Some may think that math and music are two entirely different fields of study. However, how many of you are aware of the strong correlation between math and music? If you feel it is illogical to compare the two, let us tell you that there are more similarities between them than you could imagine.
In this blog, we will look at how the relationship between math and music can support each other and how studying one can lead to success in another. But, before that, let us understand how math and music are connected.
The Relationship Between Math and Music
The relationship between math and music has a deep-rooted history that dates back to ancient Greece. This correlation between math and music has been at least 2000 years old and spans many cultures and civilizations. It is, in fact, said that studying music as a part of mathematics was once part of the math curriculum.1
Mathematics has existed since ancient civilizations.The mathematics of the time of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians was a branch of science, examining abstract things such as dots, clusters, and numbers. However, it was not studied for its own sake until Greek antiquity (600-300 BC).1
Though we see music as an element of art that deals with what is good and math as an element of science that deals with what is right, many have spoken about their correlation for a long time.
Many philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, have emphasized the relationship between music and math. Music is indeed very mathematical, and math is inherent to many basic ideas of music theory. Not only philosophers, but even mathematicians, such as Pythagoras and Leibniz, have spoken about the connection between music and math.2
“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”—Pythagoras.3
In simple terms, the correlation between math and music is that music involves creating patterns of sound, and math is the study of patterns. Research has stated that popular pieces of music have definite mathematical structures than otherwise prominently evident, and these patterns appeal to our innate desire for mathematical rhythms and patterns.4 For example, Pachelbel’s Canon in D.5
Beethoven could be the best example to understand how musical compositions with underlying quantitative appeal are more popular. Did you know that one of the most celebrated composers of all time was deaf for most of his lifetime? How, then, did he produce some of the most popular music of all time? Much to our bewilderment, the answer lies in his mathematical understanding of the notes. Using the example of “Moonlight Sonata,” the blog post by Natalya St. Clair explains how Beethoven wrote most of his beloved songs using math.6
How Mathematical Skill Influences Musical Ability7
Learning to play musical instruments relies on your understanding of concepts such as fractions, ratios, counting, scales, rhythm, pattern, interval, symbols, time signatures, harmony, tone, overtones, pitch, and so on.
- Music is divided into sections called measures, where each measure has an equal amount of beats. There needs to be good mathematical knowledge of division to understand this and work around measures effortlessly.
- We use math to determine the frequency of sound. The famous mathematician, Pythagoras, found that different weights and vibrations make different sounds. It is said that he formed the connection between music and math when he heard a smith hammering the anvil and noticed that the order of the weights being hit formed harmonious beats. Thus, based on his discovery, we know that the pitch of a vibrating string is proportional and can be controlled by length.8
- Another important similarity between music and math is patterns. While music has repeating verses and choruses, math uses patterns to explain abstract things. In music, we use many mathematical phenomena, including geometry, signal processing, trigonometry, differential calculus, etc.
- Each piece of music has a time signature that gives its rhythmic information, and all music notes have numerical connections and a particular number of beats. It is important to understand the value of fractions and notes to count the music correctly if you want to be a successful musician.
Mathematics as a discipline may be challenging for some and interesting for others. However, it is a beautiful and complex subject that has its presence everywhere and its applications reach far into other disciplines.
Music works mathematically, and learning math can be quite helpful in learning music, and vice versa, as both are deeply intertwined. Math helps scope out the timing and tonality of music and provides foundations when needed. Therefore, learning math will indeed help enhance your musical abilities.
While most of you may have had a slight understanding that math and music are inextricably linked, we hope our article has given you a better understanding of how learning math can impact your child’s musical development.
- Shah, S. (2010). MATH30000, 3 rd Year Project An Exploration of ! Relation”ip Between Ma#ematics and Music.
- Archibald, R. C. (1924). Mathematicians and Music. The American Mathematical Monthly, 31(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.2307/2298868
- The Music of the Spheres – Sensory Studies. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.sensorystudies.org/picture-gallery/spheres_image/
- Can studying music really help you study mathematics better? (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://qrius.com/the-relationship-between-music-and-math/amp/
- How did Pachelbel’s Canon in D become the most popular wedding song? – Classic FM. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://www.classicfm.com/composers/pachelbel/music/pachelbels-canon-d-facts/
- The Math Behind Beethoven’s Music | Open Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.openculture.com/2016/04/the-math-behind-beethovens-music.html
- The Functional Relationship Between Math And Music | Disc Makers Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://blog.discmakers.com/2020/07/the-functional-relationship-between-math-and-music/
- Timeline 002: Pythagoras And The Connection Between Music And Math | Vermont Public Radio. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://www.vpr.org/vpr-classical/2015-05-04/timeline-002-pythagoras-and-the-connection-between-music-and-math