Music and IQ

David Webber dave at
Thu Sep 28 11:57:36 EST 2000

Hans-Georg Michna <hans-georgNoEmailPlease at> wrote in message
news:ffs5tsgbuk6n2fg12qpcvjtadjukt3it56 at

> you didn't even mention the probable reason why we use a 12 tone
> system. I mean, we could just as well use an x tone system.
> The reason is a mathematical coincidence, namely that 2^(7/12)
> is almost exactly 3/2, 1.5, the musical quint. In fact, it's
> 1.4983, close enough to 1.5 to be nearly indistinguishable.
> Conversely, 2^(5/12) is very close to 4/3, the musical quart.

This is an oversimplification.   You can find other rational numbers x and y
such that 2^x and 2^y are close to 3/2 and 4/3 or whatever other intervals
you want.  You have to work harder to come up with 12.   The concept of how
close it has to be to be "nearly indistinguishable" is one of the
considerations - the maximum number of different notes you can cope with in
an octave is another.

> However, some contributors to this thread forgot that all this
> is not required knowledge to make good music. The mathematical
> foundations have nothing to do with making good music requiring
> a high IQ because it's mathematical. A musician doesn't think
> about twelfth roots while composing. In the brain, music is
> detached from mathematics.

I'll concur with that.

> Nonetheless there's a fair
> correlation between the ability to make music and other brainy
> abilities.

But music does seem to require its own sort of braininess which has
something in common with mathematical braininess but is not the same.  :-)

Dave Webber
Author of MOZART the Music Processor for Windows -
Member of the North Cheshire Concert Band

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