Rock Stars Need Math

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Does your child dream of stage lights and squealing guitars? Would they rather listen to the Top 100 than do their homework? They can keep dreaming big, but they had better solve those equations because even rock stars need math.

Being a rock star is more than having talent and looking good on stage, to really ‘rock out’ your child will need a plethora of math skills. First of all, the basics. To keep the beat, you have to be able to count. When on stage, rock stars can’t rely on being able to hear their bandmates, so they need to be able to track the beast in their head so that everyone is playing the proper note and the exact time.

Reading music is similar to reading math symbols, particularly fractions. A song is divided into measures; measures divided into beats and those beats become further subdivided into eighth notes, sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes, etc. Fractions are also used to indicate the time signature, which informs the musician how many beats are contained in a measure and what portion of the whole note gets the beat. Sounds complicated? It is! But not if you understand math.

And, you can’t talk about music without bringing Pythagoras into the conversation. It was he who discovered that by halving the length of a vibrating string a tone increases by exactly one octave. So, you can’t become a guitar god without a little help from the man that gave us that theorem.

If your future superstar needs more convincing, check out these awesome rockers who have taken math off-stage:

Brian May, legendary guitarist from Queen, has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College London

Dan Smith, better known as Caribou and Manitoba, electronica/psychedelic pop composer and musician has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Imperial College London.

Milo Aukerman, the lead singer and songwriter from The Descendants has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin.

Mira Aroyo, who rose to fame as the keyboardist, songwriter and singer for Ladytron has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Oxford.

Basically, your kids had better hit the books if they want to hang with the intellectual crowd after they’ve won their Grammy.


Cailin Sandvig graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Film Scoring.  She used her music degree to find her way back to math and is now the Marketing Manager at Matific.