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Curwen Hand Signs / Kodály Hand Signs

Curwen Hand Signs PDF Poster / Kodaly Hand Signs PDF Poster

Curwen Hand Signs / Kodaly Hand SignsI searched all over the web for a nice image of Curwen hand signs / Kodaly hand signs and couldn’t find one. So, I made one myself! You can download it for free by subscribing to my quarterly newsletter.

This is a free poster for you to print and share with anyone you want. If you like the poster, I would appreciate a relative like on Facebook or tweet on Twitter.

How to use the Curwen Hand Signs / Kodaly Hand Signs

Teaching sight reading to children, and adults sometimes, can be a hard task. Thankfully, there are a few tools and methods that can help you out tremendously. At this post, I want to talk to you about Curwen hand signs that were popularized by Kodaly as part of his famous methodology and, therefore, are also known as Kodaly hand signs.

Curwen Hand Signs / Kodaly Hand Signs Free PDF PosterJohn Curwen, a British Minister and scholar of music, invented the tonic sol-fa (which I will talk about in a later post) in the middle of the 19th century, and as part of his system, he developed a number of hand signs that represented the seven notes. The idea was that the hand signals would help pupils learn sight singing by acting as visual aids.

Later in the century, Zoltán Kodaly adopted Curwen’s hand signs in his system and amended them with a new set of his own gestures. Kodaly changed the orientation of the hand signs so that notes that were flat would point downwards and notes that were sharp would point upwards.

Even though they didn’t know about the different types of learners, Curwen and Kodaly created a solid method for teaching the notes and solfege to children that caters to visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic learners alike.

The proper way to teach Curwen hand signs / Kodaly hand signs is to start by signaling Do at waist level. Then as you go up the scale, move your hand upwards, so that by the time you’re at Ti, your hand is at eye level.

The idea is that children will sing tones correctly and improve their sight reading skills by looking at the difference in height between the different signs. At the same time, the orientation of the signs will help them understand whether they have to sing a higher note or a lower note. Finally, the association of the sound of the note, with the image and position of the sign, and the muscle memory of actually making the sign will create a solid understanding of the scale.


  1. This is so very helpful. I clearly appreciate it. I will be using it in my music class for 2 year olds, 1st , second and third grade students in a private school

  2. Very helpful. Thank you for the great poster. 😀

  3. It was pretty helpful to me. I am frist in choirly.com but I think it is great website.

  4. I was very interested in downloading your Curwen Hand Signs chart and subscribed to your quarterly newsletter but I didn’t find a link to the poster. Can you please help me out. I’m supposed to sing harmonic and melodic scales tomorrow in aural skills class and need the hand signs. Thanks You.

  5. I am sorry–I would LOVE to download the Curwen Hand Signs chart for my room–but I can’t find a link to download it. I HAVE subscribed to your quarterly newsletter–can’t wait to read it! Thank you so much for this great site!

    • OOOPS!!! I’m sorry!!! I was able to download the poster when I confirmed–there was a link to download the pdf. Thank you SO MUCH!!! This is a GREAT poster!

  6. I wanted to print the Curwen Hand signs poster. No place to do that although I did sign up for your newsletter as required. And liked you on FB. So, how do I get my poster??

  7. Thank you for the great poster…it will be a big help to me as a continue my first year at a new school as a K-5 music teacher!

  8. Can you send me the Curwen hand symbols page again….I love that and subscribe to your newsletter…

    Thanks you!

  9. Thank you for this great Hand Signs Poster!!

    Do you have this poster also “seen from the other site”?

    What I mean is:
    This Poster shows the hand signals in the way the teacher see it by himself – it is great for someone, who want to learn using the hand signals.

    I would like to have the handsignals in the way the students (the singers) see them – do you have this also?

    Thank you for your reply!


  10. Thank you for this great poster.
    The only suggestion I would have is to leave out the pitch examples which makes this poster not quite ‘kosher’ for teachers using movable rather than fixed do 🙂 In my school, we use movable do, but some kids come in having had lessons using fixed do and we have to work hard to ween them off that so this poster would reinforce the system they have been trained in. I will still put the poster up but I will use correction fluid on the pitch examples.

  11. These works are beautiful. I’ve never heard of Edward Bawden beorfe, but his art is amazing and has a flare that feels contemporary even now. Thanks for sharing! I regularly visit Bibliodyssey and find it very inspirational as a graphic designer. I want to highlight this post as a plug for your blog, on my blog jeanieandjewell.blogspot.com.

  12. This poster is so helpful! Thank you for preparing it and sharing it!

  13. Mary Susan Whaley

    I have used the confirmation link but it times out before the page loads. I really would like to have the poster.

  14. Hello. Could I please receive the free poster?
    I signed up a while ago, but never received the poster. Thank you.