Music tuition at the Academy will follow a method known as ‘Colourstrings’, a Finnish approach to teaching music that has evolved from the teachings of Zoltán Kodály. The “Kindergarten” classes for nursery and reception children will involve singing, clapping, moving, dancing, listening and the use of rhythm instruments. These will slowly evolve into the “Musicianship” classes for year 1 and year 2 children, in which pupils will learn to sight sing along with the basics of reading and writing stick notation. From year 2, children will also learn violin or cello as part of the curriculum.
Colourstrings is based on the same principles as all the learning at the Academy. It is based on the understanding that every child is musical, and will learn to sing (and eventually play) in tune, in the same way in which every child is able to learn to walk, read and write, provided it is taught in an appropriate child-centered way. It provides children with a strong musical sense whilst they are unaware that they are learning. Musicianship grows from within, it is not imposed on them.
Similar to the way in which we have a specialist sports teacher and French, the music teaching will be led by a team of specialist music teachers. All of the teaching will take place during the school day and is paid for by the Academy as it forms an integrated part of the school curriculum.
From year 2, the instruments are taught in groups of 3 children. If parents of year 2 children wish for their children to have individual instrument lessons, these can be arranged before 9am or after 3.30pm with the Colourstrings teacher, incurring a private tuition cost.
What is Colourstrings?
Colourstrings was developed in the 1970s where it has been a core part of the state music education for more than thirty years. Central to the approach is the role of play and imagination – often the value of play can be overlooked in the rush to get on with the ‘real’ lesson.
The resources used are colourful, stimulating and entice children to embark on musical adventures that will enable each of them to fulfil their musical potential through fun and creativity, without pressure.
Why did the Academy chose Colourstrings?
Colourstrings is child-centred and integrates seamlessly with the Academy’s own approach of child-led, purposeful education. The intuitive and enjoyable, yet high-quality teaching method ultimately leads to an intrinsic understanding and love of music. Colourstrings has an impressive track record of children continuing to learn their instrument, furthering the Academy’s vision to instill a lifetime love of learning in every child.
What happens in nursery and reception “Kindergarten” classes (Early Years Foundation Stage)?
During the Early Years Foundations Stage (nursery and reception classes at the Academy), the classes involve most of the senses through singing, listening, clapping, moving, playing, dancing and the use of rhythm instruments. The children are introduced to a carefully composed range of songs that explore the different musical concepts – rhythm, pitch, melody, dynamics, tempo, character, form and style – in an enjoyable and stimulating but structured way. These songs can easily be integrated into the school day and enrich the learning in other subject areas, i.e. in PE, ‘singing’ the register, assembly, lunch time and many more.
What happens in year 1 and year 2 “Musicianship” classes (Key stage 1) and in the instrumental lessons (from year 2)?
In Key Stage 1 (year 1 and year 2), children are learning to sight sing, along with the basics of reading and writing stick notation in the Musicianship classes. The use of “solfa” (do re mi fa so la ti) accompanies the singing: hand signs associated with pitches that help to pitch notes. Pentatonic instruments such as the Kantele and the Choroi flute will broaden the children’s experience and build on the previous learning of the recorder.
In year 2, they will also choose an instrument to learn.
Why is the instrument introduced in year 2?
Colourstrings is based on the principle that music learning should start in early childhood, but unlike other methods such as Suzuki, it starts with the voice as the first instrument or medium. According to Colourstrings, singing comes before the instrument: sing it, hear it in your head, then pitch the song on an instrument.
Why violin and cello?
The violin and the cello are two ‘original’ Colourstrings instruments with which the teaching method started. Whilst other instruments have been incorporated since, these instruments provide the broadest and most useful sets of skills for later instrument choices, i.e. hand co-ordination and motor skills, creating sound with hands as well as a bow, and, probably most importantly, intonation.
The use of “solfa” in Kindergarten and Musicianship (see question 4) enables the development of good intonation in every child. The application of this skill on an instrument such as the violin or the cello will train the child’s inner ear, and refine their senses at a very high level. The benefits of such skills go far beyond music education, and the Academy has therefore included the learning of one of these instruments into the curriculum learning. Other popular instruments such as the guitar or the piano do not offer the same degree of ear development as they don’t require the pitching of every note. However the skills learned on the violin or the cello will be of great benefit for the learning of another instrument.
However if a child is already learning, or wants to start learning, another instruments outside of the school, the Colourstrings method and the learning of the violin or the cello will not be an impediment. Similar to P.E., where a set of skills learned in one sport (such as football) will only ever help the development of skills in another sport (such as tennis), music will also only ever generate more music.