Micro Life Zone
Asked by cnlhnf6 to Dirk, Janette, Renee, Yusuf on 23 May 2012.
Keywords: awareness, maths, music, musician, spatial
I have read some studies that confirm there is a relationship between musical ability and spatial awareness in children (not sure about adults). However, I’m not aware of any research saying that if you study hard and become better and maths you will automatically become better at music as well, or vice versa. Just because two things are related, does not necessarily mean that one is caused by the other.
Maths is very important in music, from simple things like counting beats and time to the mathematical relationships between the frequency of notes. These overlapping skills have been shown to improve the cognitive development in early childhood. But maths and music are both very broad subjects, you might be really good at algebra and drums but not so good at geometry or flute.
It’s a really complex area with lots of research still being done on it, I wish I knew more about this topic myself 🙂
Spatial awareness is simply your ability to to recognise where you are in relation to your surrounds and where objects are. Music definitely improves spatial awareness through playing musical instruments, but I have read a few things that suggest even listening to music can assist with spatial awareness, though there’s some disagreement on whether this is actually the case. It’s thought listening to music attentively helps with focus and can improve mood, so spatial awareness is improved by this way. The debated part is how long the improvement lasts – it appears that it may only be a short term and last about 15 minutes after listening to music.
The reason playing a music instrument can improve spatial awareness, and it has a much longer term effect than listening, is that in order to play a musical instrument, you have to be really coordinated. For example, your hands have to be coordinated and work independently to play a piano, all while transferring the written notes on the page to making sound on the keyboard.
I’ve also read that musical training improves brain development in young children, and in the long term improves memory and the ability of the brain to process meaningful information, which could translate to being able to remember things and learn more effectively. Music is actually very mathematical – like maths music is full of patterns and there are a lot of numbers in music – Time signatures, the notes, and even harmony ( the combinations of notes in music to make nice sounds) all are underpinned by numerical relationships. When someone reads and plays music, they are counting to keep the beat, playing the notes for the correct amount of time and recognising patterns, and this translates really well to maths.
Of course, not everyone who plays an instrument will be a math genius (I play two instruments, and I wasn’t the top of my class at maths!). Like Renee said, there’s lots of research that still has to be done.
Overall, music improving spatial awareness and math makes sense – music and math are very closely linked, and if music help improve both coordination and the ability to learn, it is likely this will translate to other areas of a person’s life.
Here’s an interesting (but very long article) about the link between music and math: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jun/27/music-mathematics-fibonacci
Renee and Janette have described nicely the link between music, math and spatial awareness. Thanks guys!
The item that directly links spatial awareness and music is that both involve the ears. In the inner ear there are organs (tubes lined with hairs and filled with fluid) that tell us where we are in space. This is linked in the brain to visual clues and when those two are not in agreement we feel dizzy (see link 2) below). So many of the same parts of the brain that are related to hearing music and sound (processing the movements of hairs in the cochlea) are also related to processing the hair movements in the inner ear. And spatial processing requires maths so there we have a link!
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