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Musical Intelligence: Definition, Experiments & Characteristics

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  • 0:01 Musical Intelligence
  • 1:45 Howard Gardner's…
  • 3:22 Experiments in Musical…
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

What do Michael Jackson, Mozart, and Barbara Streisand all have in common? They all have musical intelligence. Learn more about musical intelligence from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Musical Intelligence

Have you ever been complimented on your ability to play an instrument? Maybe you enjoy listening to and composing music. Are you good at detecting rhythms, patterns, and pitches in music? Do you find that you learn concepts much easier when you turn them into lyrics? If so, you have demonstrated musical intelligence.

Beethoven, Cher, and Stevie Wonder are individuals considered to have high musical intelligence. In other words, they think in music and rhythms. People with musical intelligence are able to hear and recognize patterns easily. They are very sensitive to rhythm and sound. For example, they can easily distinguish the sound of a clarinet from the sound of a flute.

People with musical intelligence think in terms of patterns. For example, they look for patterns in new information in order to increase learning. They also look for patterns in speech and language. They remember things by turning them into lyrics or rhymes. People with musical intelligence have a strong appreciation of music.

People with musical intelligence are known to:

  • Seek patterns in their environment
  • Be drawn to sound
  • Easily memorize phrases and words in foreign languages
  • Enjoy dancing and singing
  • Use patterning to remember things
  • Have good rhythm
  • Be skilled at playing several instruments
  • Be zealous about music
  • Have the ability to easily remember songs
  • Have a high level of understanding of musical structure, notes, tone, and rhythm

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

According to the multiple intelligences theory proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983, there are eight different types of intelligence. They are:

  1. Visual/spatial intelligence: includes the ability to think in terms of physical space, detect patterns, and manipulate physical space
  2. Bodily/kinesthetic intelligence: includes the ability to use the body to send messages, communicate needs, and solve problems
  3. Naturalistic intelligence: includes the ability to observe patterns in nature and a love of outdoors
  4. Interpersonal intelligence: includes the ability detect the moods, feelings, and motivations of others
  5. Intrapersonal intelligence: includes a high level of self-knowledge, including one's fears, motivations, goals, and weaknesses
  6. Logical/mathematical intelligence: includes the ability to understand complex mathematical concepts and think logically
  7. Linguistic intelligence: includes the ability to understand the functions of words and effectively use them
  8. Musical intelligence: includes the appreciation of music patterns

Your level of intelligence varies across the different types. A high level of intelligence on one measurement does not guarantee a high level on another. For example, a physicist may be able to understand several complex scientific principles (logical/mathematical intelligence), but have no clue how to pick up on social cues (interpersonal intelligence).

Experiments in Musical Intelligence

In the 1980s, composer and professor David Cope created a project called Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI). EMI was a computer program that analyzed the musical compositions of composers, such as Beethoven and Mozart, and could create a new composition that sounded as if the composer had written it. This program was found to have been successful for almost every composer throughout history.

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