things. One of the first things they taught was about was Ta-tay, ta-tay, ta-tay, ta. Where ta is one and tay is the half beat. Of course they didn’t tell us that then, that’d come later. For those interested in counting terms this is counted as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

Dalcroze put movements, sounds and syllables to different things. He soon figured out that his approach would work with everybody not just college students. A Dalcroze thing might be:

  • Listen to a piece of music. Let’s say “Twinkle Twinkle little star for the example.
  • Find where it repeats. The form- we can label it so- Is A. B. A. IE there is a section A [the first line] that repeats twice.
  • Find a motion for A.
  • Put that motion somewhere else to serve as section B.
  • Dalcroze believed that this stuff worked- some of it ended up in Kodaly’s work- so it must have some influence.

    I personally don’t like this one much. Find it a bit weird.

    Somewhere to learn more:

The Suzuki Method has always been of special significance to me as it is the way I began my piano studies. However my teachers though they had the best intensions were not trained Suzuki teachers. [That’s another story, my musical development].

Shinichi Suzuki taught himself to play the violins in is father’s factory in Japan. So began the ideas for his method.

It emphasises:

  • Listening
  • starting early
  • creating beautiful tone
  • Creating grownups of good character

Sometimes called the “mother-tongue approach”, reading is taught later in general. Students learn to pick out tunes by ear initially so as to develop good tone and technique at the instrument. Repertoire is universal throughout the early stages so students of different instruments can play together.

initially begun with violins, the Suzuki method has expanded to include all the Strings plus guitar, piano, flute, harp and voice. Early childhood programmes have been developed around the philosophy.

Some interesting links: The studio of Leah Brammer [calif Suzuki piano teacher]

Music has always been a part of my life since early childhood. Being blind, it is a stereotype that I would be musical [that’s another story]. I was one of the lucky people in this world to be musical and blind.

Originally I planned to do an audio series with interviews of pedagogues from the different methods. But that fell through so I am writing a text blog as part of my musings. In the following entries I will be talking about the four main methods of music education: The Suzuki method, The Kodaly Method, the Orff approach and the Dalcroze method.

I hope this will give a general introduction to music education for the person who doesn’t know very much or wants to know something, or is trying to decide how best to educate their child. At the end I will talk about my personal philosophy that I have used when I have had piano students as it has facets of all the methods.

There will be about 5 posts on this so stay tuned over the next week to read them all in sequence.

Meantime I want to share with yu where I got my knowledge of each method as this is important so you, dear reader, know that I am credible and not talking rubbish.

  • Bookss by Lois Choksy, The Kodaly Method I: Comprehensive Music Education, The Kodaly Method II: From Folksong to Masterwork, The Kodaly Context: creating an environment for Musical Learning
  • Choksy, Abramson, Gillespie and Woodward, Teaching Music in the 21st Century
  • Sources on Suzuki are too numerous to mention here. Among them are Wikipedia,, and many more.