Early Childhood Music Learning Theorists

Letter from Michael

Hi Teachers.

Are you ready to learn basic music theory?

I love music theory! I actually do. But I understand that not everybody is comfortable with it. Some of you may be musicians who know theory already but are less experienced teaching children.  And some of you may be classroom teachers who sing and maybe play simple songs on an instrument.

Either way, don’t worry. I will walk you through the basics and show you that it is actually quite simple to learn and to teach. Who knows, maybe you will grow to love it.

The key is that we should all have a basic understanding of music theory, especially as it applies to teaching young children. And with this basic foundation you can be an effective music enrichment teacher.

In the first part of this section we will introduce you to some of the most influential early music theorists. And then we’ll go through some basic components of music theory and how to use it with young children.

It will be fun. Ready? Here we go.


Michael Levine

Early Childhood Music Learning Theorists

The five most influential early music learning theorists all believed that providing positive musical experiences early in a child’s life can lead to a life-long appreciation of and involvement with music.

In the accompanying video we will discuss all five theorists and what they believe. We see all of these ideas as important. You can focus on the ideas that make the most sense for your students.

Edwin Gordon - Listening and Audiation

  • Audiation is when you can hear music in your head.
  • We audiate when we sing a song silently while doing the motions alone or in unison with the group.
  • When we model melodic patterns on a neutral syllable, we are practicing one of Gordon’s methods for learning and understanding songs.
  • For more information, visit The Gordon Institute for Music Learning: https://giml.org/mlt/classroom/

Shinichi Suzuki - Rote Learning, Parent Involvement and Love

  • Rote Learning is learning something by repeating it over and over.
  • Suzuki believed children could learn music like they learn to speak, beginning by listening, and progressing to the production of music just like they learned to speak.
  • Suzuki described learning as a triangle, with parent, teacher and student in each corner, explaining that each corner is equally important in the process of learning music.
  • In parent & child classes, we promote a loving parent-led environment. In preschool classes, we strive to include parents and classroom teachers by making all our music available online.
  • We promote rote learning by encouraging parents and classroom teachers to listen to the music at home together, providing many listening and learning opportunities.

Emile Jaques-Dalcroze - Movement and Eurhythmics

  • Eurhythmics - teaching music concepts such as rhythm and expression through movement.
  • The TLG songs and stories include different types of movement: seated activities such as clapping or patting our knees, movement exploration with scarves, direction dances in which the lyrics describe what each movement should be, and dances with more freedom for exploration and experimentation.

Zoltàn Kodàly - Singing, Solfège

  • Solfège - Also known as Curwen hand signs, they make music visual and kinesthetic.
  • Kodàly believed the universal and most natural instrument is the voice.
  • We explore singing voices and melodies when we do our Melodic Patterns.

Carl Orff - Creating, and Playing

  • Children learn music through speaking, singing, dancing and playing.
  • Given a structure children can learn to improvise and create their own musical expression through words, melody, rhythm, movement and instruments.
  • When we ask children to contribute additional words or movements to songs, we are guiding them to become musical creators.  

Complete and Continue