Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Dalcroze Eurhythmics: An Application to Voice Pedagogy

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Dalcroze Eurhythmics: An Application to Voice Pedagogy

Article excerpt

VOICE TEACHERS ARE SOMETIMES FACED WITH the challenge of teaching singers who lack proficiency in the mastery of rhythm and pulse, ear training, and creative expression. Engaging in Dalcroze Eurhythmies in the voice studio may remedy these deficiencies while enhancing concentration and emphasizing the fun of music making. This investigation aims to examine ways in which implementation of Dalcroze Eurhythmies can positively influence the development of musicianship while expanding the expressive compass in singers. Through the use of Dalcroze exercises, voice pedagogues may build into their students a stronger command of rhythm and pulse, tonal memory and pitch-related skills, and breadth of expression.


During the twentieth century, several methods of music education were developed to address the issue of using body movement to teach music; among these were the Kodály, Orff, and Dalcroze methods. Émile JaquesDalcroze was born in 1865 in Vienna to Swiss parents. He was educated in music and later appointed to teach at Geneva Conservatory. Dalcroze was a minor composer of operas and became a leading innovator in music education in the twentieth century, founding his own method called "Dalcroze Eurhythmies" (alternately spelled "eurythmics"). He observed that, while his students at Geneva Conservatory were able to perform music accurately, they did not generally reveal their musicality in performance.1 Dalcroze felt that "many are born with a sense of rhythm, but the power of expression is lacking."2 Troubled by this discovery, he sought to devise a solution. He wrote: "Music forgot its origin-which is the dance-and people lost the instinct for expressive and harmonious movements in art and everyday life."3 His philosophies and teaching method have since been adopted and celebrated in music programs around the globe. Dalcroze Eurhythmies elegantly incorporates the repetition of necessary musical skills in a manner highly conducive to learning and to the enjoyment of music.

The Dalcroze Method consists of three elements: eurhythmies, rhythmic solfege, and improvisation. This investigation will focus primarily on the first and third elements. Eurhythmies is the study of kinesthetic body motion relating to the expression of music through gesture and movement. It is "based on the joint mobilization of mind and body-specifically, on those faculties which enable us to act, react and adapt to the surrounding world in order to cope with it to best advantage."4 A key principle of the Dalcroze Method "is that sound can be translated into motion and motion can be translated into sound."5 When studying eurhythmies, students build rhythmic precision, balance, coordination, body awareness, strength, creativity, confidence, and the ability to respond to music kinesthetically.

Rhythmic solfége is the simultaneous application of ear training, sight-singing, and theory skills along with a rhythmic, kinesthetic element. Students are taught exercises based on the "fixed Do" system to encourage their development of relative pitch. Rhythmic solfége involves students creating their own improvised sounds (rhythmic syllables) according to their instincts.6 Students then learn and experience melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and intervals from a kinesthetic and simultaneously improvisational viewpoint.7 As students learn scales and melodies implementing kinesthesia, the body assists the mind in memorizing and permanently learning distance relationships between notes (fixed intervals), resulting in a greater capability to match pitch, identify and perform intervals, and excel at other ear training tasks.

In the words of this method's founder, improvisation "is the study of the direct relations between cerebral commands and muscular interpretations in order to express one's own musical feelings. Performance is propelled by developing the student's powers of sensation, imagination and memory. It is not based on direct imitation of the teacher's performance. …

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