Musical Intelligence Characteristics and Examples

Musical intelligence is the ability to connect to music and understand its intricacies. It was first brought to light by developmental psychologist Howard Gardner. He proposed that humans are endowed with different types of intelligence, and musical intelligence is one of them. While most people who love music are musically intelligent to some extent, those with high musical intelligence have exceptional abilities pertaining to music. Their amplified musical abilities allow them to comprehend a music piece critically, unlike others. 

Musical intelligence encompasses several characteristics and abilities. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of musical intelligence which set people with high musical intelligence apart from the rest of the world and provide examples to help you understand it better. 

Characteristics of people with musical intelligence

musical intelligence

1. Are sensitive to sounds, lyrics, melody, and harmony

Musical intelligence allows people to comprehend different sounds, melodies, and harmony. Those who are highly musically intelligent are extremely sensitive to these aspects of music. When most people cannot understand what this means, people with high musical intelligence can quickly identify the differences and appreciate music based on these factors. 

2. Can produce and perform music

As musical intelligence empowers people to understand the intricacies of music, people with strong musical intelligence are good at coming up with original musical pieces on their own. Their innate ability also makes them excellent performers in the field of music. 

3. Have the ability to understand musical structures and styles

Musical structure is the order in which various parts of a song are played. Musically intelligent people understand the musical structure of a song. For example, pop music follows the verse-chorus-verse structure. They can also easily distinguish between different music styles by merely listening to a piece of music. 

4. Have a good sense of pitch and rhythm

People with musical intelligence have a good understanding of pitch and rhythm. They can quickly identify a musical note without seeing which key was played. They are very good at comprehending high and low notes. Similarly, a good sense of rhythm allows them to maintain a steady beat while playing a song. 

5. Can recognize and remember musical patterns and sequences

Whether you want to learn music, create it, or perform in front of an audience, it is important to identify and remember musical patterns and sequences to play it correctly. Musically intelligent people can remember patterns and sequences in their minds, which helps them play an instrument or give a vocal performance with ease. 

6. Are good at improvising music

How many people around you can create and improvise music on the go? Not many. High musical intelligence allows a person to come up with a musical composition instantly without much thought. They can give a spontaneous musical response to other musicians without any prior planning. 

7. Have a heightened emotional response to music

People with musical intelligence have a strong connection with music. Hence, their emotional reaction to music is stronger than that of other people. They often find themselves deeply involved in a music piece which triggers emotional responses such as joy, sadness, dreaminess, feeling motivated, and so on. 

8. Analyse and evaluate musical performances

Solid knowledge of music allows those with musical intelligence to analyze musical performances. They are good at identifying inaccuracies in performance and can suggest how a version can be improved. Judges in musical shows are musically intelligent people who have the expertise to judge the performance of participants. 

9. Appreciate different musical forms from various cultures and historical periods

Musical intelligence instills love and appreciation for musical forms belonging to different historical periods and cultures. Often people love listening to music they can relate to, but people with high intelligence enjoy various kinds of music because they not just listen but also try to learn something new from it. 

10. Have a good ear for music and can replay what they hear

Musical intelligence allows a person to listen to music and pick up the details by merely hearing it once or twice. They can easily replicate the same piece of music without any mistakes because they understand music so well and can easily remember the tiniest details, which helps them create the exact copy of the music they just heard. 

Ways to develop musical intelligence in children

Children can develop musical intelligence if parents provide them with the right environment and exposure. Kids love music from a very young age. As they grow, studies and other activities take precedence; hence, they do not get enough exposure to music. Unless, of course, the child and parents are keen to pursue it longer. If you are a parent and want your child to develop musical intelligence, besides musical intelligence activities, here is what you can do in addition to their school music classes – 

  • Listen to age-appropriate songs at home or in the car when traveling.
  • Take your child to a store selling musical instruments and explore the instruments together. 
  • If your child shows interest in a particular instrument, watch a few related videos to see if their interest develops further. 
  • Encourage your child to learn and practice their favorite instrument regularly. 
  • Find a teacher who can teach the nuances of playing the instrument.
  • Appreciate their performance and motivate them to do better the next time.
  • Watch musical shows and attend performances together. 

Examples of how to promote musical intelligence in the classroom

Music is a great way to teach new things to children. Teachers can reap the benefits of musical intelligence by incorporating it smartly into the curriculum. Musical intelligence is not restricted to music class. It can help students learn different subjects if blended well with other classroom activities. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how students can learn varied topics by means of their musical intelligence –

musical intelligence
  • Learning multiplication tables is tricky. Give each multiplication table a specific tune. Let students learn them along with their tunes to support easy memorization.
  • When teaching about countries and cultures, have your students listen to instrumental music or songs belonging to those regions. It will help them understand the differences in music across cultures and countries. 
  • Conduct different science experiments related to sounds and music to let students employ their musical intelligence and explore the relationship between science and sounds. 
  • Use musical notes to teach different laws of physics. It will help students remember them better and recollect the information to apply in the future.
  • Watch movies belonging to different historical periods. Have students pay attention to the quality of sounds and music in each movie. Highlight how every period offered something different in terms of background score and songs.
  • Ask students to compose music for a poem and have them perform it in class. Students will be amazed to see how every student has a different musical variation for the same poem.
  • Give students a task to come up with lyrics to help memorize a given concept. They can work in teams to perform a collaborative effort toward task completion. 


Musical intelligence is as vital as any other intelligence. It allows people to communicate and express themselves through music. Musically intelligent people understand sounds, rhythms, and melodies, which helps them create and enjoy music. Children should be given ample opportunities to listen to and learn music in their daily lives. In fact, a study[1] states that music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than other activities such as dance, sports, or theater, and also helps in improving school grades. Additionally, regular involvement with music and musical instruments refines music-related skills and opens doors to multiple career opportunities within the music arena.  


  1. Hille, A., & Schupp, J. (2013). How Learning a Musical Instrument Affects the Development of Skills. SSRN Electronic Journal.

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