How to use the Curwen Hand Signs / Kodaly Hand Signs
Teaching sight reading to children, and adults sometimes, can be a hard task. Thankfully, there are a few tools and methods that can help you out tremendously. At this post, I want to talk to you about Curwen hand signs that were popularized by Kodaly as part of his famous methodology and, therefore, are also known as Kodaly hand signs.
Curwen Hand Signs / Kodaly Hand Signs Free PDF PosterJohn Curwen, a British Minister and scholar of music, invented the tonic sol-fa (which I will talk about in a later post) in the middle of the 19th century, and as part of his system, he developed a number of hand signs that represented the seven notes. The idea was that the hand signals would help pupils learn sight singing by acting as visual aids.
Later in the century, Zoltán Kodaly adopted Curwen’s hand signs in his system and amended them with a new set of his own gestures. Kodaly changed the orientation of the hand signs so that notes that were flat would point downwards and notes that were sharp would point upwards.
Even though they didn’t know about the different types of learners, Curwen and Kodaly created a solid method for teaching the notes and solfege to children that caters to visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic learners alike.
The proper way to teach Curwen hand signs / Kodaly hand signs is to start by signaling Do at waist level. Then as you go up the scale, move your hand upwards, so that by the time you’re at Ti, your hand is at eye level.
The idea is that children will sing tones correctly and improve their sight reading skills by looking at the difference in height between the different signs. At the same time, the orientation of the signs will help them understand whether they have to sing a higher note or a lower note. Finally, the association of the sound of the note, with the image and position of the sign, and the muscle memory of actually making the sign will create a solid understanding of the scale.
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