Musicianship activities are an ideal preparation for instrumental lessons. With complete beginners, their levels of musicianship and aural skills vary according to whether there has been regular singing and other music-making at home, infant school and elsewhere. Typically beginners have no understanding of written music.
Pupils participating in a Kodály programme gain firm musical foundations alongsidetheir instrumental study.
Songs are introduced and learned aurally before they are seen in written form. Children build up a large singing repertoire, using very simple material which is easy to learn and work with. They gain musical understanding gradually in a holistic and methodical way, and their musical memory steadily expands.
While working with the songs pupils develop fundamental skills required by all musicians, such as a sense of pulse, pitch awareness, and rhythmic control. They learn solfa names and handsigns for the pitches they are using, clap simple rhythms from simple notation and reading cards, and practise marking the pulse through enjoyable actions to accompany the songs. As pupils work in this way they are developing the ‘inner hearing’, an essential skill for musical development.
The songs provide the first material pupils learn to play on their instrument. With the songs already fixed in the memory, they understand the musical result they are aiming at. They can concentrate on listening to the sounds they are making while playing, and on building up the technical and physical skills required to play, so as to achieve successful musical performance.
Musical reading and writing begins with learning to read and write simple rhythms. Next pupils work with stick notation which combines rhythm with solfa to give pitch. This simplified staveless musical notation is used before conventional stave notation is introduced.
Musicianship training continues as an integral part of instrumental lessons. It is easy to make sessions fun with group-work, duets and ensemble performances.
A New Approach
Many conventional instrumental tutor books begin by presenting stave notation from the start. New pupils are faced with many challenging physical and intellectual tasks all at once. It is easy for the essential musicianship to get marginalised, because learning to read both rhythms and pitches in stave notation, as well as technical difficulties of managing the instrument, take precedence over Listening and Musicianship.
Following a Kodály approach, the pupil learns through the ears and multi-sensory musical experience, rather than through the eyes and intellect. When the ‘Inner Musician’ is trained first, real music can be played on the instrument from the start, achieved from musical foundations.