Joy and Amy on Music Learning Theory

I know many of you are eager to find out more about my recent training on Music Learning Theory with the Gordon Institute for Music Learning and Music Moves for Piano. We’re going to start out light.

Being the music nerds we self-admittedly are, as part of our nightly study routine, Joy and I thought it would be beneficial to take turns reading out loud every term in the glossary of our text Learning Sequences in Music. We wanted to be sure we understood the meaning of all the new words thrown at us. You may be laughing, but it was quite helpful, especially for this first video you’re about to see!

A 16-hour car ride at some point in time requires a car game. Thus, on our way back from Boston, was born the Alphabet Game MLT Style. (I realize for many of you some of the terms will be meaningless, but I thought you would still get a kick out of it.) 🙂

If you want a bit more substance than our alphabet game, a few days after we returned, we recorded a video summary video for you!

  • 3:00 Who was Edwin Gordon.
  • 9:45 Who is Marilyn Lowe.
  • 13:25 What is audiation and how is it developed.
  • 22:00 How we each plan to start incorporating elements of MLT into our lessons.
  • 25:45 What resources are available for teachers who want to learn more about MLT.

My end was a bit delayed at times so I apologize for occasionally having words drop. When I list the modes, it sounds like I miss one but I didn’t, it was just the connection. 🙂 

Books mentioned in the video:


MLT Around the Internet

If you want to continue learning more about Dr. Gordon’s research here are some more resources around the web:

:: I’ve started a YouTube playlist for Music Learning Theory. Here’s another MLT Pinterest board to follow as well.

:: Just this past June (2016), the late Dr. Gordon was named one of five 2016 Lowell Mason Fellows from the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

:: Dr. Gordon’s Keynote address to the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) July 2014.

:: Public school teacher Eric Bluestine, the author of The Ways Children Learn Music mentioned above, has a blog also titled The Ways Children Learn Music.

:: Music Learning Theory early childhood teacher, Heather Kirby shares about her experience in this “Meet the Teacher” video. Ms. Kirby is also an officer on the board of the Gordon Institute for Musical Learning. She was gracious enough to host an evening gathering at her home as well as a pizza dinner one night after class during the training.

:: We spent a lot of time learning about modes, singing chants, and tonal patterns, learning their characteristic tones and primary chords (I self-admittedly have a long way to go!) An Introduction to Modes is a great article to help you understand modes a little better. Also, Forest Kinney has an excellent article in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of Clavier Companion titled Beyond Major and minor: A composer’s understanding of chords and scales.

:: An excellent video introducing and demonstrating  MLT.


From Tim Topham’s Music Learning Theory month in July

:: TTV048 Podcast Exploring MLT with Marilyn Lowe

:: One of our classmates, Emma Barson, an MLT teacher from Adelaide Australia shares some thoughts in Tim’s opening post-Music Learning Theory.

:: How Music Learning Theory Gives Meaning to What We Teach

:: Why Teaching Music Reading is the Wrong Way to Teach Piano Part 1

:: Why Teaching Music Reading is the Wrong Way to Teach Piano Part 2

:: Feel the Beat off the Seat – Tips for Teaching Rhythm

:: One of our GIML teachers, as well as another classmate, shared their experiences as MLT teachers in Music Learning Theory Wrap-Up.

Happy learning!




  • Hi Amy and Joy,
    Thank you so much for sharing. It’s very helpful to know how you two plan to apply what you have learned through the 2-week trainings in your teaching.

    Amy, can you help with some questions?

    Did you mention about Takadimi rhythm syllable in the video? I was under the impression that Marilyn Lowe’s books and pattern CD use the Gordon’s rhythm syllables. I’ve known Takadimi for a while now. For the young beginner students, if I plan to use Music Moves for Piano books, is it better to teach using Gordon’s syllable so that the students learn the same system as introduced in the book and pattern CD? or is MLT approach adaptable to different rhythm syllables?
    Thank you so much 🙂

    • Hi Karen, yes, I mentioned Takadimi because it is what I’ve been using for the most part (combined with metric counting). (Sorry, I actually fumbled through that section in the video)! Marilyn’s books do use the Gordon Rhythm syllables, not Takadimi. You can read about the Gordon syllables here: I’ve known about his syllables for years and at first thought they were harder than Takadimi but after the training, I do agree that they make a lot more sense and are easier than I initially thought. I am going to try and make a complete turn to the Gordon syllables with all my students.

      Gordon does have good things to say about it: first, it’s based on beat function, second, it uses different syllables for usual duple and triple meters, and third, it supports enrhythmic measure signatures.

      If I’m correct, one downfall (in Gordon’s opinion) is that it doesn’t have different syllables for uneven (5/8, 7/8, etc.) measure signatures. It would simply combine duple and triple -Ta Di (Duple) -Ta Ki Da (Triple) rather than having dedicated syllables as Gordon’s does.

      I think this may be a good post some day!

      To answer your question, Marilyn’s books have the Gordon syllables written in the student books so you would have to always mark them out and write in your Takadimi. Also, the pattern CD does use Gordn’s as well so that would make it tricky. I’m not saying it can’t be done; you just have to consider. If you have new beginners, and you want to experiment using Music Moves, then I would suggest you go ahead and try out the Gordon syllables with them and see how you like it while continuing Takadimi with your older students. If you think it’s a good switch at that point, then you can slowly start using it with all your students. Good luck!

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