Music and math have a beautiful relationship

Music & Math

Music and math have a beautiful relationship. We can find number sequences in every aspect of music, from the time signature & tempo to the numbers assigned to different pitches of the tones.

Time Signatures

Firstly, time signatures are a critical defining feature of a musical piece. The bottom figure in the time signature defines the number of beats in bar, such as 4 or 8 notes per bar and the top figure defines the type of note, such as a 1/4 or 1/8 note. For example, country music has become synonymous with 3-4 timing and 4-4 timing forms the backbone of rock, r&b, soul and popular music.

Art is How We decorate space,
Music is How WE Decorate Time.

– Jean-Michel Basquiat

Tempo

Secondly, tempo (Italian for “time”) regulates the feel of the song. For instance, slower Adagio tempos such as 60 beats per minute (bpm) depict ballads and melancholy music. Faster tempos such as 120 bpm in Allegro inspire energetic and upbeat music.

Scales

Thirdly, scales would be meaningless in music without their corresponding scale degrees. Since we assign numbers to notes, the mathematical relationship between these notes define each scale. Indeed, math is the basis for scales all over the world; Major scales, natural minor scales, harmonic minor scales, melodic minor scales, chromatic scales, diminished scales, Lydian augmented scales, and the lovely pentatonic scale.

Soundwaves

To go further with music and math, let’s look at the soundwaves and frequencies (measured in hertz – Hz) produced by different tones. A higher pitched tone, such as high C6 produces tighter soundwaves and higher frequencies (1046.50 Hz), while lower pitched tone, such as low C2 produce looser soundwaves and lower frequencies (65.4064 Hz).

As you can see, mathematical numbers and sequences show up in all aspects of music. We know that repeatable sequences and patterns help us understand concepts and provide stability in our lives. It is also fascinating that these same sequences also provide our senses with astounding visual and auditory beauty.

Ready for a deep dive on number sequences and music? We will explore more on this topic in an upcoming article “The Fibonacci Sequence in Music“. In the meantime, check out this video content on “How Music and Math Relate”.

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