Music = Math ("whooah, that's sooo trippy!")

I’m always fascinated by the patterns and numbers that emerge in nature, in math, and in music, so I thought I would start a thread here for geeks like me who want to be like, “whoah check it out…” and share our amazement at concepts about music that relate to math.

All righty then let’s get started:

You ever trip out on the number 12? There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a day or night, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples of Jesus, 12 signs in the zodiac, 12 inches in a foot, 12 doughnuts in a dozen (mmmm, I’m hungry!)…and there are 12 half-steps in an octave!

Or how about the number 7? There are 7 days in a week, 7 oceans, 7 continents, 7 vertebrae in our neck, 7 colors in the rainbow… and 7 notes in our Major and Minor scales (and related modes.)

I mean you gotta admit it’s KINDA cool, right?

Ok, now I’m gonna get even MORE geeky and out there on you, lol. So, you may or may not know that I am a music producer (Like, I produced all the hundreds of jam tracks that come along with my Beginner to Boss course.)

So I was mixing a song recently and I was looking at a frequency chart of some of the lowest notes to help me make a good guess of what might be a good frequency to boost in the EQ of a kick drum, and I noticed something that made me laugh out loud.

OK, so to preface it, I feel like I’ve been at many gigs where I’ve heard crazy, colorful musicians talking about “what is the fundamental frequency of planet earth.” Because everything has it’s fundamental frequency, the vibration that an object “wants” to vibrate at most. I’ve heard some of these kooky friends of mine say “the frequency of Earth is E” or the “the frequency of Earth is Eb.”

Well, when I was looking at my frequency chart the other day, I noticed that Eb vibrates at 77.77Hz. (Hz is the abbreviation for Hertz which simply denotes the number of vibrations per second.) I’m like, “SEVENTY-SEVEN POINT SEVENTY-SEVEN!?!?!? OK THAT SETTLES IT, THE FUNDAMENTAL FREQUNCY OF EARTH MUST BE Eb!!”

LOL. Does it kinda make you want to go see how many songs are in the key of Eb on Stevie Wonder’s album, songs in the key of life?..

Anyways, I think we can ALL agree that Eb is the key of life. And hey, I just right now realized something else: Eb is pentatonic scale is played by playing only the black keys on the piano.

Things that make you go, “hmmmmm…”

What about you? Have you noticed any connections between music and math? I’m quite sure we’re only scratching the surface here…

3 Likes

Hi Luke.
Check this out.

I’ve had a long-standing interest in the connection between math and music. My interest comes honestly as my great uncle Charles Barkla won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1917 for his work with Röntgen radiation (X rays). The family story goes that when he elected to transfer to the University of Cambridge it was not because they had the best research facilities on the planet, or the best curricula, but because they had a great choir. He loved to sing. As a result I once did a very casual search of Nobel Prize winners in physics for the 20th century and what I found was that there seemed to be more physicists seriously invested and trained in music in their private lives than one would expect from the normal population. There’s something about music that “massages” the mathematical brain. Though everyone knows that Einstein played the violin, I believe it was the piano that he used as his “thinking machine” when he was stuck.
Apparently Fabiola Gianotti, I believe the current director of CERN, ultimately had to make a choice between physics and music in her life; deciding on physics when she noticed how an equation she was using in her quantum physics work was structurally the same as one previously used in her studies of harmony theory.
And lets not even get started on the very root concepts of String Theory.
Anyway, as you say, this subject is very, very geeky cool.

2 Likes

Wow! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing your informal study and this article. It’s so nice to know I’m not totally crazy for thinking these kinds of things…