Musical Pictures: inspiring creativity from the first Kodály piano lesson

Musical Pictures - Creativity in Kodály piano lessons

Musical Pictures is a great improvisation activity that can be done in the first few Kodály piano lessons.  It gives the child the opportunity to explore the whole piano in an expressive and playful way.

In the previous lesson, they’ll have been asked to draw four pictures for their homework.  Whether they bring in a wonderfully drawn, coloured in picture or all you can see is the pencil marks that you made in last lesson as prompts of what to draw, they can improvise on the piano and make sounds to reflect one of the four pictures.  The game is that you will guess which picture they are playing.  

Why is it a great game?

There’s no pressure for homework.  A 5 year old is not going to be in control of their own piano practise schedule so we obviously aren’t going to make the feel bad if they haven’t drawn anything!  They can still do the activity even the only thing on the page is your pencil marks from the last lesson indicating what to draw.  They can just enjoy making sounds on the piano to reflect their picture.

It’s a fun! Like most Kodály activities, children LOVE this activity.  They have the freedom to draw their favourite things and it is very exciting that they get to make sounds for their pictures too!

Communication.  It requires interaction with you in order to help you guess the answer.  It’s a great way to introduce communicating a particular image with music at the piano.

They can use the whole piano.  Earlier in the lesson they’ll have explored how many black and white keys the piano has, so it makes perfect sense for them to use those keys to make some music.  There’s no being stuck on middle C here!

We’re on the same team.  Hopefully, the child wants you to get the answer right so will do their best to play the right kind of music.  It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong either!  They’ll find that very funny!

It works great in shared lessons too.  Their lesson partner can join in with guessing which picture they are playing.


Tips For Getting the Most Out of This Game

Feeling inspired to try this one out?  Here are some tips for making this game work:

Plan what four pictures they will draw in the lesson before.  This activity won’t be as successful or allow as much creativity if they draw pictures that are too similar.  For example, a lorry, a car, a bus and a motorbike are likely to sound quite similar.  The pictures don’t need to be limited to objects, it could also be an action like “rolling down a hill”, or even an emoji (“angry face”). 

Think out loud when you’re guessing the activity.  If you’re not sure what the answer is, you could talk through it and they might inadvertently give you clues!  If you think it’s between two pictures you can say why you think it could be either of those two.  As well as helping you to find the right answer, you’re connecting with their interpretation and describing how the sounds represents the picture.  Which will broaden their experience and help build their confidence for interpreting music in the future.  It also helps keep momentum and engagement in the lesson. 

Swap roles.  It’s very hard to make an idea come from nothing.  We’re often inspired by things around us, so our students need inspiration too!  Afterall, this activity is probably nothing like anything they have done before and a person who is new to them is asking them to make the big wooden box of strings and hammers that sounds like a piano (funnily enough!) sound like a buzzing bee.  Model what you would like them to do by drawing your own pictures and ask them to guess the sounds you make at the piano.  Perhaps you could take it in turns once they feel more confident. 

Want More Exciting Kodály inspired Ideas?

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