Aural Skills Pedagogy: What is to be done?

A one-day symposium at the Royal Academy of Music, London

7 April 2017

Aural skills pedagogy forms the backbone to much instrumental / vocal / compositional training across the Higher Education sector. Conservatoires and universities have included various forms of aural skills training in degree / diploma programmes, most often positioning it within core compulsory modules, and much store is set in how far the student develops their aural skills; no musician can claim seriously to have “good enough” ears.

But the nature of aural skills training and delivery varies widely across the sector, and there are conflicting views about the underlying purposes of such training: for example, whether it is to service the student’s general listening ability (whatever that might be), whether it is to develop specific skills (e.g. dictation) of immediate relevance to live physical performance, and so on. And the relationship of aural skills training to instrumental training is often unspoken, even though much goes on in instrumental lessons that can be classed vicariously as being a matter of ‘aural skills training’.

This symposium seeks to discuss some of these issues. The intention is to open up debate to a wide spectrum of views on the nature, purpose, and content of aural skills pedagogy. Polemics are welcome.

Presentations addressing questions such as the following are encouraged, though all proposals on the symposium topic will be considered:

  • What is the role of testing?
  • What is the relationship between teaching and learning?
  • What are the core skills?
  • What are the most productive modes of delivery of teaching? In cohorts or individually?
  • Why teach aural skills? What does teaching develop?
  • How does aural skills training relate to training in e.g. analytical skills?
  • What role is played by musical canons and key / set repertoire?
  • Should aural skills training be limited to tonal repertoire?
  • Is self-directed learning possible?
  • Does aural skills training develop employability skills?
  • Should aural skills be taught by discipline or by cohort?
  • Could the delivery of aural skills teaching include practical work on instruments?
  • Could aural skills teaching be delivered as distance / online learning?
  • What is the relation between dictation and musical performance?
  • Should aural skills training be dropped from specialist musical training?

Presentations may take the form of conventional papers (20 mins + 10 mins questions), or may take a more practical form, e.g. demonstrations. Abstracts should be submitted to by 31 December 2016. If a demonstration is proposed, then specific requirements must be included. Abstracts are welcome from across the HE sector, including research students. Abstracts should be c. 350 words long, and should not include the author’s name or affiliation. The programme will be announced on 13 January 2017.