Sunday, May 17, 2015

Music and Math

My Dad played the guitar. I love MUSIC. 

My Mum is a retired Math teacher. I love MATH.

But what do Music and Math have in common?

Probably the first lesson in Math that any of us learnt was in Kindergarten. And it went like this. “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.” If you went to school and studied in Hindi medium after 1988, they probably taught you “Ek Do Teen”, the song from Tezaab, which catapulted Madhuri Dixit to stardom in Bollywood. And if you are a girl, you possibly learnt the steps of the dance as well. Hopefully, the boys did not learn numbers from another popular movie, Ram Lakhan, which released in 1989, which quoted “One Two ka Four, Four Two ka one.”
The continuing experience of learning Math with music came with multiplication tables. I don’t think any of us could learn our tables by heart, without singing through it. “Two Ones are Two, Two Twos are Four… and so on.”

So we have learnt Math with music? Let’s look at the other side.

We probably heard a count of numbers “One, Two, Three, Four” before you started to sing. And for those who hated Math, the question would be, “Why do you bring the numbers to Music class. I thought all we did here was sing.” But then Julie Andrews (in the Sound of Music) and Michael Jackson told us that “Learning Music was as easy as learning ABC – and 123” (Ask a kindergartener how easy that is…they’ll possibly cry). 
All music has is 7 notes that go “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti… and then repeat all over again and mix them up a bit and you have a song.” Simple, isn’t it. In Hindi it goes “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni…” Ever wondered how only the second note is the same. The mix of the notes makes up a Melody or Sur.
And now comes the difficult part, the game of numbers. Music has another important constituent…its called Taal or Rhythm… and it’s out to get you. While most of the time you count to four, some songs require to count to three, and they call it a Waltz. Other songs count to two, and its called a Swing. Where do all these names come from.
If you ever began to learn music theory, the second thing you learn is to count (like you never knew this before). And there are new terms you have to learn – semibreve, minim, crotchet. And that’s just the beginning. Then come the quavers and semiquavers and the demisemiquavers and the hemidemisemiquavers  (Did I just write a nineteen letter word?) -  which is a half, quarter, one- eighth and one-sixteenth respectively (how do you count that?)


Anyway the numbers in the music gives you the rhythm or more simply time. And that’s what makes music dance-able. So if you want to be a good musician, please pay good attention to the Math lessons. And if you’re good at Math, you can be a good musician – if you have strong fingers (for the piano or guitar) or lungs (to blow the wind instruments). Play on...

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