My Solfa Piano Book – Part 1

Review by Louise Harlow


This introduction to piano begins entirely on the black keys. It is aimed a young beginners using simple songs, musical activities and playing them on the piano. The pupil learns about pulse, rhythm, pitch and reading simple rhythms.

Daily Exercises/Technique

There are several sections throughout the book where the pupil learns to identify the black key groups and plays various exercises and songs using the middle 3 fingers. The pupil learns to play with each hand separately and works up to using both hands alternately. The end of the book introduces left hand accompaniment which can be played with two pupils or pupil and teacher.

Songs and Rhymes

The pupil learns a range of songs and rhymes which are used for used for learning to sing and learning rhythm in terms of clapping the pattern of the words. Some are very short, some are longer. These are learned away from the piano but once the pupil is confident to sing a song, they can then learn where to play it on the piano. The book includes a keyboard layout and indicates the keys to be used – the pupil can experiment playing in different parts of the keyboard.


After learning a number of songs, about 12, solfa is introduced with two pitches – initially so and la; secondly so and mi. Some songs in this section are familiar from earlier in the book, some new ones are introduced. Hand signs are introduced at this point and the piano keyboard layout also indicates which black keys are called so and la for the purpose of playing the songs. The same principle applies for so and mi songs.


Once the pupil has a bank of familiar songs, the book turns to understanding a steady beat and distinguishing pulse and rhythm. Hearbeat images are used to show the pulse and additional images show the rhythm where a beat has more than one word or syllable.

At this point, rhythm names ta and te-te are also introduced along with off stave notation – crotchets and quaver pairs. There are also writing activities in the book to draw heartbeats over the words for a familiar song. Later a similar activity is given to write the stick notation.


The book progresses logically along similar lines to the first half introducing some new elements along the way. By the end of the book, the pupil will have met the concepts of pulse, rhythm (including ta, te-te, ta-a names), pitch. They will have learned to sing la, so, mi, re, do. Additionally, the crotchet rest, minim, bar lines, simple 2/4 time signature (with a heartbeat at the bottom), a brief introduction to triple time at the very end.

My View

Initially, I thought the intial focus on rhythm rather than pulse was rather back to front, as I would normally teach keeping a steady beat before introducing rhythm. However, I’ve found that this works well and the visual images of heartbeats, syllables and notation makes it very clear.

I do think that the book moves quite quickly introducing solfa, pulse, rhythms, then rhythm names (ta ti-ti) and notation. For pupils who have little or no prior experience of music or Kodály based classes additional songs and activities may be required to consolidate the elements.

I think the activities work well between teacher and pupil but I also think they would work well with two pupils – perhaps overlapping lessons with two similar aged pupils so they can do some activities with one song together. It would be easy to produce additional materials such as worksheets for drawing heartbeats over the words or writing stick notation.

Music, A Universal Language

Music a Universal Language (International Kodály Society) £29.50 Add to basket

The International Kodály Society Songbook “Music, a Universal Language” is the fist volume of a series in which folksongs of different countries are connected to an original setting for 2- or 3-part children’s or youth choir done by a resident composer of the country involved.

The intention of the publication is not only to provide music teachers with excellent materials from various cultures but also, and not for the least, to raise interest of composers worldwide to write again more for children and youngsters, in the same sense as Zoltán Kodály did in Hungary.

The book contains the score of the particular folksong and of the setting for choir as well as information about the various songs. There are also biographical notes about the composers.

Furthermore there are two CDs attached to the book. These CDs have three items for each song: (i) the “spoken text”, especially for the sake of pronunciation, (ii) the original folksong, sung by one or a few, to provide a stylistic impression of the way it is sung in the country involved, and (iii) a recording of the choral setting.

The book contains a treasure of beautiful songs and settings, performed on the CDs by musicians from the various countries and is in fact a must for the library of every school and music education program.

