Math as Our Musicians’ Muse

SET High School walls painted with creative colorful murals, this one of a DJ making beats in mathematical music.

Math as Our Musicians’ Muse

At the School for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET High), we support all creatives in our tuition-free public high school in San Diego. One example is how we enable students to practice math concepts through music for both academic and entrepreneurial pursuits. Did you know music is heavily based on math? The rhythms, melodies, harmonies – they all have mathematical components. 

The Math & Music Relationship

Greek philosopher Pythagoras, back in 530 BC (or so), heard the melodic tones of a smith worker striking an anvil, and realized that a mathematical combination of tones and patterns created appealing sounds – also known as chords and rhythms. That was the beginning of the music-math relationship. 

Understanding time signatures and note values is essential to being a good musician, and it’s all based on math. For example, 4/4 time means there are four beats in each measure, and the quarter note gets one beat. When composing music, students need to understand what notes are in each chord and how they fit together to create a certain sound. Believe it or not, that’s applying math. 

Studying math helps students in music theory classes, and the reverse is true. Understanding music theory and musical patterns is a big help in seeing mathematical patterns and solving equations. 

Bring it. Bring That Beat. Bring That Beat Back.

To help SET High music students practice the math and music relationship, we brought in a looper machine. It’s a device that allows students to record sounds or phrases and then play them back on a loop, creating a layered effect.

Here’s how it works: first record something into the looper. This could be anything from a guitar riff to a vocal melody to a beatbox rhythm. The looper plays the initial recording back on a loop, creating a repetitive pattern.

From there a student can add additional layers to their loop by recording new sounds or phrases on top of the original loop. This requires calculated timing to create effective complex arrangements with multiple layers of sound. It can sound like a full band of instruments but it’s created by just one person.

At SET High we encourage creativity, and especially students who love music to embrace math. Once they see the connections between math and music, they’re amazed at how much they can excel in both subjects. Are you looking for a safe place to reignite your love for learning? We welcome you to SET High. Enroll today!

About SET High 

SET High offers each student individual attention from multi-talented, highly qualified teachers. Students build a healthy camaraderie with classmates inside an intellectually rigorous environment that brings out individual talents and personality, helping develop character and direction in life. With a wide variety of electives, flexible scheduling, dual enrollment college classes and more — our students regularly exceed academic and personal expectations. Enrolling now!