Andrea Vos-Rochefort

Clarinetist and Teaching Artist

Kodaly Method Intonation Notes

Sometimes we find the things we are most fervently looking for when we are doing something else. This is how I feel about the Kodaly Method and how it suddenly clicked for me as a means of bettering the experience of clarinetists in the “terrifying” or at least confusing world of intonation. There are many things we do as clarinetists that seem peculiar to other instrumentalists but I think I will try to limit them, for the sake of this presentation, to those directly related to intonation. The most obvious is the physical necessity of our instrument which causes it to overblow at the twelfth instead of the octave. It has been my experience that most clarinet teachers take advantage this to do lip slurs at the twelfth where most other instrumentalists are performing lip slurs at the octave, where they overblow. I am not suggesting we do away with this as it is crucial for teaching students not to fear the “all-powerful break,” instead I am suggesting this course of intonation exercises as a supplement that remedies this omission without the encumbrance of fingering problems. Hearing clear octaves regularly can help with matching pitch, evening the sound across the registers, and adjusting the air

The second peculiarity of our instrument is that not only is it a transposing instrument but a family of many transposing instruments. Some instrumentalists develop relative pitch from playing their instrument and relating it to the written pitch in C, but this is more difficult for clarinetists tasked with playing the A clarinet, Eb clarinet, and the Bb bass clarinet down an octave. A sightsinging teacher of mine once shocked me by saying I was struggling because my ear was “too good” and I was hearing the inversions of the intervals. Personally, I thought and still think my ear could use some work and he was being kind but I think it is possible that some students are struggling trying to relate these other transposing instruments to the notes they think they should hear on the Bb clarinet with the same fingerings. These exercises create a sense of “home base” on each instrument in terms of feel and pitch and are built on the sequence of intervals Kodaly suggested to build relative pitch. I have also written these exercises to focus on what I like to call “pivot points,” where we lose the security of having many fingers down and tend to bite or squeeze to reassure ourselves that we are still in control of the clarinet. This squeezing can cause notes like the clarion G and above to be consistently sharp. And we need that note to be in tune almost more than any other! Mozart Clarinet Concerto, anyone? Finally, many well-meaning instructors prescribe embouchure-changes (tightening and loosening) to combat pitch discrepancies and this unfortunately results in less flexibility in my opinion. If you are looking for an alternative, I like to recommend that my students bring the pitch down by creating more space inside their mouth (ie thinking of a hot potato that you want to avoid touching) which combats tenseness in the lower jaw and not enough space between the upper and lower teeth, and bringing the pitch up by focusing the air (ie thinking of the Death Star and its lasers coming together to destroy a planet) which can also help raise the back of the tongue.

The Kodaly Method was a perfect fit for this endeavor not only because of the effective learning sequence for solfege and intervals but also because of the general approach. I have included the basic tenets of the Kodaly Method and like to add intonation to the end of these phrases for even greater cohesion in the “mission statement.” Humor me, please.

The Kodaly Method emphasizes that

1) Teachers should use the highest quality music (ESPECIALLY when working on intonation which can be boring)
2) Music (INTONATION) should be for everyone, not just the elite (those seeking a career in music) 3) Music experiences (in intonation) should begin in early childhood (or as soon as instrumental study begins, not years afterwards when someone calls us out on it)
4) Initial grounding in the folk style of the native country (Bartok was a major ally of his in this, more on this later, but YES)
5) An a cappella vocal foundation (Kodaly says “There is no good musician who does not hear what they see and see what they hear”). 6) Literacy as the primary means for musical independence (which also means recognizing intervals) 7) Use of relative solfege including hand signs (to reinforce a concept of the space between) 8) A Child-centered learning sequence (After all, children are sponges when it comes to learning, why shouldn’t we help ourselves at least as much as we help them using our knowledge of learning psychology).

Who was Zoltan Kodaly? Hungarian composer (1882-1967), author, ethnomusicologist, music educator (designed Hungarian public school model), PhD thesis, “The Stanzaic Structure of Hungarian Folk Song,” collaborated with Bela Bartok beginning in 1905 to study, record, and preserve Hungarian folk song, wrote The ABC of Singing (music or textbook of folk materials), Let Us Sing Correctly (Let Us Sing in Tune), Two-Part Singing Exercises, Collected Songs for Schools

Why folk music you ask? Folk music preceded written transmission of music and was therefore required to be memorable, it was also pentatonic as singing mostly seconds and thirds is more accessible for amateur singers and lent itself to a more social aspect.

