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  • Writer's pictureMiss Nancy

Music + Math: A Perfect Pair

It's no secret that I am a huge proponent of arts and music education, and not just because the Earth without ART is "eh." Studies have shown that students with even a basic understanding of music concepts perform better in other classes. One of those classes is, you guessed it, MATH!

"But how?" you may ask. Let me count the ways (ha! Count the ways. Math. I crack myself up). Here are just a few of the ways that music and math work together. I could geek out for hours on this stuff, but I will spare you.

1. Counting:  Music is divided into measures, which are counted in beats. There are a certain number of beats in each measure. These beats and measures set the pace and help musicians to play by themselves and with each other.  

2. Fractions:  Fractions are all over the place in music.  As I mentioned above, music is divided into measures, which are counted in beats.  Each beat has a note (or rest) and each of those notes/rests has a value (the length of time the note is held).

3. Patterns: Music features all sorts of patterns:

  • Melodies: "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," for example, has three patterns repeated throughout the song.

Twinkle, twinkle little star (A)

How I wonder what you are (B)

Up above the world so high (C)

Like a diamond in the sky (C)

Twinkle, twinkle little star (A)

How I wonder what you are (B)

(Musical tidbit. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is the same melody as the ABC Song and Baa Baa Black Sheep. Go ahead, sing them out loud. I'll wait.)

  • Scales: Music is made of repeating patterns called scales.  The scale can start on any note, but it follows the same pattern each time.

  • Rhythm: Rhythm describes the repeating pattern of how the music fits into the beats and measures. You can often hear strong and weak beats within each measure.  And even without any musical training, you can often hear the downbeat (the first beat) of each measure, especially in popular music.  You can hear the pattern repeating itself. 

  • Visual: There are some visual patterns in music, too.  Take a piano, for example.  There are patterns of black and white keys.

Notice that C is always the white key that's to the left of the two black keys, D is in between the two black keys, E to the right, and so on.

As I mentioned, these are just a few of the ways that math and music go hand in hand. It was difficult for me to rein myself in, because I find it all fascinating!  I could get into physics, geometry, frequencies, symmetry . . . but I won't. Not now anyway. But you can always ask.

Thanks for reading!

Miss Nancy


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