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My Solfa Recorder Book

My Solfa Recorder Book part 1 (Celia Waterhouse) £10.00 Add to basket

A recorder tutor book for beginners incorporating musicianship training with an aural-vocal approach.
Celia Waterhouse, pub 2008 Waterhouse Music Publications

Chris Orton
The principles of Zoltán Kodály regarding the teaching of music to children have been a core basis upon which I have built my teaching practice, along with Dalcrozian concepts of movement and feeling gesture, pulse and rhythm. I have found that these ideas have enhanced greatly my teaching within a whole class instrumental lesson, and so many of the problems that teachers of all instruments complain of, particularly within aural examinations, are much less apparent within children who have experienced a thorough grounding in Kodaly and Dalcroze, as part of their musical education. Here, as far as I am aware for the first time, we have a recorder tutor/workbook designed for small group lessons which can also be used as a source for whole class teaching, which is built upon Kodaly principles. (String teachers will know of Sheila Nelson’s ‘Essential Strings’ series, which also uses Kodaly).
The book has been designed to be used with year 2/3 children who have no previous experience of Kodaly, but also is suitable for older children and those who do have familiarity with the process. The Kodaly principles are not primarily an instrumental method, but it is highly effective when used to underpin instrumental lessons. The book therefore follows the same principle of introducing the tone set So-Mi, and uses the notes C and A on the descant recorder. Having tried this idea in my own teaching, I have found that children have found it no harder to start with these notes than, say, B, and almost immediately introduces them to melody, and relating vocal work to instrumental pitch. The book is colourful and is designed to be written on and in, with questions and activities which give variety to the more traditional note reading and playing. The use of tuned and un-tuned percussion is also integrated into the book, which gives the opportunity for differentiation and for inclusion for children in the class for whom the recorder is not a physical practicality. For me, this is one of the first books I have found that educates the whole musician, using the recorder, and is in my mind a valuable resource for any specialist or non-specialist teacher of recorder.

Chris Orton
Chris Orton is developing an international career as one of the leading performers and teachers of the recorder. Chris has developed a reputation as an inspiring teacher and workshop leader. He teaches recorder and chamber music at Chethams School of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire and for Manchester Music Service. For more information visit

My Solfa Recorder Book part 1 (Celia Waterhouse) £10.00 Add to basket

Go for Bronze

Lyn Thomson
When I started my after school Kodály classes several years ago, I was looking for material that was suitable for older children who still needed to start from the beginning with s m and ta ti ti, but who would probably be reluctant to sing Here Sits a Mousie and Snail Snail.
I found the answer in “Go For Bronze” by Christopher Bell, Artistic Director of the National Youth Choir of Scotland and Lucinda Geoghegan, familiar to anyone who has attended a BKA Summer School in recent years or one of her early years weekends.
“Go For Bronze” is suitable for children of eight and over. There is a Teacher Book and two Pupil Books. Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t need the Teacher Book! The Teacher Book is absolutely essential, as it provides instructions for all the games, explanations of how to introduce concepts and – most importantly – supplementary activities that expand on each topic.
It is suggested that some time is given before starting Book 1 in preparing the students unconsciously for each concept. Personally I don’t start the book until the children can keep a steady beat, understand the difference between beat and rhythm and can sing s m ; l s m and m r d songs in tune.
Although each double page is set out as a single lesson, the intention is not to just plough through each topic week after week for, as stated in the Teacher’s Book: “The most important thing to remember is that the pupils should fully understand one concept before moving onto the next.”
I took two years to complete Book 1, and used material from other publications such as “Singing Games and Rhymes for Middle Years” (also by Lucinda) and “Growing With Music” Key Stage One by Michael Stocks and Andrew Maddocks, for additional material that reinforced each concept. I was quite nervous moving on to Book 2 with the introduction to la pentatonic, but my students ‘got it’ straight away, which proved to me that Book 1 had really worked!
I did wonder about the decision to work solely in the pentatonic in both “Go For Bronze” Books 1 and 2 but it was definitely the right decision. Quite complex rhythmic skills are developed in Book 2 as well as introducing la pentatonic, so it would definitely be too much to include the diatonic scale as well.
(“Go For Silver” is now also available and incorporates the diatonic scale, 6/8 time, using absolute notes etc. It looks very exciting but we haven’t got that far yet!)
The strength of “Go For Bronze” lies in the motivational games that reinforce each concept, and which incorporate coordination activities that move from the very simple to the more challenging. My students absolutely love them and don’t realise how much they are learning as they play.
There are also many suggested activities for developing inner hearing and the sight singing exercises are excellent. Some two part exercises are given in Book 1 and this is expanded upon in Book 2.
I couldn’t recommend “Go For Bronze” more highly. My students are totally motivated, love their workbooks, regularly ask to play various games and their musicianship is amazing! For me as a teacher I am just over the moon to have such high quality material at hand.

