Presentation of the Willems® Pedagogy


Edgar Willems’ pedagogical proposal is based on the psychological relationship between Music, the human being and the created world.

The study of their constituent elements and of how each domain is organized has enabled the elaboration of a sequence that is directly inspired by and respectful of them.

The acquisition of musical language comes about in a way similar to that of the mother tongue.

This is an active musical education requiring receptivity, permeation, and imitation, but also self-expression and inventiveness.

Our goals (musical, human, social)

Musical aims:

  • To bring about a love for music—first as a language but also as an art and a science—through joyful music-making;
  • To lay the foundation for musical artistry by developing the musical ear and rhythmic sense prior to and in preparation for the study of solfège (ear training), playing an instrument, and all other musical disciplines;
  • To cultivate access to the musical language and art of different historical periods and diverse cultures.

Human aims:

  • To bring into play all sensory-motor, affective, intellectual, and intuitive (inventive and creative) faculties while expanding upon and harmonizing them among themselves.

Social aims:

  • To appeal to all (children, adolescents, or adults) without regard for their initial aptitude, their age and their origin;
  • To take advantage of small group instruction in order to cultivate the richness and requirements of encountering others (listening, personal expression, communication), and to encourage the extension of this activity into the milieu of general education, such as “family music,” for example.

Pedagogical progression

Living experience precedes perception and must therefore have primacy over formal knowledge.

We therefore call upon teachers to provide real-life experiences with the different properties of sound, rhythm, melody, rudimentary harmony (whether classical or modern), singing, songs, and physical movement.

The sequence is comprised of 4 developmental levels:

Level 1 – Introduction to music

Introductory level, where oral and concrete life, discovery of musical phenomena, arousal of interest, compliance, active participation and initiative, and linking to holistic functioning give rise to good deeds and beautiful actions.
The general scheme of an introductory music lesson is structured in four main parts:

  • developing the ear and voice,
  • rhythmic activities,
  • singing and songs,
  • moving naturally to music.
Level 2 – Introduction to music

A more conscious extension of Level 1 including a more exact knowledge of the graphic representation of certain aural and rhythmic musical phenomena, more memory development, and more relative awareness.

Level 3 – Pre-theoretical and pre-instrumental introduction

A period for organizing all previous experiences, for making a consistent transition from concrete to abstract including various dispositions, lateralization of the body, instrumental applications such as on chromatic tonebars, among others.

Level 4 – Living solfège and instrumental education

Living solfège is the acquisition of musical literacy, in which improvisation figures prominently alongside of rhythmic reading and writing, and is regarded as one of the crowning achievements of musical education.
Musical language continues to be viewed as a whole across all styles and periods. Modal and tonal systems are elaborated according to their role in the evolution of man’s expressive language.

Instrumental education (all instruments), which begins parallel to musical education, follows organically after pre-theoretical and pre-instrumental education.
It requires the study of music to precede that of an instrument, and actual music making to precede that of technical mastery.

Playing an instrument occurs in 4 different and complementary domains:

  • playing by ear to reproduce songs and musical pieces heard and memorized without notation;
  • playing by note-reading, usually at first sight;
  • playing from memory, dedicated to the internalization and interpretation of artistic musical literature;
  • improvisation, which must be practiced from the beginning, through which various moods are expressed—musical games that take advantage of the possibilities of the instrument or even inventions derived from music itself (rhythmic, melodic, harmonic).

One develops a musical attitude through utilizing the vital sources of rhythm and dynamic sound relationships with the acquisition of instrumental technique in mind.

This attitude maintains one’s inner musical impulse and contributes to the expansion of one’s musicality, instrumental progress coming through music itself as something experienced, felt, and thought “from within.”