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Multiple Intelligences & Music Lessons

Updated: May 15, 2019

Back in 1983, American developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed his model that the human mind is not limited to only one or two types of intelligence, but that there are multiple ways in which a person may be “intelligent.” Intelligence is not a single general ability. It's more than the ability to work well with numbers or words but includes a range of skills and abilities. You can picture it this way, the human mind is not a calculator that is programmed to do only one task but is made up of many computers that perform a range of tasks. Gardner proposed a model that suggested we have nine types of intelligences. These include musical, logical, spatial, linguistic, natural, kinesthetic, inter-personal, intra-personal, and existential intelligences.


  • Musical Intelligence could be described as sound smart. These people are best discerning pitch, rhythm, timbre (also called tone color), and tone. Musical intelligence relates to listening as well as creating music. They will hear sounds that others might otherwise ignore. They have a strong emotional response to sound, and they share a lot of thinking processes with people with high Logical-Mathematical intelligence.

  • Logical-mathematical Intelligence is another way of saying number and reasoning smart. People who have high Logical-Mathematical Intelligence perceive relationships and connections and use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns. In the old model of intelligence Logic-mathematical intelligence was viewed as one of the measures of true intelligence. These people make great engineers and detectives.

  • Spatial Intelligence means visually smart. These people can think in three-dimensions. They excel atmental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and often have active imaginations. These people are visual artists, pilots, and sailors.

  • Linguistic Intelligence relates to verbal intelligence. These people are word smart. They are adept at thinking in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings.In the old model of intelligence Linguistic Intelligence was viewed as the other measure of true intelligence. These people are writers and public speakers.

  • Naturalist Intelligence is nature smart. People will high naturalist intelligence can discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was very important in the past for farmers and hunter-gatherers, but is still important today for chefs, botanists, and making good consumer choices.

  • Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence is body or movement smart. These people are the doers. They manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and mind-body coordination.Examples of the this intelligence in action include dancers, athletes, surgeons, and craftspeople.

  • Inter-personal Intelligence refers to what are often called having good “people skills. People “people smart” means being great at verbal and non-verbal communication. Teachers, actors, and politicians all have to excel at this kind of intelligence.

  • Intra-personal Intelligence refers to having high self-understanding, being “self smart.” They are also highly self-motivated and very aware of their own feelings. It involves appreciating oneself, but also having high empathy for others. These people make great psychologists, spiritual leaders, and philosophers.

  • Existential Intelligence refers to being philosophically smart. These people are able to tackle big questions and issues. These people ask questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is consciousness?” These people are highly abstract thinkers and make great theologians, philosophers, and scientists.


Now that we’ve looked at what the nine intelligences are, let’s consider how they relate to you or your child as a music student. When considering learning a musical instrument, it is easy to say that that falls under “musical” intelligence. However, it is more than just “musical intelligence” that is required to be a great musician. A great musician has to strengthen ALL NINE intelligences to be the best we can be. It may seem like some people are born smart or talented, but all of us have the ability to improve in ALL of these areas. Intelligence is not static, it grows and changes with us. Studying music and arts is one way to exercise our minds and become the better and better versions of ourselves.

  • Musical Intelligence increases when we study music. We learn to listen better. Our brains become better at noticing subtle sounds that others may not hear.

  • Logical-mathematical Intelligence is worked when we compose, play a musical instrument or sing. Our innate mathematical ability is worked through rhythm and our logical brains comprehend music’s sequential patterns. Reading sheet music works our symbolic mind.

  • Spatial Intelligence is important for musicians as well. Sounds exist in spaces. A lot of how we perceive music is in where it is in space. (This is something I will explain in a future post.)A lot of music’s emotional impact is created by this effect, think of the stereo speakers in the movie theater. Our imaginations often relate to music by creating images in our minds that correspond to what we hear. I encourage you to listen to a piece of instrumental music and scribble out the images that appear in your mind. This is a great exercise for students.

  • Linguistic Intelligence is important for musical performance and understanding. When singing words or speaking in rhythm, our linguistic intelligence is obviously being worked. More than that, music is a language even when there are no words. At a lecture I attended earlier this year, Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, said that musical ability and training is linked to stronger language skills.

  • Naturalist Intelligence may not seem related to music, but it is. Part of better understanding the natural world is being more observant to its “music.” Better listening leads to do better discriminating between animals and environments.

  • Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence is worked in music, as great mind-body connection is needed to sing, play, conduct, dance, and take part in a myriad of musical activities.

  • Inter-personal Intelligence is used when we play music for others or with others. To perform well, a player, singer, conductor, or composer must understand how to communicate with their audience and fellow musicians. Music is language and language must be used to translate meaning between people.

  • Intra-personal Intelligence is explored when we play, sing, and write. Music is a way for us to learn more about ourselves and dive deep into our emotional being in a healthy way.

  • Exercising my Existential Intelligence is one of my personal favorites ways to explore music. Much like they ability to understand more about ourselves and our feelings, music allows us a way to comprehend life’s bigger questions, especially those that feel too big for words. Using our musical expression, we can formulate sentences, envision futures, and explore the cosmos.



In life, there are many things we can learn and many paths we can take. Most of us exhibit many of these intelligences is varying capacities. We might think, “If I am excellent at language and mathematics, why should I study music?” However, the answer is because in music we have the ability to use our minds to their fullest potential. In music, you listen; you reason; you imagine; you communicate; you observe; you move; you feel; you relate to others; and you ask questions. Music lessons are life lessons and help us all discover our best selves. I know that’s why I chose music, or I let music choose me.



To discuss more about music and computers, the future of music, the relationship between visual art and music, and whatever other arts related topics are on your mind, reach out to us! Feel free to comment or email Where in the world should we head to next? Comment or email with your ideas.


Janae Jean has an extensive background in new media and music education. Janae is actively researching using electronically generated sounds for emotional and physical healing. Her other professional blog,, has more about her personal journey with music, her other creative projects, and wellness-related articles.


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