Orff Method in the Classroom

The xylophone provides an essential accompaniment in Orff programs.

The Orff-Schulwerk teaching method uses several musical techniques and instruments that schools can obtain easily and relatively inexpensively. Programs that include Orff concepts teach literacy and music simultaneously. Students engage mind and body through singing, dancing, acting, chanting and using musical instruments to play concerts and improvise in the classroom.


Soprano recorders mostly play the melody in the ensemble. Some more advanced groups also include sopranino, alto, tenor and even bass recorders to improve harmony. The highest voices in the ensemble are the sopranino recorders, which typically provide a descant to the melody. The altos help to fill in harmony, and the tenors often double the soprano melody parts at the octave. Bass recorders, when employed, play the bass notes and typically move in contrary motion to the soprano parts. Instructors use imitation to teach the children how to play the recorder, starting with just a few notes and gradually adding pitches.


Percussion instruments make up another large part of the Orff method. At the minimum, each child should have her own hand drum, making it possible to play imitation games and learn improvisation. Orff students learn how to keep a steady beat with the drum and then move on to imitating rhythms that the teacher plays. As a student becomes more advanced, she sits in a circle and plays a rhythm that the next student imitates. Improvisation becomes a crucial part of the training in more advanced levels as the student creates her own rhythms. Additional Orff percussion instruments include xylophones, glockenspiels, triangles, rattle instruments, bongos, and congas.

Singing and Chant

Singing is a large part of Orff training. From the beginning, the teacher sings a melody and the students repeat the song. As a student progresses he learns to read music, and learns about rhyming and the how songs are organized into forms. More advanced students write lyrics for a provided melody. Students also recite poems and clap a beat that corresponds to the syllables of the words in the poem.


Movement is an essential method of teaching children about rhythmic pulses. Students walk around the room in step and try to keep their tempo steady. As students progress, they learn to dance and coordinate advanced movement with rhythm. One crucial aspect of movement in Orff involves body percussion, which teaches students sequences of moves that help them to develop coordination and rhythm. Body percussion uses different parts of the body to create percussive sounds. For instance, hitting the chest and the side of the hips will produce different timbres.


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