Musical intelligence: what it is, how to identify it, and how it can be honed

29/09/2023 | Santander Universidades

Did you know that music is a therapeutic tool used to treat a variety of disorders? In fact, music therapy is recommended for certain disorders such as autism, ADHD and patients with dementia, as it produces benefits in the sensory, cognitive and motor system.

The theory of the Mozart effect follows this line of thinking, arguing that this brilliant composer's music – and classical music in general– has beneficial effects on cognitive development in children as well as adults.

The importance of music to our society is an inescapable fact that spans borders, cultures and centuries of history, to the extent that the term "musical intelligence" has been coined as one of the main skills for creating, identifying and appreciating this art form. Do you know if you have musical intelligence? In this article we explain what it is, how to identify it and how it can be honed. 

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What is musical intelligence?

Musical intelligence is one of the eight intelligences identified in the multiple intelligences model. The creator of the model, psychologist Howard Gardner, identifies a set of cognitive skills that comprise the intellectual capacity of the human being. 

The eight categories that make up the theory of multiple intelligences are logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal and naturalistic intelligence. They are all given the same level of importance, with no hierarchy between them, and are related in one way or another. Thus, musical intelligence is closely linked to linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligence.

For Gardner, musical intelligence “is the ability to perceive, distinguish, transform, and express sounds and musical forms, in addition to a capacity to discern rhythm, pitch and timbre”. In other words, people with this ability can process musical information, identifying melodic nuances and harmony with greater precision. Likewise, they can express themselves through music, compose, more easily distinguish instruments, and follow different rhythms.


Famous people with musical intelligence

Some of the greatest musicians that ever lived had one thing in common: sharp musical intelligence and perfect or absolute pitch. This skill, boasted by only 1 in 1,000 people, allows us to detect and reproduce the pitch of any note or instrument. This undoubtedly offers an advantage that was exploited by certain musicians and composers who have gone down in musical history. Let's take a look at a few examples:

  • Mozart: with over 600 works, this classical music virtuoso is one of the greatest geniuses of all time. With his prodigious ability, he could identify all the notes of any instrument, leading him to play the harpsichord at the age of just 4, and compose his first works at 14.
  • Ella Fitzgerald: the queen of jazz could improvise like no other. Her musicians even used her voice to tune their instruments. Her extraordinary pitch and talent led to over 60 years on stage.
  • Frank Sinatra: one of the 20th century's most iconic figures, this singer and actor sold more than 250 million albums throughout his career. His absolute pitch allowed him to sing with different tones at the same time. He was known as The Voice for good reason.
  • Jimmy Hendrix: "When he started to play, something changed: colors changed, everything changed....", that's how Pete Townshend of The Who remembers it. Indeed, this guitarist - a veritable musical milestone - was not only able to distinguish and reproduce any note, but also thrilled all those who listened to him.

How to hone musical intelligence

Musical intelligence surfaces in the initial stages of childhood development. While some people are born with a greater musical awareness, as with many other skills, this is one that can be honed and worked on. 

To do so, direct contact with music, in any of its forms of expression, is key - although that's not the only way to boost this skill. There are myriad options to bring music into the lives of children - and adults - and thus develop their musical intelligence. Some of these include attending concerts to listen to live music, learning to play an instrument or taking time to consciously listen to music.

Meanwhile, linking this intelligence with other skills, such as communications or linguistics, learning a language, reading poetry or paying attention to the sounds around us, also helps to enhance our musical sensitivity. 

In this sense, to achieve a fulfilling life aligned with our work and personal goals, the development and learning of transversal or soft skills is fundamental in order to expand our "toolbox”, which allows professionals to tackle any situation.

With this aim in mind, and to help people progress, overcome the challenges posed by the fourth industrial revolution and grow in an inclusive and sustainable way, Banco Santander is committed to three key concepts: lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling. To support this commitment, it has created the Santander Open Academy website, a unique and pioneering global programme. 

If you would like to keep growing personally and professionally, head over to the Santander Open Academy website, where you'll find 100s of opportunities to train together with internationally renowned institutions. Access training in technology, languages, research, investigation, soft skills, internships and female leadership, which will help you to improve your employability or refocus your career.

Do you want to become a lifelong learner and increase your job opportunities? The Santander Open Academy website has plenty of options to help you achieve your goals. Check out the website and remember: you can sign up for as many courses as you like. Make the most of this opportunity!


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