150 Rounds for Singing and Teaching

Edward Bolkovac and Judith Johnson, published by Boosey and Hawkes (1996)

Celia Waterhouse
If you are on the lookout for new material, I recommend “150 Rounds for Singing and Teaching” by Edward Bolkovac and Judith Johnson, published by Boosey and Hawkes (1996). Conveniently presented in alphabetical order, this varied collection of rounds has been edited with primary ages in mind but contains much material suitable for work with lower secondary pupils. From the familiar to the completely new, from Palestrina to “My Paddle’s Keen and Bright”, from traditional English to ethnic, from catch to carol, there is material here for developing and extending all aspects of musicianship training, including sight reading and harmonic development. Rounds range from two to six parts. Each is presented initially in “wrap-around format” (not aligned) to facilitate aural development, and a limited selection is later presented also in choral score format to facilitate harmonic analysis or conducting training. The clear, bold type is pleasing to the eye, which is useful for pupils struggling with sight reading. There is even a section of 20 additional rounds without text, excellent for solfa study.
The book is well indexed to assist the busy teacher in the search for suitable material to deliver the National Curriculum. There is a helpful General Categories index, a Number of Parts index, an index of metre (with and without anacrusis), and an index of rhythmic/melodic elements and other features. There is a pronunciation guide to foreign texts, and a resources list.

Music Should Belong to Everyone

Music should belong to everyone 120 Kodály Quotes (Herbóly Kocsár)
120 quotes from the writings and speeches of Zoltán Kodály
Compiled by Ildikó Herboly Kocsár (with new translations by Marta Vandulek)
Published in December 2002 by the International Kodály Society to mark the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of the birth of the birth of Kodály.

Purchase here


Celia Waterhouse (January 2003)
The International Kodály Society has fulfilled a long-overdue need in publishing this small and affordable book of Kodály quotations, some never previously translated into English. It is an essential for Kodály followers, rendering a selection of the master’s words accessible to an audience far greater than has hitherto been possible. None the less Ildikó Herboly stresses at the outset that this cannot substitute for reading the originals.
The quotations fall broadly under some dozen or so main topics listed in the Foreword, such as the primary importance of singing, the role of the teacher, and the use of relative solmisation as the most effective tool.
There are the familiar quotes we know from the prefaces to the 333 Reading Exercises and other graded exercises: “…clumsiness in rhythm and general uncertainty are the chief causes of poor reading. Thus rhythm should always be our first consideration” (in teaching reading) (48); “It is important to practise two-part singing from the very beginning” (57). There are the cornerstones of Kodály wisdom we have integrated into our thinking: …”a good folk song is a perfect masterpiece in itself” (23); “Singing, untrammelled by an instrument, is the profound schooling of musical abilities” (53); “By the time the child can find his way about the (pentatonic) system unerringly, the introduction of semitones does not present any difficulty” (27). There are the gems it would serve us well to have always at our fingertips: “The smaller the child, the more easily it learns, the less it forgets” (8); “It is no use organising youth concerts if the young people are not taught to listen.” (64); “Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime” (15).
The selections give an enlightening insight into Kodály’s uncompromising views on music and music education. It is easy to remember the “essential truth” of only those bits of Kodály philosophy we can take on board without personal challenge, and forget the bits we don’t feel comfortable with. But the book presents them all. Kodály’s views on programme music, recorded music, musicology, music critics, and what constitutes good and bad music, can seem starkly shocking to our new-century politically correct sensibilities, or even out of touch with the real world. But perhaps these very quotes offer us even more opportunity to re-evaluate our own views and practice.
I must confess to having initially been a little disappointed at the occasionally stilted English language and expression. I had to delve deep to discover that some of the quotes were Kodály’s own speeches originally delivered in English, and some were translated from his writings as far back as 1966. It would help the reader make allowances for the language if this were more prominently explained. Notwithstanding, this is a reference book I would strongly recommend to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Kodály’s essential messages, which are still highly relevant to music teachers today.

Purchase here

How Can I Keep From Singing?

