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Is it worth it to teach Kodaly to a church choir?


Here are the four replies received to my query:

significantly improved an existing church choir's
musicianship and sightreading skill by instituting
some kind of Kodaly-based method during the choir's
regular rehearsals. >>

Many thanks to those who responded.

Noel Piercy, 1st Pres, Caldwell, NJ

I constantly point out common lines using solfege
(always) and handsigns (ocassionally), of course
neither solfege or handsigns are Kodaly.

My people do read very well even though most of them
would tell you they can't read music. As for actual
Kodaly and the sequence developed by Szonyi, no I
don't use it with adults. I do, however, use the
philosophy of using what they know to teach something

In teaching a new piece I let them read something and
then point out trouble spots which usually fixes the
problem very quickly. Things like - "Tenors, remember
that fa-mi sound? Here it is again isn't it?" Another
common question I ask is "Can you sing 'do' for me?"

To actually take 10 minutes for a reading lesson
woudn't work with my people, but to constantly teach
reading as we work on music works incredibly well.

For two and a half years, I taught a church children's
choir, grades 1 and 2, using modified Kodaly methods
relating to a hymn tune every week (I knew spending
six months on la-so-mi Hungarian folk songs was not
going to go over here). I taught tunes by singing the
solfege syllables and using the hand signals, and so
the kids immediately internalized up/down pitch and
learned to watch the conductor. They also imitated the
hand signals.

I kept teaching every tune that way, and also
transferred to a music blackboard, writing in the
solfege names on the lines and spaces, and then
substituting noteheads, one syllable at a time,
starting with do and sol. They got very good at
intervals and at movable "do."

I learned which are the great teaching tunes: "Ye
watchers and ye holy ones" is the best! The kids
picked up the solfege very quickly, and loved it (here
in basketball country they called it "doing the
cheers" for each tune).

By the middle of the second semester each year, they
were "reading music" through games: one kid would
whisper a song name into my ear, then I'd sing "do"
and do the signals silently; they would hum along and
be thrilled when they cracked the code. By the end of
the year we also did a simple round ("Oh, how lovely
is the evening") in two parts, with me doing the
signals with both hands, and even got it up to three
parts by the end.

I did a lot of other multi-sensory things, like taping
a scale ladder on the tile floor, with a half step one
tile high and a whole step two tiles high. We sang
tunes to solfege syllables and hopped up and down the
ladder. The kids also loved the Kodaly singing game
where they form a chain, and coil it up into a snail
shape while singing "Round and round and round and
round", and then uncoil it again. ...

We also sat together in church every Sunday, vested,
and got to "lead the congregation" in the hymn we had
learned. Because this was a training choir, with no
performance responsibilites to speak of (they would
join the Junior Choir for two or three unison anthems
a year), I was free to spend my time with them any way
I liked, so long as it furthered the goal of
liturgical training for bringing them up to speed to
join the Junior Choir in third grade.

The kids had a wide range of abilities--every semester
I'd have one or two who never did learn to match
pitch, and one or two who could have gone straight
into a cathedral choir. The hardest part for these 6-8
year olds was reading the words! I have no formal
Kodaly training, but was impressed with what I knew
about the method, and read a standard book or two on
the subject.

I do an optional sight-singing class before some of my
community choir rehearsals. I use Nancy Telfer's
Kodaly-based sight-singing book 1. I think it has had
a positive impact on my choir's overall sight-singing,
although not everyone partakes. I don't have any data,
just my gut feeling.

I do not have a church choir but do use the Kodaly
method to teach my middle school choirs. I can state
without any hesitation that I have greatly improved my
students musicianship and sightreading skills.

I teach sixth, seventh, and eighth grade choir. In 6th
and 7th grade, I spend a lot of time teaching the
students to read. This includes daily warm-ups,
sight-reading exercises, and breaking down the octavo
music into small "bite size" segments. We read
everything, little to nothing is taught by rote. The
students are able to figure out the starting notes and
tonality without the aid of the piano. We base
everything off of "A" (440), I use a tuning fork",
which the students can sing "on command" without the

My students can sing all the pentatonic scales, the
major and minor scales, and the dorian, mixolydian,
and phrygian modes. By the time my students reach 8th
grade they are able to pick up an octavo and read
their part at sight with very little aid from me.

If I can accomplish this with 11, 12 and 13 year old
students, I can only imagine what can be done with
adults. All you need is determination and a desire for

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