Music Learning Theory (MLT) is a framework for music education that emphasizes the importance of aural learning and understanding music as a language. It was created by Edwin E. Gordon, a renowned music educator and researcher, in the 1960s.

Who was Edwin E. Gordon?

Edwin E. Gordon was born in 1927 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He began his career as a band director and later earned degrees in music education from the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. He went on to teach at various universities including Temple University, Michigan State University, and the University of South Carolina.

Throughout his career, Gordon conducted extensive research on how individuals learn music and developed his own theory based on his findings.

The Development of Music Learning Theory

Gordon’s research led him to believe that music should be taught in a similar way to how individuals learn language. He argued that just as children learn their native language through immersion and exposure, students should learn music through active listening and participation.

To facilitate this type of learning, Gordon developed a series of audiation exercises designed to help students develop their ability to hear musical patterns and structures in their minds. These exercises are based on the idea that all individuals have innate musical abilities that can be developed through focused listening.

The Key Components of Music Learning Theory

Music Learning Theory consists of several key components:

The Impact of Music Learning Theory

Music Learning Theory has had a significant impact on music education. It has led to a greater emphasis on aural learning and the development of listening skills in music classrooms. Additionally, it has helped teachers understand the importance of using a variety of teaching strategies to reach all students, regardless of their musical background or abilities.

Gordon’s work has also influenced other areas of music education, including the development of early childhood music programs and the integration of technology in music classrooms.


In conclusion, Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory has revolutionized music education by emphasizing the importance of active listening and developing students’ innate musical abilities. By understanding how individuals learn music and developing strategies to support this process, Gordon has helped countless educators improve their teaching practices and enhance their students’ musical experiences.