What is Orff?

Orff is a way of teaching music to children through rhythm, song, speech, dance, percussion, drama and improvisation.

Orff is based on the premise that children become more whole as musicians if music and movement are taught as one.

Musicalia Houses a Beautiful Collection of World Percussion and Specially Designed Instruments for Children


African percussion loop rattle and agogo bells

Simple percussion

Simple percussion instruments permit music expression to occur quickly regardless of age, physical, mental or musical abilities. This is simply not the case with more complex instruments such as the violin, piano or clarinet…remember sixth grade band?

Instruments like hand drums and sticks were originally used by ancient cultures to accompany dance. So, that’s what we do at Musicalia. We use simple instruments to stimulate children’s love of music while we sing, speak and dance. If you venture into Musicalia you will find instruments from around the world. At the heart of this collection are the Studio 49 Orff instruments.

Alto xylophone set up in C pentatonic

The Magic of Orff

Carl Orff designed special xylophones and metallophones for children.

These instruments were based on authentic designs from Africa (xylophone) and Asia (gamelon). They are created so that specific bars of sound can be removed.

That means, the sounds you do not want to hear can be taken out so that just the sounds you want to play are left in the instrument.

{Orff instruments allow young children to play harmony and melody beautifully and with confidence. If we’ve taken out the ‘wrong’ notes, they can’t hit them!}


Orff Orchestra

Musicalia’s Orff Collection

Today the German instrument-makers at Studio 49, are considered to make the richest sounding and most beautiful Orff instruments in the world.

Studio 49 instruments are not always available for purchase locally. The larger xylophones and contrabass bars in particular may be specially ordered and may take several months to arrive in Canada.

As you play these beautiful instruments as you hear them ring and resonate…you can feel the vibrations in your body.

You can imagine how a child must feel as they play one of these instruments.


Can you tell me more about Orff?

What is Orff?

Orff is an approach to music education that was first developed by Carl Orff, a well-known twentieth century German composer, and Gunild Keetman, a highly respected teacher and dancer. The full name for the approach is “Orff-Schulwerk” meaning “Orff – Music for Children”.

Carl Orff believed that children learned musical behaviour by behaving in musical ways; that it was through creating, listening and performing that children would become confident, responsive participants in music and dance.

{The Orff approach to music is fun and you have a good time making beautiful music with other people.}

Where did the Orff approach originate?

The Orff approach began in 1924 when the Gunther School of Gymnastics and Dance was founded in Germany with Carl Orff as Head of Music. He wanted to offer students a well-founded music training that fostered their creative talents. In fact, Orff claimed that the emphasis on improvisation was the unique characteristic of his way of teaching music. Gunild Keetman was a student at the Guntherschule and it was there that she and Carl Orff first met. In fact, Keetman was instrumental in bringing many of Orff’s ideas to life. It was a collaboration between them.

Carl Orff Gunild Keetman Dorothee Gunther

What is improvisation?

Improvisation is “making it up as you go along”. We make it easy at Musicalia so that you just follow the teacher as the teacher is making it up.

Children are natural improvisers. If you watch the teachers you will probably see her following the children’s ideas. Parents are teachable. If they follow their children and the teacher, parents may learn to express their musical ideas.

{Improvisation is fun and brings an element of creativity and excitement to making music with other people.}

What does Orff look like when real people try to do it?

Orff is when
we sing
we speak,
we dance,
we play instruments
…all at the same time in ensemble.

Most importantly though, you improvise while singing, speaking, moving and playing instruments.

{Children are dynamically engaged in musical groups through speech, rhythm, movement, song, dance, listening and instrument play. It looks like people are having a good time making music with other people.}

Musicalia’s Orff Programs

Early Orff

In the EARLY ORFF programs (ages 1-4) specially designed shakers, bells, sticks and drums and used to provide beautiful musical sounds while keeping children’s safety and developmental stages in mind.

Movement props such as balls, stretchy bands, scarves, ribbons and hoops are used to give children and parents a fun and expressive way to experience music together.

We also use the Orff Orchestra with the very young. It is a wonderful beginning ensemble experience for children and parents.

Orff Play

In the ORFF PLAY programs (ages 3 to 5) children continue to explore music with simple percussion they used as babies and toddlers but we broaden their experience by introducing the larger, more authentic percussion instruments from around the world.

There are specially designed homework opportunities for this age group. It’s a creative, lively, musical program for young children.

Orff for the Musical Child & Maestros Programs

ORFF for the MUSICAL CHILD and MAESTROS programs incorporate a more familiar and traditional Orff sound. Children sing and play together but independent of parents.  The programs at Musicalia incorporate traditional instruments like ukulele, guitar and violin in addition to the wind instruments like recorder and harmonica.

By age seven, children are beginning to perform independent music parts…like a real orchestra.

Someone plays the recorder,
Someone dances,
Someone plays the bass xylophone,
Someone plays the shaker,
Someone plays the triangle

It is astonishing to see children this age perform in such a manner!

Ensembella! Ensembello!

ENSEMBELLA! ENSEMBELLO! for older children (ages 9-14) is a performance ensemble for musical, creative children who wish to sing in harmony, play instruments as an ensemble and most importantly, work and learn in an environment emphasizing encouragement, respect and joy.