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Music Methods: The Way to Bloom

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Students in music classroom with many instruments.
Each student is unique; their music lessons should be too.

There are many music method books as well as philosophies and ideas about music education. Large academic libraries are full of information; some of which is relevant and some ideas that have been proven ineffectual. Many time-tested methods have lasted for decades, hundreds or even a thousand years such as Hanon's The Virtuoso Pianist, Czerny's School of Velocity, or the Latin hymn Ut queant laxis (Hymn to St. John the Baptist) which gave us the Solfège syllables which are an important part of then methods below. While there are many individual ideas about music education, including my own philosophy of music education, there are Four Main Methods that music teachers typically draw from today. (The following order is chronological and not a reflection of importance.)

1. Émile-Jacques Dalcroze's Eurhythmics

Swiss composer, musician and music educator, Émile-Jacques Dalcroze (July 6, 1865 – July 1, 1950) founded his method on the idea of experiencing music through movement. As a composer, Dalcroze was prolific and wrote for voices, orchestra, solo instruments, and chamber groups. His works include symphonies, concertos, operas, among many other works. Listen to his moving Violin Concerto No. 1 in C minor in the video below. He also wrote music for educational purposes, including exercises for breathing and technique.

Dalcroze called his method, "Eurhythmics" meaning "well proportioned," "good rhythm" or “good music.” Dalcroze believed that the human body is the source of all musical ideas. Dalcroze divided musical movement into two categories “locomotion” (moving through space) and "gesture” (moving while stationary). Interestingly, modern neurological research has proven that the motion parts of the brain become active when we listen to or engage in music. Dalcroze's Eurhythmics encourage students to explore movement through natural movement, including breathing, walking, lunging, running, skipping, and jumping.

Émile-Jacques Dalcroze
Émile-Jacques Dalcroze

Dalcroze's ideas influenced later musical pedagogues like Carl Orff (number 3 in this list), and like Zoltàn Kodàly (number 2), he believed that learning solfège was crucial to music education. However, unlike Kodàly, he taught that students should learn the fixed-do system, where the pitch "C" is always sung as "do" because it taught students "sensitivity to harmonic pull." Fixed-do, he taught, also taught pitch memory and reinforced musical relationships.

The third key to Dalcroze's method is improvisation, which he believed enabled students to learn to become fluent in the musical language. "Improvisation provides the aesthetic and kinesthetic building blocks for quality music making." This is also an important part of the experiential learning that Dalcroze emphasized.

Solfège Hand Signs from John Curwen's Standard Course (1904 edition, public domain)
Solfège Hand Signs from John Curwen's Standard Course (1904 edition, public domain)

2. Zoltàn Kodàly's Kodàly Method

Zoltàn Kodàly (Dec. 16, 1882 – March 6, 1967) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, music educator, linguist, and philosopher. (His family name is pronounced Koh-Dye.) He is known for collecting Hungarian folksongs by traveling the countryside and recording them and subsequently introduced fellow composer, Béla Bartók to the collection methods. His most famous, Psalmus Hungaricus, Op. 13, is for chorus, orchestra, and a tenor soloist. Listen to his dramatic Jesus and the Traders for a capella chorus in the video below.

In Kodàly's Method, the child’s music education develops with the student. The student learns through listening, singing, and movement. Kodàly believed

Zoltàn Kodàly
Zoltàn Kodàly

that the best accompaniment to a voice was another voice and stressed using singing to teach music. He did not like what we called "educational music" and believed that "inspired music" should be written for children and that "no composer is too great to write for children." His method uses works by well-known Baroque, Classical, and Romantic composers to teach musical ideas to elementary school students and includes 20th-Century works with older ones. Kodàly also believe that "authentic" folk music, especially its rhythms, pentatonic scales, basic forms, and simple language, was an excellent source of teaching material for children.

Rhythm is taught with a syllabic method. In this method, a quarter note is ta, a half note is or ta-a or too-oo, a whole note is ta-a-a or too-oo-oo, two eighth notes are ti-ti, and four sixteenth notes are ti-ka-ti-ka. He used moveable-do solfège to teach note reading. This is where the root of the scale is always "so," along with the solfège hand signs to incorporate movement with pitch.

