Are Musicians Good at Math?

Nov 15 · 4 min read

If you're like me, you may have always wondered if musicians are good at math. I'm certainly not an expert in either field, but based on my own experience, I'd say that yes, they are!

People who are good at music tend to do better at math.

The relationship between music and math is a complicated one. On the one hand, they're both centered on the brain, and they share many similarities in their patterns of thought.

On the other hand, when someone is good at math or music, it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be good at both—in fact, most people are skilled at just one or the other. For example: If you can play an instrument well enough to make money playing it professionally (like being able to read sheet music and play a song), then you're likely also going to have strong skills when it comes to math because of all that practice reading sheet music. But this isn't always true! Some people who are amazing musicians aren't so hot on simple arithmetic.

The bottom line: If you want your child's brain development in either area (and I seriously recommend having them learn both), here are some helpful tips for doing so:

Get them started early—both skills tend to improve as children get older.

The brain patterns between math-focused and music-focused people are similar.

Another thing that both math and music share is the pattern recognition aspect of their respective disciplines. According to a study by Harvard University, "the brain activity when solving mathematical problems was similar to the brain activity when listening to music." This means that people who are good at math are also likely to be good at playing an instrument or composing songs. It's not just about one skill over another; rather, it's about being able to recognize patterns and solve complex problems.

That said, there is no disputing that these two subjects require plenty of practice in order for you to become really good at them. In fact, many musical geniuses started out as children who were forced into studying classical piano lessons by their parents—and they despised them! But even if they hated their lessons back then, they ended up becoming masters later on because they had practiced so much along the way (even though it wasn't much fun).

It's common to have math skills if you're majoring in music.

Music students often have to take math classes. They're not only encouraged to take math classes, but many times, they're required to take them as well. It's true that some music majors may not need to know calculus or trigonometry in order for their careers to be successful (but even then, it never hurts). However, a large number of music majors find themselves needing knowledge of basic mathematical concepts like fractions and decimals in order to understand how scales work in different musical contexts and how various instruments interact with one another. It's also common for people who are studying music performance at university level or even high school level participate in ensembles where they need knowledge of different instruments' ranges so they don't play notes too high or too low above the intended pitch range—knowledge which requires basic arithmetic skills.

Music students learn math concepts during lessons, but it may be more than that.

As your kid learns the basics of music, they'll be learning math concepts too. But it's not just in the classroom that they'll use math—they're also using it at home and out in the world.

Your child may be performing on stage with his band and need to learn how to count off their instruments so they're ready to play together. Or maybe he wants to be a DJ, who needs to know how to mix beats together (and understand what things like "tempo" mean). He could also want to become an audio engineer or sound designer for video games or movies, where knowing about decibels (the unit used for measuring volume) is crucial! These are just some of the many ways that music can help kids learn about numbers and other aspects of math.

The more musical training you have, the better you'll do on math tests.

If you’ve ever taken a music class, you know that the more you practice your instrument, the better you get at it. It’s a pretty straightforward concept.

But what about math? Math can be incredibly difficult, and many people have trouble with basic concepts such as adding and subtracting numbers. But it turns out that if you have musical training, there is an advantage to this—and not just in math class! Research has shown that musicians tend to do better than nonmusicians on standardized tests of mathematics ability. In fact, musicians tend to perform better than nonmusicians even when they are not given any advance preparation for the test—just because they have so much experience with mathematics every time they play their instruments!

The reason that this happens is because of something called “practical intelligence”: While having lots of formal training in music won't make anyone good at answering word problems or doing algebra equations (that requires being able to think abstractly), having lots of practical experience playing music will allow someone who isn't necessarily good at traditional math skills like memorizing facts or calculating angles in triangles (which requires being able to visualize spatial relationships) become very skilled at solving problems by quickly recognizing patterns without having to work them all out step-by-step on paper first.

It seems that musical people also tend to be good at math.

"It seems that musical people also tend to be good at math," says Prof. Jonathan Berger, a professor of Music and Neurosciences at Stanford University. "But it's hard to say if one makes the other, or if both are just correlated."

Berger explains that some musicians have brains that are more active in certain areas when processing music. For example, musicians who play the violin tend to have higher activity in the left hemisphere of their brains than those who play piano or guitar. These brain functions are learned during music lessons, so students with higher levels of brain activity may simply be spending more time practicing their instrument than others do.

There’s no doubt about it—music and math share a powerful bond. We see this connection in the brain patterns of musicians and non-musicians alike, and we can even see it in the way musicians learn math concepts during their lessons. But how do these two seemingly disparate subjects actually come together? While there are many possible explanations for why music students might be better at mathematics than their peers (and vice versa), one thing is clear: more research needs to be done before we can fully understand this phenomenon. To see some more music blogs written by our staff here also giving music lessons in Redmond check out the link!

Marie Bergman
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