The Colourstrings Story

To teach a child an instrument without first giving him preparatory training and without developing singing, reading and dictation to the highest level along with the playing is to build upon sand. – Zóltan Kodály

Even though Colourstrings was officially developed by Géza Szilvay in Finland in the 1970s, the roots of this approach goes back a little further in time and a little further south.

In 1925 the Hungarian composer, Zóltan Kodály, overheard a group of students singing songs that they had learned at school.  Completely appalled by the standard of the children’s singing, he set out to improve the music education in Hungary.  Over time, together with colleagues and students, he came up with a set of principles that led to the Kodály approach.  What made this approach so different was the fact that it followed the developmental stages of the child, by introducing skills according to the capabilities of the child.  New concepts are introduced beginning with what is easiest and then gradually progresses to the more difficult.  Musical concepts are also first introduced as experiences such as listening, singing or movement and only later, when the child has become familiar with the concept, is notation introduced.  This is very much in contrast with the traditional idea of learning music, which is usually when starting an instrument, which then involves learning the technique of the instrument, notation and important musical concepts all at once – all of which can be very overwhelming and could account for the fact that so many children give up on their music lessons early on.  Central to the approach is singing and the development of the inner-ear, which is the ability to hear the music in your head when reading it from the score, without having played it first.

Colourstrings evolved from the teachings of Kodály, with the addition of specially chosen repertoire, found in the Singing Rascal books.  These songs are mostly folksongs and carefully chosen to give children all the experiences they will need later to read notation as well as develop their inner-hearing for when they start to learn an instrument.  When children start their instrumental lessons, many of these songs reappear in the tutor books which make the songs they learn to play more familiar as well as form a link between the initial Kindergarten classes and the instrumental lessons.  Typically children who started Colourstrings classes early on, will be ready to learn an instrument at the age of 5 or 6, by which time they would already be able to read stick notation and to sight-sing.  Through the Colourstrings approach all children can learn a music instrument because the learning process is broken up in smaller and more manageable building blocks that follows the child’s natural development.

Colourstrings Kindergarten is not a franchise and is very different from the many music education franchises or programs available for young children.  Whereas many (but fortunately not all) of the music franchises only requires the facilitator to have a good singing voice along with an enthusiastic personality, all Associate Colourstrings teachers have to be musicians themselves, with a good understanding of music theory, in addition to completing their Colourstrings training.  It is an educational philosophy which believes that only the best teaching is good enough for our children.

Let us take our children seriously!  Everything else follows from this…only the best is good enough for a child. – Zóltan Kodály.