Seven Types of Awareness Intelligence for Learning Music

The 7 parts of musical intelligence

Musical Intelligence

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A player must employ all available skills to learn music deeply. The following list isolates 7 types of intelligence (ways of learning) which enable comprehensive understanding of music.

1 - Body/Breath Intelligence -

How do you use and control your air? All musicians benefit from awareness of the breath. Wind players must know and control the flow of breath and the types of breath support. By extension breath includes body use and awareness. (However, finger and hand awareness are isolated below.)

Practice: Flow Breathing technique carried into your musical practice.

2 - Rhythmic Intelligence -

What is the rhythmical feel of the music? What are its dance-like qualities? Body memory of rhythm is vital to musical intelligence.

Practice - Conducting gestures or voiced syllable

3 - Finger/Hand Intelligence -

Feel and learn the motions of the fingers. How many fingers move? Where do they move? Remember the shape of the finger patterns through a passage.

Practice - Finger passages without sound.

4 - Pitch Intelligence -

Learn to hear and sing pitches, intervals, relationships of tones. Singing engages deep rooted musical instincts.

Practice - Sing phrases as best you can, perhaps while you conduct.

5 - Visual Intelligence -

Visual learning of the actual notes on the page. See the page in your mind. Visual memory can come in handy in a panic, or save you if your music falls off your stand.

Practice - Memorize line by line to map the visual page in your mind.

6 - Theoretical Intelligence -

What are the theoretical structures of the music, such as scales, chords, progressions, analysis of form. Theory intelligence is one of the best tools to grasp music deeply.

Practice - What are the themes? How are they developed? Even rudimentary theoretical understanding boosts the whole musical experience.

7 - Musical intelligence -

Beyond pitches, notes, rhythm and theory lies the emotional content of the music- how it moves the listener; how a phrase is parsed. Musical intelligence unifies the experience of music; it glues the big picture into a whole. Musical intelligence maps music emotionally.

Practice: A musical story. Write a descriptive page using characters to represent each theme's emotional picture, how themes interact and develop, how the mood changes from section to section.

By becoming aware of these various skills, any player can improve his overall musical ability. Each of the above listed intelligences will be detailed in future posts.

Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? Please consider joining the Musician Practice Café.

The ideas of Flow Breathing and Suspension Support will be included among others in my future book The Well Tempered Clarinetist.

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4 comments for “Seven Types of Awareness Intelligence for Learning Music

  1. October 2, 2010 at

    Very interesting post! It's great to see such a carefully considered framework for the varied skills which are essential to any serious musician.

    In my experience #7, Musical Intelligence, is unfortunately the most overlooked – probably because it's less tangible than the others (with the possible exception of #6, Theoretical Intelligence). However, to my mind it's the one which should be prioritised most highly, with the rest all serving to support it.

    Looking forward to hearing your detailed thoughts on each as you develop the series!

    • October 27, 2010 at

      Thanks for your comment Chris. Music education definitely need a revamp. We need more El Sistema type programs, where young musicians are taught to feel the music first.

  2. September 1, 2010 at

    Well thought out – I like seeing the 7 types of learning gathered together. I've used all of them at different times and it's always amazing how, creating a story for example, adds to your learning of a piece – not to mention giving you a deeper remembrance and knowing of the music.

    • September 1, 2010 at

      I think all good musicians use them all at one time or another. Thanks for your comment. Nice to meet you. D

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