Traditional aural training and music theory curricula consist of complex and multifaceted sets of skills, literacies, and bodies of information that – through a carefully coordinated and sequenced presentation – provide the music student with the ability to hear, understand, and perform music in a variety of styles. To achieve this, curricula use a diversity of didactic and pedagogical strategies that aim, fundamentally, at a (re)construction of a habitus of listening that allows music students to gain the skills that are necessary for them to actively participate as competent professionals in the musical field.

The most effective pedagogical methodologies for teaching aural training and music theory are based on the idea that musical analysis is primarily an auditory skill, being constructed from sound itself and only secondarily from interpretation of notational symbols in the context of an inner awareness of the sounds that they represent. The ability to internalize sound, to encode it into a musical symbol, to understand its significance, and to facilitate the accurate re-performance of that symbolic representation can be strengthened if it is supported through development of a conscious sound-to-sign-to-sound method of perception that is fostered through development of a habitus of listening. This musical habitus is a system of transferable dispositions that integrates one’s multiple past learning experiences. It functions as a matrix of perception, appreciation, and action that allows for the performance of an endless number of tasks that facilitate a complete musical understanding.

The students must bring to their musical studies (or be reminded of them by their teacher) analytical concepts like form, motif, phrase, period, tonal field, tonal and melodic function, cadence, secondary function, modulation, and so on. This knowledge works as a system of aural dispositions and predispositions (the musical habitus) that must always be present in the minds of music students in order to structure their understanding of the music that they hear, perform, or notate.

This chapter presents ideas about how to develop curricula that effectively build this habitus – or these dispositions and predispositions – in a balanced way that begins with the musical sound (the acoustic image), facilitates its transference to symbol (the graphic image), and then allows for the accurate representation of sound and that is indispensable for true musical understanding.