The Orff Approach

I have already blogged on various different methods of learning music whether that be studying the piano or any other instrument, and today’s blog examines the Orff Method.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a German composer, conductor and music educator. Despite being a reasonably prolific composer he has become known for one work; the scenic cantata, Carmina Burana (1936).

Orff became musical director of the Günther-Schule which was a school for music and dance pedagogy founded in 1924 by Orff and Dorothee Günther. He developed his own ideas and theories regarding musical study at this time which were then developed, with Gunild Keetman, into an innovative and highly effective approach to music education for children.

The method is known as the Orff Approach, Orff Method, Orff Schulwerk (Schooling) or Music for Children. Originally a set of pieces, Musik für Kinder, were designed to illustrate various different musical elements to children and they rely on a teacher’s improvisatory skills and ability to bring the music to life.

The Approach doesn’t really follow a method but encourages children to explore music by engaging their minds and bodies through dancing, singing, chanting, clapping, acting and the use of various instruments particularly percussion instruments. Fun and enjoyment are heavily emphasized so that children can all learn and improve whatever their ability.

Musical material used for this method ranges from nursery rhymes to folk music and songs. Children are encouraged to make up their own pieces too, and improvisation is also freely introduced.  The music is usually simple but with plenty of rhythmic and melodic interest enabling children to learn with ease. This method helps to develop greater coordination, dexterity and an interest in the creative process associated with composing. The technique is frequently used to teach those with special needs.

Extract from So You Want To Play The Piano? published by Alfred Music.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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