How can I keep from Singing! (Compiled by the BKA) £17.50 Add to basket
BKA Songbook (latest edition) including double CD

What users have said about this book…

‘The editors have deliberately avoided the material that crops up in every collection and have tried to find songs to appeal to the 21st century child’. (KH, London)
‘Having a resource book to hand with so many lovely songs in it is so helpful. It is full of wonderful new material and useful tips on teaching.’ (VM, Enfield)
‘A real inspiration and valuable resource! I’ll be able to put many ideas into action in string teaching and also KS3 classroom teaching.’ (CD, Cambridge)
‘We used this book frequently while in college, and all the teachers and the children loved it!’ (Trainee teacher RP, Dublin)

The BKA Songbook, ‘How Can I Keep From Singing!’ first appeared as a BKA Millennium Project in 2000, and was welcomed as a great new resource for teaching music through singing at KS2 and 3 (ages 8 – 13). This collection of around 100 songs and musical activities from around the world offers a wealth of teaching repertoire and ideas in a practical, accessible and stimulating format, and the early chapters contain much material useful at KS1. The book can be used to plan a systematic Kodály music programme, or to help teachers choose and use appropriate teaching repertoire, both for class musicianship training, instrumental work and choral singing.
The songbook soon became a ‘best seller’, and the 2nd edition appeared in April 2003, incorporating a new National Curriculum Appendix designed to help teachers choose songs to fulfil specific music teaching requirements at KS1, 2 and 3. The NC Appendix was updated for the latest 2nd edition reprint (August 2007).
The CD project was initiated in 2003 to complement the songbook. BKA members were invited to participate individually or with their choirs in making recordings for the project, and a number of members responded. The two CDs therefore include many different choirs and voices, giving examples of class singing, vocal chamber music and solo singing. They went into production in August 2007, ready to go out with the latest version of the book.
The CDs are intended as a companion to the songbook, the tracks following the order of songs in the book. (They do not stand alone as a teaching resource without the book.)

by Vivienne Manders
I have my copy of “How Can I Keep From Singing!” and am absolutely delighted with it. I have been teaching Kodály musicianship (I hope that is what I have been doing!) for about ten years now, spending a long time searching for new songs etc and gleaning plenty of new ideas from the Summer Schools. All this has been very useful, but having a resource book to hand with so many lovely songs in it is so helpful.
It is full of wonderful new material and useful tips on teaching – I can still use new ideas! I have already taught one of the songs and can’t wait to do more. The book is really usefully laid out so that songs can easily be found for teaching particular rhythms, solfa etc. It’s a great book and much needed.

by Kathy Hulme
How can I keep from screaming on a Friday afternoon faced with thirty proto adolescent London schoolchildren? Well for a non-threatening start to the term why not try “Everywhere we go” beloved of rugby teams and marines throughout the English speaking world. Or leave the singing out for a moment and hit them with a fiendish rhythm canon. Both ideas gleaned from the wonderful “How can I keep from singing.” This book is a rare commodity – a genuinely original collection of songs. The collectors have deliberately avoided the material that crops up in every collection and have tried to find songs to appeal to 21st century school child. I’m still not certain that my students will like every song, I can’t ever imagine any of them singing “Sing together merrily”, but that’s probably because of my taste as much as theirs. But there are plenty of songs that are easy to learn and use, the action songs Hil Lo Chickalo, Kapa, Dipidu, and Rhythm Machine, for example. Other songs are more challenging, Ba-nu-wa looks fantastic, but I don’t know if my choir is quite ready for nine parts. And there are many beautiful looking folk songs and songs in the minor key which will have to wait for the right class and the right occasion. I was particularly interested to see Si Si Si and Hey Dum Bar de Ay in the collection because I encountered these pieces of music in my student days when I fell in love with music through such works as Misa Luba, which features Si Si Si and the group Codona who do a version of Hey Dum Bar de Ay. This is a rich and stimulating collection that I will come back to again and again. I love the presentation of the songs. Each one has a brief contextual description, stick and staff notation, musical analysis and concise and useful teaching ideas. I’ve already spent many a while scouring the handy index at the back for the right song to teach an element. It’s a sturdy book, coping well with life in my cycle panniers and is already plastered with post it notes (my patent catalogue and retrieval system). And the illustrations are delightful.

Here are the thoughts of BKA members on the practical application of How Can I Keep From Singing!

How can I keep from Singing! (Compiled by the BKA) £17.50 Add to basket
BKA Songbook (latest edition) including double CD