About Music Learning Theory

Music Learning Theory is an explanation of how we learn when we learn music. Based on an extensive body of research and practical field testing by Edwin E. Gordon and others, Music Learning Theory is a comprehensive approach for teaching audiation, Gordon’s term for the ability to think music in the mind with understanding. Music Learning Theory principles guide music teachers of all stripes–early childhood, elementary general, instrumental, vocal, the private studio–in establishing sequential curricular goals in accord with their own teaching styles and beliefs. The primary objective is development of students’ tonal and rhythm audiation. Through audiation students are able to draw greater meaning from the music they listen to, perform, improvise, and compose.

Complete information about Music Learning theory and audiation can be found in Edwin E. Gordon’s Learning Sequences in Music: Skill, Content, and Patterns (Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012).

Contents of This Section

Audiation. To hear and comprehend music in the mind, audiation is the foundation of musicianship. Music Learning Theory tells music teachers the best way to develop students’ tonal and rhythm audiation.

Music Aptitude. Music learning is enhanced when teachers know students’ potential to achieve in music and teach systematically to individual differences.

Approach. Students build their audiation skills through singing, rhythmic movement, and tonal and rhythm pattern instruction before being introduced to notation and music theory.

Learning Sequence Activities. The “parts” part of the Whole/Part/Whole curriculum, learning sequence activities are where students learn to audiate the tonal and rhythm patterns that make up music literature.

Classroom Activities. Carefully thought out guidelines help the teacher best coordinate learning sequence activities with classroom activities.

Early Childhood. A child’s early experiences with music and movement have a profound impact on future musical development.

Applications to Music Instruction. Methods, techniques, and materials for implementing Music Learning Theory principles in various music teaching settings.