Zsuzsanna Hunyadi


New learning concept, new notion of knowledge in the public education – what results and morals do they present for music education?


Although a constant practice characterises current music teaching in Hungary music teachers can still perceive the changes, new trends and conceptions in the public education through their students, or even their own children. I would like to reveal the possible effects of the new pedagogical approaches on music education.


At the moment there are three paradigms that exist side by side. (Nahalka, 2008). The first one is the traditional approach which aims to provide a wide range of knowledge and information to its students. This process is based on the possible findings and conceptual frames of each science respectively. 

The second perspective can be related to the reform trends at the beginning of the 20th century. It places the student’s activity in the centre of attention and aims at the development of skills and subskills as a primary goal.

The third way is that of constructivism which is based on knowledge-construction. This means relying more on the previously given knowledge of the student, fitting the new information into this complex mental construction. I would like to elaborate on this notion by citing the description of István Nahalka (2008):

It is about a very complicated system of knowledge which even contains contradictions. It’s content, quantity, and way of organisation becomes an important issue, since it will become capable of directing our activities, decisions, even our problem solving. Then the capacities and skills appear as the manifestations of this system of knowledge, not as independent entities. As such, the different types of competencies are the results of system’s functioning. It is a significant difference compared to other possible pedagogies that consider the capacity of problem solving as a separate psychological construct which is unrelated to other areas of knowledge or to any possible context at all. Constructivism embeds the process of problem solving in the circle of learning.’


Now I try to adapt these ideas to the area of music teaching.

1.   traditional, multi-disciplinary paradigm:

The traditional way of teaching: knowledge of classical music, technical elements, devices of expressing are to be mentioned here.


2.   competency-developing paradigm:

Without any doubt, there is no playing a musical instrument without the necessary development of the required abilities, but the development of a real music competency still lacks in many cases. The theoretical part (musical knowledge) and instrumental skills are developed on separate lessons, thus complexity does not combine together in a single unit. Competency development contains the issue of complex ability development with real-time application as its final test.


3.   constructivism:

In my interpretation, this approach means the following: we should try to build up the musical thinking of the students. Students should use the learned musical elements to produce minor constructs, for example, exercises with different types of bars, or performing freely. We strive at organising unmusical sounds and noises into would-be musical compositions. By doing so, we are extending the horizon of our students, as well as the spectrum of expressive devices. Teachers should make an effort to foster student’s productivity by encouraging them to create varied forms of musical pieces, based on their characteristics or the musical elements learnt so far.


John Kratus presents an interesting example in his study (Kratus, 1991) showing the development of a student called Jamie and how her clarinet improvisation was improved by her teacher.


“Jamie's first efforts of performing music sounded like a discordant jumble (Level 1). Jamie tried various combinations of fingerings on the clarinet and discovers the different sounds that result from this. Jamie's teacher suggested that Jamie should spend a few minutes every day on discovering the different combinations of the pitches that have been learned. Eventually Jamie was able to hear the sounds inwardly before they were actually produced. As a further result of experimenting Jamie was soon capable of creating recognisable patterns and motifs, though these still did not resulted in an overall cohesiveness (Level 2). As a further suggestion, teacher recommended that Jamie spend a few minutes on free improvision on a daily basis, and also pointed out that Jamie focus her attention on the improvisation of patterns. As the patterns in Jamie's improvisations become more pervasive, and as Jamie began to develop a sense of meter and tonality, the teacher begins to place certain constraints on the improvisations (Level 3). For example, the teacher may clap a pulse and ask Jamie to improvise at that tempo. As Jamie develops a greater understanding of meter, tonality, and harmony, the teacher asked her to play an improvisation in duple meter and in C major, using the chords I-IV-I-V-I. After a while, Jamie's technical understanding of meter, tonality, and harmony improved to such an extent that she was able to devote greater attention to developing increased facility on the clarinet while improvising (Level 4). Jamie's teacher encouraged this development by providing her with opportunities to improvise solo and in small groups while playing in different modes, keys, meters, and tempos.”


The above described form of the problem solving ability means that when one is faced with difficulties that need to be overcome one needs to have the necessary attitudes and strategies to treat and solve the situation successfully (Kojanitz, 2008).


What can such problems, challenges or inspirations in the world of music be? Problems can be of various sources, e.g.  playing a Christmas song on an instrument, perhaps  adding an accompaniment on a piano to it. This simple task requires the presence of certain skills at a high level, like playing a melody by ear, maybe being able to write down said melody, searching for suitable chords and constructing it.


Or, to give another example: students would like to play together but by performing their own music and not that of others. It is an extraordinary opportunity for them to cooperate with each other, socialize, communicate by using terms of the field, sizing up the chances, adjusting to the situation, etc.


Yet another case: the student has heard the sound track of a film and would like to play it in his or her own version. The task is, again, playing a piece of music by ear, but even in more parts. It should be in his/her own style but reflecting back on the original version of the music. It is a real creative task.


These problems are beyond the scope of current music education, though they should not be, since there are many hidden possibilities for children to find their own music and understand other’s music better.


In conclusion, teachers or coursebooks’ should help students to face challenges, get models on how to handle the different types of problems correctly and also provide them with ample opportunities to test these problem solving strategies and ways (Kojanitz, 2008). This approach can benefit students by allowing them to see the whole of each composition from their moment of birth, and as such, they can appreciate and evaluate ideas, and both creative and magnificent solutions.


‘It is said that natural sciences should not focus mainly on teaching the findings of researches, but rather the ways that allowed such results to be presented. For that is a far more adaptable approach and can grant students with knowledge.’ (Kojanitz, 2008).




László, Kojanitz (2008): Tanuló- és tanulásközpontú tankönyvértékelés. In: Tankönyvdialógusok. (szerk. Simon Mária): Oktatáskutató és Fejlesztő Intézet, Budapest, 67-75.

John Kratus (1991): Growing with Improvisation. Music Educators Journal, v78 n4 p. 35-40 Dec 1991.

István, Nahalka (2008): Konstruktivizmus és tartalomfejlesztés. In: Tankönyvdialógusok (szerk. Simon Mária), Oktatáskutató és Fejlesztő Intézet, Budapest, 53-59.


Curriculum vitae



I received my diploma at Liszt Ferenc College for Music in Debrecen. I teach the piano in Szabolcsi Bence Music School in Budapest. I am taking efforts to extend my knowledge by participating on courses dealing with improvisation. / Mária Apagyi, János Gonda, László Sáry, etc./ I think it is very important to search for new conceptions, so I have been doing experiments with my students with new methods. For this reason, too, I have organised meetings and courses for teachers from Budapest and Pest County.

As a result of my work I collected and published new piano books. These intend to improve students both technically and in improvisation. Therefore I implemented improvisational exercises into the subject of piano playing.

I felt a lack in my knowledge regarding pedagogy, so I attended a master class at Eszterházy Károly University in Eger.

Now I am a PhD student at this university.