Musical intelligence is the capacity to think in music and rhythm. People possessing it are considered to have a strong appreciation for music, can easily remember songs and melodies, have an understanding of timbre and composition, can identify differences between musical pitches and generally enjoy being immersed in music. The ability to play instruments comes naturally to this type of person.
Musical intelligence is part of the multiple intelligence (MI) theory developed by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. According to MI theory, people are born with different types of intelligences. Gardner’s view of multiple intelligence is contrary to the traditional view of intelligence, which is defined as the ability to be proficient in math, science, general logic and all other forms of knowledge. According to these traditional views, testing is the gold standard for measuring how smart a person is.
Gardner outlines eight forms of intelligence: visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, naturalist and musical-rhythmic. According to Gardner’s theory, a person can have one form of intelligence, like musical, but not have another form, such as intrapersonal, and still be considered smart. People with musical intelligence are often recognized as child prodigies with an amazing talent to think in patterns, sounds and rhythms.
Beethoven, Mozart and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are considered to have musical intelligence, as are composers, conductors, music critics, instrument makers and musicians. People with this kind of intelligence are sensitive to meter, tone and melody and can easily distinguish between the sounds of different instruments. Musical people can play a variety of instruments and may be constantly heard singing or making some type of quality music. They think and learn best using music.
Multiple intelligences are not fixed. People who aren’t born proficient in music can still learn skills through practice. You can exercise your musical intelligence by learning about music theory, learning to play a new instrument, writing your own songs, exposing yourself to new music and actively listen to classical music.
Children should be exposed to music at a young age to fully stimulate their musical talents. Parents are urged to sing to their baby, expose their children to a variety of music, show children how to make rhythm and listen to live music. There are many studies describing the neurological connections of musical intelligence. The “Mozart Effect®,” a theory by music educator Don Campbell, claims that listening to Mozart stimulates early brain development, leading to a higher rate of musical intelligence. Both the Mozart effect and the theory of MI are still subjects of controversy and are not fully accepted by the scientific community.