“In consonance with emerging thought in educational psychology at the time, Kodaly realized that learning must begin with the familiar and gradually move toward the abstract. The musical materials most natural to children are their own songs and games, and these form the beginning of their formal musical experiences. From children’s songs, through sophisticated folk materials and the richest of composed music, the child grows in skill and understanding of music of all periods and styles.” (34)

Jean Sinor, “Kodaly’s Folk Tradition,” Music Educators Journal, Vol. 69, no. 4 (December, 1982, 33-34).

“Language teachers often say it takes at least seven repetititons and uses to remember a word and concept. Instrumentalists need the same reinforcement.”

Priscilla M. Howard, “Kodaly Strategies for Instrumental Teachers,” Music Educators Journal, Vol. 82, no. 5 (March, 1996, 27-33).

“Kodaly even considers that it is only through the use of the pentatonic scale that children can avoid the early pitfalls of intonation. This in my opinion is not entirely true, though it is true that music-reading taught by step-wise methods leads to similar intonational discrepancies as those that occur when trying to measure the distance of one foot by marking off twelve separate inches. It is also true that the use of the semitones mi-fa and ti-do too early does make difficulties. However as the pentatonic scale is not indigenous to England (although it is more characteristic of American and Scottish folk cultures), it would not be natural here to use this scale exclusively in the early stages, as it is alien to our musical heritage. It is of interest that Orff suggests the use of the pentatonic in early stages for the reasons (a) that it breaks away from the German tradition of the well-known tonic-dominant system and allows a fresher and freer approach in the early stages of improvisation, and (b) because the absence of semitones and dissonant intervals allows a number of players to improvise simultaneously without the arbitrary selection of sounds causing unpleasant combinations. The freedom of the pentatonic scale (with its absence of the tritone and in consequence its lack of tonic attraction), cannot be denied and is of tremendous value in the Kodaly method in easy interchange between major, minor, and modal scales.” (19)

Geoffrey Winters, Kodaly Concept of Music Education (New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1965), Review in Tempo, New Series, no. 92 (Spring 1970), 19-24.

The exercises included below follow the interval learning sequence prescribed by Kodaly and are separated by the octave with a sung iteration between each played iteration to internalize the pitch and form a simple canonic duet with oneself. It is easy to add a drone on scale degrees 1 or 5 within each pentatonic scale and eventually progress to true two-part exercises with a partner or mental two-part exercises that are sung and then played featuring differing material. It is also possible to add the hand signs or conducting at any level of these exercises while singing.

“The efficacy of hand signs has been disputed, but there are widely supported reasons for their use. First, because hand signs are created spatially, they differentiate pitches based on their location in the scale: the relative intervallic distances are mirrored with the use of hand signs. Second, hand signs allow for an additional learning modality. Third, hand signs help studentshear, see, and “touch” the pitches on a “toneladder” in a kinesthetic manner. Fourth, hand signs can improve the accuracy of typically problematic intervals.”

Houlahan, Micheal and Philip Tacka, Kodaly Today: A Cognitive Approach to Elemenary Music Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 118

“One traditional use of movement in the Kodaly classroom is conducting. When conducting, children secure a sense of pulse and gain an awareness of beat hierarchy.”

Bowyer, James, “More than Solfege and Hand Signs: Philosophy, Tools, and Lesson Planning in the Authentic Kodaly Classroom,” Music Educators Journal, Vol. 102, no. 2 (December 2015),

Kodaly Method ICA Handout

Kodaly Method ICA Slides

"that exploratory and inventive mode of perception"

Berio's Sequenza IXa:

Many of my friends and colleagues often ask me, in perplexed or bemused tones, "You really do enjoy playing contemporary music?" The answer is I do. And it has a lot to do with Berio's characterization of the necessity and value of counterpoint in his work:  "that exploratory and inventive mode of perception to which the mind resorts when dealing with several processes at once." It is about putting old wine in new skins. His perspective and his pieces have played a pivotal role in how I relate to new music and let's be honest, Berio is no longer AS contemporary as he was. This is natural. But I have also lived with his piece for a while now and I love it just as much as I did. I decided to compare it with another important work for clarinet in a recent paper, "Patterns of Change: Using Associative Formal Analysis and Rough-Contour Recognition to Assess Similarities in Construction of Reich’s New York Counterpoint and Berio’s Sequenza IXa for Solo Clarinet." I found it especially interesting how both composers found unique ways to address the challenge of writing solo works for instruments, especially monodic ones. Here is the abstract from my paper: 

