What is Orff Schulwerk??
Carl Orff (1895-1982) is a German composer known
particularly for his operas and dramatic works. He and
his colleague, Gunild Keetman, developed an approach to music
education which has inspired a pedagogy taught around the globe.
The Orff approach to Music Education is experiential and process
oriented. It is for all children, not just the most musically or
intellectually gifted and encompasses aural, visual and kinesthetic
Orff's philosophy is a structured, sequential development of
knowledge and skills which encourages joyful participation,
creativity, and personal musical growth from all participants. His
approach taps the very essence of our beings. It is based on things
children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat
on anything near at hand. These instincts are directed into learning
music by hearing and making music first, then reading and writing it
later. This is the same way we all learned our language. Through the
Schulwerk, all children are successful.
The Orff philosophy combines the elements of speech, rhythm,
movement, dance, and song. At the heart of all this is improvisation -
the instinct children have to create their own melodies and to explore
The purpose is to provide a means for awakening the potential in
every child for being “musical” – able to understand and use music
and movement as forms of expression. The further intent is to
develop a foundation for lifelong enjoyment of music and
movement/dance, and for some, the incentive for specialized
The pedagogical materials used in the Orff classroom include poems,
rhymes, games, songs, dances, and instrumental pieces. Those
drawn from the cultural heritage of the participants are considered
fundamental. Rhythmic ideas are developed and extended through
liberal use of “body percussion” – clapping and finger snapping, for
example, and small percussion instruments – e.g., wood block,
triangle, tambourine, and various types of drum. Specially designed
melodic percussion called Orff instruments include xylophones,
metallophones, and glockenspiels that, with minimal instruction, offer
a sound texture of high quality and charm. The experience of playing
together as an ensemble fosters sensitive listening and the enjoyment
and satisfaction of group music making in a supportive atmosphere.
It also allows students of varying ability levels to contribute
successfully to the total effort.
Music/movement educators trained in the Orff approach function
both as instructors and facilitators, guiding students through several
phases of development:
· Exploration – discovering the possibilities inherent in
movement, speech, singing and the various instrumental resources;
· Imitation – developing the ability to repeat specific patterns,
which can then be used as vocabulary for improvisation and later for
· Improvisation – using known material in spontaneous
performance of individual new music and movement ideas;
· Composition – developing material, through the previous three
phases, that can be remembered, repeated, and often also written
down. (Music literacy is definitely considered important in Orff
Schulwerk, but not fundamental to being a “musical” person.)
Through immersion in these phases, which may all be included in a
single lesson in different ways, students learn to use music and
movement independently and successfully as forms of expression.
The teacher is no longer the director, but rather the knowing
facilitator, helping students to shape and evaluate their own creative
efforts. From the beginning, Orff teachers ask students, as
individuals and also as a group, to devise solutions to artistic
problems. These begin very small and progress, though
improvisation and composition, into much larger forms. Students
have the satisfaction of seeing their own creative ideas realized in
performance. For both teacher and students, Orff Schulwerk is a
framework, with endless possibilities for development.
Educational psychology has taught us that the instructive benefits of
music study, like all subject matter areas, are many and various.
Elements of learning shared by every discipline include memory,
discovery, observation, analysis, discrimination, and concentration;
these are vital components in the Schulwerk approach. Applied in
broader contexts, students learn to make inferences and draw
conclusions. Risk taking is a daily occurrence as students perform,
improvise, and analyze with and for their peers.
Cooperative interaction is an essential component in all aspects of
the Orff approach, offering a unique opportunity for learning to
communicate with and appreciate others.
In sum, Orff Schulwerk as a music pedagogy offers complementary
support to learning in all areas, joining the efforts of music teachers in
the commitment to the intellectual and personal growth of all students.
To learn more about Carl Orff......
Carl Orff and Orff Schulwerk: The Process, The Man, The Mission