What is Music Learning Theory? An explanation of Gordon's MLT.




Music Learning Theory is a research-based explanation of how we learn when we learn music. Developed by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon, MLT provides for learners of music:

  • A model for one direct route to audiation.
  • A useful organizational system of Tonality and Meter.
  • A pattern taxonomy for Tonal and Rhythmic function.

​One can certainly learn music in a multitude of ways, but Music Learning Theory provides a practical learning model for us, a roadmap to audiation. 

Gordon's ideas have been applied to several school music curricula. As musicians, we can learn a lot from studying what Gordon has to say. A thorough explanation of Gordon's main ideas, theories, and concepts can be found on the Gordon Institute For Music Learning (GIML) website.


The primary goal of Music Learning Theory is to enhance one's musical understanding through the development of audiation, thereby making yourself or your student an independent musical thinker.


To be able to hear and understand music with or without the sound of the music being present.

Audiation : Music :: Thought : Language


These two videos give great summaries of the basic concepts of MLT.


The creator of MLT, Edwin Gordon, gives an overview of the basic principles, as well as Practical Applications.


Listen to Ed Gordon give a lecture on what audiation is. This mp3 is hosted by the Gordon Archives at the University of South Carolina.

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Andrew Mullen is a teacher, folk musician, multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, and lifelong learner. He has taught all levels of students in a number of subjects, and is currently a middle school teacher and curriculum coach in Burlington, Massachusetts. Mr Mullen holds Masters degrees in Music Education and School Administration, as well as certification from the Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML) in Elementary General and Early Childhood Music. He is currently entertaining Doctoral scholarships.


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