Orff Instrument
Orff Instrument

3. Carl Orff's Schulwerk

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 – March 29, 1982) was a German composer who is mostly remembered for his cantata Carina Burana (1932). Listen to the very famous "O Fortuna" from this work in the video below. He was also an influential music educator and developed his Schulerk with is colleague Gunild Keetman during the 1920s. This method was first used at the Günterschule where Keetman worked.

Carl Orff
Carl Orff

Orff saw music and movement (as well as drama and speech) as integrated. He described his idea of arts education as a "wildflower," meaning it flourishes best in its natural setting without much cultivation. This method stresses allowing children to play and use imagination, along with movement, singing and improvisation. The teacher creates structured activities that allow the students to grow in their own ways. Most notably, through, various resonance bar instruments (such as the instrument in the picture above) that can easily be taught to a class of students without previous musical experience.

4. Shin’ichi Suzuki's Suzuki Method

Shin'ichi (also spelled Shinichi) Suzuki (October 17, 1898 – January 26, 1998) was a Japanese violinist and founder of the Suzuki Method, also called “Talent Education” or the “Mother-Tongue Approach.” As a child, Suzuki worked in his father's violin factory, where he installed violin sound posts. However, he did not study the violin and began teaching himself at the age of 18 from recordings. At the age of 26, he convinced his father to let him travel to Germany to formally study violin with teacher and violinist Karl Klinger.

Suzuki believed that music should be taught through immersion and students should first approach music by learning by ear. He felt that auditions or aptitude tests should be avoided and that frequent performances are important for students to make performing enjoyable. He also encouraged children to play music using scaled-down, child-size string instruments and other instrumental modifications are also part of the method to make music playing more comfortable for very young students. Suzuki believed that music learning can start at infancy and is important to make good citizens.

Shin'ichi Suzuki
Shin'ichi Suzuki

Suzuki Music does not consider itself to be a "method" in the way of the others listed, however, Suzuki's method is a life philosophy, where in the right environment students will naturally flourish and grow. His philosophy emphasizes that music education should be part of the lives of people of all ages and abilities. His rote-first and tactile approach to music works well for adults as well, helping them to "get over" themselves and remember what it is to play and explore as a child does. Watch Suzuki and some of his young students play Bach beautifully in the video below.

"If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart." —Shin'ichi Suzuki

Learning Music The Perennial Way

With Perennial, the concept is a blend of all of these methods and their concepts. Music is taught with a intuitive and holistic approach that still stresses good technique and skill development. Musical concepts are related through the use of color, shape, and other visual imagery as well as to meet the individual learning needs of the individual. All people are contain the seeds of creative expression and must be must be encouraged to express their own creative voices, regardless of style. Each student is unique; their music lessons should be too. See Janae's Philosophy as well as the FAQ to learn more.


Music Education Resources

Dalcroze Society of America.

Dalcroze Solfège Resources.

Resources for teaching and learning Dalcroze solfège.

Examples of lessons for K-12 level music teaching

Garcia, Orlando Jacinto. Teaching Composition: Some General Thoughts.

One composer’s thoughts from Florida International University

Jaggard, Victoria. Making Music Boosts Brain's Language Skills.

Article about music, language skills, and the brain

Learning disabilities

The major music methods

National Association for Music Education.

Professional association for music educators.

Resources for private piano teachers

Resources for pianists and a large forum

Shamrock, Mary. Orff-Schulwerk: An Integrated Foundation.

Article about Orff's Schulwerk.

Suzuki Music: Learning with Love.

Wright, David. Zoltan Koldaly.


Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University
Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University

Janae J. Almen is a professional music instructor, composer, sound artist, and writer. She has a BA in Music/Education from Judson University and a MM in Computer Music/Composition from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. She is passionate about tea and creating our own daily rituals. Visit for more about music lessons and for more about a variety of wellness related topics including tea, sound healing, and more. Contact her via for questions about tea, ceremony, music composition, sound healing, writing, photography, or other relevant topics.



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