Sounds of Intent identifies six levels of musical engagement that occur sequentially in human development. Their usual age of occurrence is shown below, together with the levels of disability likely to be associated with each form of musical engagement in older children, young people and adults.

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These levels should not be thought of as ‘stages’, in which one set of abilities replaces another; rather, each level builds on those that precede as children grow up and adults with learning difficulties mature. Typically, people engage with music at several different levels at once: listening to the quality of the sounds that are made; intuitively picking up on moment-to-moment patterns, and hearing how notes form recognisable groups; following the narratives of pieces as a whole as they unfold in time, and being aware of their place in a wider musical culture.