Solo instrumental works have enjoyed a special prominence in the repertoire since the christening of J. S. Bach’s violin partitas and cello suites; however, monodic instruments such as the clarinet have faced greater difficulties establishing themselves in this genre. In 1980, Luciano Berio addressed this deficit with his long-standing project, the Sequenzas, solo compositions for flute, clarinet, trumpet, accordion, harp, voice, piano, trombone, viola, oboe, and violin. Berio implied that the “Sequenzas for solo instruments are intended to set out and melodically develop an essentially harmonic discourse and to suggest, particularly in the case of the monodic instruments, a polyphonic mode of listening.”1 It would seem that Steve Reich followed in his teacher’s footsteps with Vermont Counterpoint, Electric Counterpoint, and New York Counterpoint, a work for eleven clarinets and bass clarinet or amplified clarinet and tape. It is possible to find meaningful connections between Berio and Reich’s methods of composition using specific or rough contour analysis and examining all parameters of composition (pitch class sets, patterns, dynamics, and rhythms).

In my paper, I go on to discuss how Berio described his own works as having “various unifying elements, some planned, others not. The most obvious and external one is virtuosity...a virtuoso these days has to be a musician capable of moving within a broad historical perspective and of resolving the tension between the creativity of yesterday and today. My own Sequenzas are always written with this sort of interpreter in mind, whose virtuosity is above all, a virtuosity of knowledge.” Each Sequenza features a contrapuntal relation between one or more harmonic fields, elevating melodies to the level of harmonic discourse. Reich's answer to the creativity of yesterday and today is housed in a more immediate sense as he creates polyphony using phasing and pre-recorded elements. Osmond-Smith suggests that "polyphony should be understood in a metaphorical sense, as the exposition and superposition of differing modes of action and instrumental characteristics" and I argue this applies to both instances. The transformational processes Reich applies to his own music extend beyond the scope of infinite canon or simple phasing. 

But how do we explain these processes to the average concert-goer? I stumbled upon a solution inspired by a color-coded wine menu at a restaurant named Abigail Street. As artists, we can help audience members enter "that exploratory and inventive mode of perception" if we give them a point of entry.

 Just last week, I put on a workshop with concert:nova discussing "that exploratory and inventive mode of perception" specifically through the lens of synesthesia. People often feel estranged from a work when they cannot forge connections or find firm relatable ground. We challenged new listeners to approach the Sequenzas of Berio and to think of them in terms of color or timbre. We paired each Sequenza with a wine and discussed the role of color on a sommelier's educated palate and how it can relate to tone color or timbre in musical spheres. Berio's Sequenzas are an excellent way for new listeners to experiment with listening as they showcase individual instruments and explore every nook and cranny of their sound using traditional and extended techniques. We also discussed saturation in color and how Berio uses levels of maximum, medium, and minimum tension to propel his work. For example, "the level of maximum tension... within the temporal dimension is produced by moments of maximum speed in articulation and moments of maximum duration of sounds, the medium level is always established by a neutral distribution of fairly long notes and fairly rapid articulations, and the minimum level entails silence, or a tendency to silence." By the end of the evening, twenty eight out of thirty patrons had listened to Luciano Berio's music for the first time and the enthusiasm was contagious. Mission accomplished. 

If you are curious, find a full draft of my paper at <>

Keep the channel open.

People often comment about tenacity, especially in the last two weeks as we watch the Olympics. In performance disciplines where so much hangs in the balance and four years of work can seem to disappear in mere seconds, it is easy to get discouraged. Our identity and self-worth often become intertwined with our performance and how it is received. Furthermore, artists always seek to present that most precious kernel of themselves, their personal interpretation, to be judged by others. How do you keep going? How do you put in the work every day? How do you take risks against incredible odds? How do you offer up your soul or your hopes and dreams again and again regardless of how they are received? My favorite source of inspiration comes from Martha Graham, an incredible dancer and choreographer. She said:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open." 

