Humans have been making music for as long as we have existed. From the first primitive drum beats to today’s electronic pop and jazz, something about it seems to call to us. Musical repetition or repeating sequences in rhythms and beats – or tunes and melodies – is thought to be a universal component across all cultures and civilizations. This study of patterns and measurements of the same can be called mathematics.
Mathematics and music then, are inexorably linked and indeed, geometrical shapes, algebraic equations, and several higher theoretical concepts can be perfectly expressed as music. Let’s take a look at how maths and music are intertwined, and how studying one can help your child improve the other!
Every sound we perceive has its own wavelength and frequency. Frequency is fundamental in music because the higher the pitch or note, the higher the frequency. 9000-year-old evidence of a bone flute proves that humans have been concerned for a long time producing a single frequency or pitch to build a music scale.
In string instruments like the sitar, violin, or guitar, the frequency can be directly adjusted via the wire’s length and thickness to create different notes. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was the first to note that the frequency of sound was inversely proportional to the length of the plucked string.
Meanwhile, in a piano, hitting a key results in a small hammer striking a chord that vibrates at the exact frequency needed to produces the right note. Then, every musical instrument is a tool of precise mathematical expression and evidence of maths in music.
As early as Ancient Greece, it was noted that certain combinations of notes were extremely pleasing to the human ear. The ratio of a frequency and it’s double – 2:1 – was found to be the most pleasant and similar, and the interval between them was called an octave.
Musical scales (like the western do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do or the Carnatic sa-re-ga-ma-pa-da-ni-sa) repeat periodically and are spaced within an octave.
The most harmonious sounds correspond to simple ratios of frequencies like 2:1, 3:2, 4:3, and so on. More complex ratios tended to sound discordant. Musical scales take advantage of this, and almost universally, their constituent notes can be calculated through simple fractions or ratios from a starting point.
Ancient Greek, Chinese, and Indian philosophers considered musical acoustics to be a branch of physics and sought to understand the world through harmonics and rhythms’ mathematical laws. The music of the spheres, which thoroughly captured the imagination of 16th century Europe, was supposed to be the music of the universe that corresponded perfectly with the calculations of heavenly bodies’ movements in space. Both music and maths seem to express themselves most beautifully through repeating patterns.
Now that we’ve seen how much of music is an expression of maths, it stands to reason that learning music will help your child understand it at a more fundamental level. The very language of music and its notations is mathematical in nature, involving time signatures, beats per minute (BPM), progression and sequences, and a necessitating and practical understanding of fractions.
It improves Spatio-temporal cognition and basic arithmetic skills. Learning concepts through music can also help in better memory and recollection. Keeping certain songs in mind and a good sense of rhythm can help save a life, as songs with a BPM of 100-120 are recommended to use while giving emergency CPR instead of counting numbers.
Learning music can have much more of an impact on your child than just improving their maths skills. Music is fundamentally human and is something that we’re intrinsically drawn to do. It comes with a ton of benefits like increased patience, time management skills, and memory. Other skills include increased emotional perception, higher non-verbal IQ and spelling abilities, strengthened immune system, and better reaction time.
Music fulfils an intellectual, social, and emotional need that leads to the more holistic development of your child. If you’re interested in making music a big part of your child’s life while they continue to study from the comfort of home, check out our highly acclaimed courses at Vineyard Academy, which perfectly cater to students homeschooling in India and UAE.
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