If you are a person who is in high school, you probably go to math class thinking, “When am I ever going to use this?” Truth is, Math is essential no matter what you want to do in life, whether it’s being an engineer for NASA, or a doctor at a hospital, or even some thing as little as being a musician. Music involves Math. That’s right, I’ll say it again. Music involves math. Sometimes you may realize it, like when you are counting beats in a measure, and other times it’s without consciousness like when you are writing a melody.
I know what you’re probably thinking; “How am I using math in music?” Well let’s start with counting beats in a measure. As a musician, you should be familiar with the time signature that goes next to the treble and/or bass clef at the begin of your sheet music. In most pieces and songs, the time signature is 4/4 or “common time” as we professionals call it. The numerator or top number represents how many beats are in a measure, and the denominator or bottom number tells us which note gets one beat. in 4/4 time, there are four beats in a measure, and the quarter note gets one beat. Back to the question on how exactly you are writing music with math; You are counting a rhythm out and giving certain notes time value. When you string a series of notes and/or rest together, and then giving those notes different time values, like a quarter note or a half note, you are adding number together. “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and” drummers especially will do this when trying to keep a beat.
It’s pretty obvious that counting beats is using math, but you probably don’t realize that choosing what notes or sounds you are using also involves math. As you should know if you’ve taken physics, that sound travels at different frequencies. And each frequency is perceived at different tones. We measure these tones in Hertz (Hz). Middle C on the piano vibrates at 261.6 Hz. When you go from middle C to the C one octave higher, you are adding to the frequency. C5, the octave above middle C vibrates at 523.251 Hz. Doing the math 523.251 - 261.6 = 261.651 Hz. You are adding 261.6561 Hz to the frequency.
You don’t think about it, but math is included in music both for keeping a rhythm, and making a melody. So next time you think to yourself “When am I ever going this (math)?” Just remember music requires a steady beat and a melody; both of which have numbers involved.