Thank you Martha :)


Be Your Best Possible Coach

In the performance world, we typically focus on performance....but there is another side to the process. While it may seem that everyone is running around pursuing names: names of schools, names of teachers, names of experiences to put on their resume, what truly counts is internal growth. This means finding the right teachers who teach you to ask the right questions and find plausible answers, who give you the tools to constantly ask for more, and who instill in you that sense of quiet dissatisfaction that every artist lives with. The teachers that teach you how to teach yourself. This internal process is the "finished" product of the schools, the teachers, and the experiences and it is so important to respect this. Yes, jobs are nice and they do pay the rent, but it is this internal process that will assure the trajectory of your career, keep you motivated, open you to wonder and accomplishment, and comfort you when you feel like you know nothing. 

But you must be your best possible coach. You must constantly search for answers and suggestions on the back side of every criticism and you must build yourself up. Set impossible goals, yes, but also set five possible goals for an "impossible" one that will each get you one step closer. Work hard and dream wildly but eliminate unhelpful words from your vocabulary. In my personal case, those words are "should have", "should be", "would have", and "would be." Accept that trajectories of personally designed aircrafts are not necessarily straight up. Accept your personal trajectory and as a good pilot, constantly know where you want to go and how you can best achieve that. If you are wasting time thinking about where you should be, you are not spending enough time thinking about where you are and where you are going. 

As your own coach/pilot, organization and motivation are imperative and it is equally important to get to know yourself and better understand how to motivate yourself. The following is taken from a doctoral paper I wrote titled, "The Psychology of Performance and its Implications for Deliberate Practice."

"Motivation, much like a spindly plant directing shoots towards the sun, is comprised of direction of effort and intensity of effort, and in the context of sport is often interpreted as being trait, situation, or interaction centered. A more generalized approach is found in Edward Deci and Michael Ryan’s theory of self-determination which proposes three general sources of motivation: the need to feel competent and create a sense of identity, to be autonomous, and to create a sense of belonging or social connectedness. These categories also apply to achievement motivation as defined by Murray, “a person’s efforts to master a task, achieve excellence, overcome obstacles, perform better than others, and take pride in exercising talent.”

In individual learning situations, it is essential to understand how motivation functions and specifically how personality traits can be manipulated to exponentially increase your learning rate. It is important to understand intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and to correctly apply the most effective tactic based on the personality, situation, and interaction involved. Amotivation or a lack of self-determination can signify that an individual feels incompetent and is frustrated by a lack of control. Achievement motivation develops from the autonomous stage where the individual focuses on mastery of their environment, passes through a social comparison stage inviting competition with others, and ends in the integrated stage focusing on self-improvement and competition but seeking autonomy and self-determination. If the individual is unable to establish any control of their situation or progress, it is necessary to review goal-setting in order to establish an environment in which they might succeed. 

    A sense of progress must always remain central to the learning environment and can be established through the manipulation of and adherence to clearly stated and carefully crafted goal-setting. Goals create a sense of direction providing motivation and goal-setting is “an extremely powerful technique for enhancing performance, but it must be implemented correctly” Goal setting principles set forth by researchers such as David Gould are intended to guide individual practice as goals are primarily personal and also situational. That said, it is important to set specific goals that are quantifiable and measurable to create a sense of achievement, to set moderately difficult but realistic goals in order to build self-confidence and avoid frustration, to set long-term and short-term goals that are preferably linked, to set performance and process goals to flesh out and better achieve outcome goals, to set both practice and competition goals and thereby recognize the difference, to record goals for accountability, to develop goal achievement strategies while considering personality and motivation as factors, to foster and support a goal commitment, and finally, to provide evaluation and feedback on the goal process. In designing goals, it is helpful to use the SMARTS acronym outlined by Smith in his research: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, timely, and self-determined. It is important, especially for musicians and other artists, to continue to use goal-setting in an autonomous style as the purpose of performance mentorship is for the student to become self-sufficient and continue to grow and progress without a teacher. It can be helpful to make a commitment to guiding one’s own progress as a teacher would guide a student— carefully plotting realistic goals and stressing achievement in a stair step style."

So, what are your goals? How have you been teaching yourself lately?