Performance 4 min read

Is Musical Intelligence Your Secret Strength? Here’s How To Find Out

by Shannon Terrell November 13, 2018

According to American psychologist, Howard Gardner, intelligence goes far beyond IQ points. In fact, he has identified nine different types of intelligence humans can possess.

One of these types of intelligence is musical intelligence.

Most people associate musical intelligence with music talent. But believe it or not, they’re not the same thing!

You don’t need to be an expert musician or world class vocalist to have musical intelligence. In fact, this form of intelligence could be the secret strength you never knew you had.

What Are The 8 Kinds Of Intelligence?


Before we dive into musical intelligence, we should first cover Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. After all, that’s where the concept of musical intelligence first came from!

Howard Gardner is a developmental psychologist who first proposed a theory of multiple intelligences in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

The book states that there are eight types of intelligence:

Gardner later added a ninth intelligence to the list: existential intelligence.

develop musical intelligence

What Is Music Smart?


So, what is musical intelligence and how do you know if you have it?

Well, musical intelligence, or music smarts, is a form of auditory intelligence. It goes beyond music to incorporate all sounds, tones, and rhythms.

Here are some telltale signs you may possess musical intelligence:

  • Auditory learner
  • Skilled at imitation and mimicry
  • Appreciates unique music forms and soundscapes
  • Sensitive to noises in environment
  • Enjoys singing, dancing, whistling, or humming
  • Wide and varied musical tastes
  • Avid concert-goer

You don’t need to be a skilled musician to possess musical intelligence. Simply possessing a deep and profound connection to sound means you’ve probably got music smarts!

music smarts

How Do You Develop Musical Intelligence?


So, here’s the question: if you don’t have musical smarts, is there a way you can develop it?

The best thing about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence is that there’s no right or wrong answer.

Just because you have visual-spatial intelligence doesn’t mean you can’t also possess naturalistic intelligence. Just because you’re a kinesthetic learner doesn’t mean you can’t develop interpersonal intelligence.

Even if musical intelligence isn’t your forte, there are plenty of ways you develop it!

If knowledge is power, learning is your superpower. And learning is not a spectator sport.

– Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program 

Here are just a few ways you can increase your musical intelligence:

  • Play the “name that tune” game
  • Go to live music events
  • Pick up a new instrument
  • Add to your music collection
  • Expose yourself to new genres and styles
  • Listen to nature soundscapes

This list is by no means exhaustive. The bottom line is: the more you expose yourself to different sounds, tones, and rhythms, the stronger your musical intelligence will grow!


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Do you know anyone with music smarts? Tell us in the comments below!

by Shannon Terrell
Shannon Terrell is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She revels in the thrill of exploration, whether it be new cultures, new landscapes, or new ways to bring on the happy. If she’s not hiking or practicing yoga, she probably has her nose in a book.

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