# Maths and Music

Music is something that I have always had a strong interest in and I studied the subject throughout my time at high school. Little did I know just how many links there were between music and maths. I was always very aware of the simple mathematical concepts that were involved in music such as determining how many beats were in a bar or the different note values. However, after the maths and music input and further research into the topic I am now much more aware that there are many more links between the two subjects than meets the eye.

There are many basic links between maths and music, these links include: pitch, beats in a bar, note values, chords, intervals and sequences and patterns.

Wiggins (2012) states that pitch is something that can be related directly with mathematics as we can measure pitch. A musical skill such as tuning a piano makes use of mathematical concepts.

Also, by having an understanding of maths principles, it is then easier to have a more theoretical understanding of music and musical concepts. An example of this is the formation of chords. There are 13 notes in an octave, a scale, however, is formed of 8 notes and the 5th and 3rd notes in this scale form a basic ‘root’ chord. By understanding the intervals between notes and the numbering of the notes, this would allow a musician to be able to form the root chord of any note asked of them without really having to think about it.

Below is a video of a prime example of mathematics being used by extremely famous composer Beethoven, who was actually partly deaf and used his mathematical knowledge to create music that was so widely popular with listeners.

Besides mathematical and musical concepts being very closely linked, I was also interested in further reading about if the connection between maths ability and musical ability has actually been proven or if it is, in fact, just a myth.

In the article The Enduring Myth of Music and Maths (The Independent, 2011) it is stated that there is no evidence to back up the supposed “Mozart Effect” in that a group of children who have been exposed to music by Mozart are said to be more intelligent in subject areas like maths than children from a control group.

From my research I have found that there are in fact many links between music and maths that I did not know existed however there does not seem to be much evidence to prove that abilities in the two areas are linked. You do not necessarily have to be mathematically talented in order to acquire musical skills and knowledge.

I will take forward my knowledge of the links between the subject and hope to share them with those I teach in the future as music has always been a subject I have been passionate about but I never quite realised just how much of my mathematical knowledge I put to use throughout my studies of music. I feel that this may be a good way to help pupils who suffer from maths anxiety to put maths to use without actually realising it and hopefully improve their confidence along the way.

References:

Gowers, T. (2011) “The Enduring Myth of Music and Maths”, The Guardian, 5th July, no page given.

Sangster, P. (2017) “Music and Maths” [powerpoint presentation] ED21006:Discovering Mathematics (Accessed 17th November 2017)