If you’ve spent any time on westmusic.com, you’ve probably seen the terms “Orff” and “Schulwerk” here and there. If you’re like me, you were confused about what they had to do with instruments like xylophones and glockenspiels. Eventually, I figured it out, and I’d like to share my findings with all other inquiring minds out there.
Orff refers to a specific approach to music education developed by Carl Orff during the 1920’s, which combines music, speech, movement, and drama into musical lessons that are very similar to the way a child plays naturally. The term “Schulwerk” is German for “school work”. Most of the time, when someone says “Orff” they are referring to the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education. The fundamental principle of the Orff approach is the idea that children can learn music the same way they learn language. Orff believed that just as every child learns their language without formal instruction, so can they learn music by a gentle and friendly approach. It is often referred to as a “child-centered way of learning”.
The instruments associated with Orff Schulwerk are bells, chimes, glockenspiels, metallophones, xylophones, and timpani. Orff believed that percussive rhythm instruments like this are the most natural and basic form of human expression. The music played on Orff instruments is often very simple and designed for first-time musicians. The Orff approach also requires children to sing, clap, dance, and snap their fingers along to the melodies and rhythms.
Well, there you have it. Of course, the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education has a long and diverse history that can’t be completely explained in just a few paragraphs, but now you have a much better understanding of its underlying principles. If the Orff approach sounds interesting to you as a parent, teacher, or student, browse West Music’s wide selection of glockenspiels, bell sets, mallets & sticks, xylophones, and accessories.
Interested in Orff Shulwerk music education for you or your child? Shop Orff Instruments here.