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Musical Intelligence

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The capacity to distinguish the whole realm of sound and, in particular, to discern, appreciate and apply the various aspects of music (pitch, rhythm, timbre and mood), both separately and holistically.





Listening to music.




Playing a musical instrument.


Dancing (if also physical).




A keen sense of hearing.


Enjoys a wide range of music.


Fascination with sound.


Remembers tunes and may sing along with songs.


Good sense of rhythm and may tap along with the beat.


Good sense of pitch and may harmonise spontaneously.


Able to differentiate different instruments.



The majority of musical capacities (including melody recognition and generation) are localised in the right hemisphere of the brain. However rhythm, naming songs, and reading musical notation are left-brain activities.


Children who have had 2 or 3 years instrumental tuition (prior to age 9 or so) demonstrate enhanced maths and problem-solving skills.


Non-musicians focus on the overall contours of a melody using the right side of the brain: musicians are more analytical and tend to use the left-brain more.


Shostakovich had a metallic shell fragment in his brain that he was reluctant to have removed because it helped to generate melodies when he tilted his head, which he was then able to use when composing.



Performing musician.


Composing music.


Recording studio.






TV & radio.


Film & video.


Creative advertising.


Music retailers.





Seguin and Treffert reported on "Blind Tom" (the 14th child of a Negro slave - deemed to be an idiot) who was able to play lengthy piano compositions after only a single hearing. As a party piece, he was able to play different songs with left and right hands, whilst singing a third!






Paul McCartney (popular musician)





If appropriate, play different kinds of music while you work, experimenting to see which "works best" for you.


Use music to help create the right "mood" for what you are doing.


Learn to play an instrument.


Listen to a wide range of musical styles, including Oriental and African music.


Close your eyes and listen carefully to the variety of sounds around you. Pick out their direction and source.  See the BrainBites activity, "Soundmaps".





Music with a tempo of approx. 60 beats per minute (eg: Baroque) facilitates generation of beta waves in the brain, which leads to a relaxed receptivity.


Keywords that are incorporated into the lyrics of raps, songs or jingles are easier to remember.


The ability of music to evoke emotions and memories means that it can also be used as a powerful aid to revision. Play different background music for each topic you study - and the association will facilitate recall.


SEE ALSO: Face the Music - recognising & developing musical intelligence