In the world of music, audiation is a pretty new term. My spell checker actually keeps trying to change the word from audiation to audition because the term came about in the 1970s. It's new, but it's actually pretty brilliant.
Audiation is the act of internally processing and understanding the music you hear, perform, and create. We all have varying levels of music inclination, and audiation is the perfect new term to specify the act of thinking in the language of music.
The word includes the prefix "aud" which means the act of hearing, while the verb "ideate" means the process of thinking or forming an idea.
Before coming across the word audiation, I would always refer to it as simply music inclination, which is not enough to cover the entire process. While inclination speaks to one's tendency or urges to consume, create, or perform music, audiation covers the act of fully processing it.
As an example, think of the song Amazing Grace without playing it or looking it up. The song is likely playing in your mind, which is a form of audiation.
Now, think of the levels of your audiation skills on a spectrum. Some people can hear the melody a bit choppily when they think of Amazing Grace.
Some people can hear bits of instruments and melodies. Some people can hear instruments, the melody, and even some harmony ideas.
People with advanced levels of audiation can hear an entire jazz arrangement with complex scat adlibs, intensely complex drums, and a unique but fitting chord progression.
Edwin Gordon, the creator of this phenomenal word, is a renowned giant in the music education world. He served as a Professor of Research in Music Education at Temple University and had a first-hand look at gaps in knowledge and understanding in schools.
In 1999, Gordon said that "audiation is to music what thought is to language."
Gordon's music-learning theory, also known as the Gordon method or simply MLT, is a unique model of music education that aims to connect people with music in a way that traditional music theory methods have not been as effective with.
Although his term audiation and the plethora of knowledge and tactics that he has provided to the music world is still new, it has successfully spread to many music educators worldwide who have begun spreading his helpful training ideology to their students.
I don't want to downplay additional forms of music theory because they actually helped me get to advanced levels of audiation thanks to the many different types of courses I took, along with a variety of music experiences in choirs, private lessons, books, and my own studies.
But my courses alone on music theory, in particular, that I took in high school land college was actually not enough to get me to the levels of consuming, performing, and creating music that I am at today.
Traditional classes taught me things like music notation and how to play the piano, but unfortunately, a lot of the classes required for that type of learning can be easily skated by with the act of imitating.
As an example, I learned how to play my major scales with all the keys I could on a piano. While learning the fingering and visualizing the differences in pitches with the piano, it didn't necessarily strengthen my internal understanding of the scales I was playing.
I feel like there were a few steps that were missing, and that is where MLT from Edwin Gordon comes in.
"Recognition and recall can occur without the accuracy and comprehension audiation provides." - Edwin Gordon
Edwin Gordon's concepts break down audiation by types, stages, and learning sequences to guide students through the world of processing music correctly.
The types of audiation can include listening to new music, enjoying old music, creating music, performing music, and reading familiar or unfamiliar music.
As I mentioned levels before, Gordon has a system of stages that he refers to when identifying where you are in the audiation spectrum.
The first stage is short memory retention, and the next is imitation (mimicking what musical idea you hear), which he stresses that a lot of people often can't seem to get past while studying music courses.
The final stage of audiation that he mentions involves anticipating and predicting tonal and rhythmic patterns in a song.
Gordon's process and breakdown of musical views are often compared to the Kodály method by Zoltán Kodály, a music educator that also created new theory concepts to help students grasp music concepts more effectively.
Kodály, like Gordon, was a genius who was hellbent on solving the many problems in music education, and he focused on children's learning in particular.
Educators like these help to take away the complexities of music and help make it more exciting for kids to learn, perform, create, and really internalize it all.
Students can learn to feel a steady beat and understand the meter no matter what the song is, which can also help them with their general communication skills and creative process.
Students can also get a feel for the home tone in any scale or song, also known as the tonic note, to help them internalize it.
Many early child development experts say that learning the fundamentals of rhythm and tonality can also teach kids how to walk, play sports, and learn to speak and read with a smooth cadence, therefore boosting communication skills.
According to The Journal Of Neuroscience, "People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm."
While tons of people these days are making music from home thanks to the advancement of technology, a lot of people are unfortunately doing it without a good level of audiation.
People who have high levels of audiation have a natural knack for feeling a steady beat along with various melodic scales that can occur in all types of song styles and different cultures.
Producers and writers with high audiation levels can bring innovative ideas to their own creations to further the music world.
People who are not as musically inclined may have trouble swaying and clapping with a crowd because their brains can't process the music the way that some other people can.
I don't want to call people out, but there are many instances in pop music where I've heard chord progressions that don't make sense or off-key live performances because people didn't have that full grasp of music's language.
Producers and writers that don't go too much beyond the mimicking stages of music theory are at risk of publishing musical ideas that really don't make sense, and I've heard it before.
With innovators like Edwin Gordon, the language of music is made easier to understand and accessible to everyone, especially youngsters who are in the learning process with other subjects like language and math.
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