Musical ability and mathematical ability have been linked in studies for decades. I wish I could say I rock at numbers and logic, but I just don’t. I sort of feel like I let my sex down in this way–it’s just too typical for “girls” to be “bad at math,” but it’s just a fact for me.
An example of deficiency in action: I considered doing a PhD instead of a DMA, which would have required me to take the GRE. In preparation, I took a practice GRE. I didn’t prepare for it at all, just did it to see where I stood. I don’t remember the exact score on the math portion, but I think we calculated that whatever it was meant I got one question right. I remember I was in the 1th percentile. 99% of people who took that test on that day did better than I did. Now, that’s measuring me against engineers as well as English majors, so I’m not gonna cry about being in the bottom 1% of graduate students. But I did honestly try. I mean, I might have just guessed the answers–chance would probably have been more likely to give me correct answers than my actually trying. I’m not sure though, because figuring that out would require calculating probability, which baffles me a bit.
I got a friend, a physics teacher, to tutor me. He taught me how to take the test. I learned very little math, but I learned test-taking strategies and some short-cuts. I don’t remember any of it anymore, of course, but it did result in my ending up in the forty-fifth percentile when I took the real GRE.
Forty-fifth percentile, even among graduate students, is nothing to brag about. Especially since I worked for months to prepare–and I made huge improvements–but still really just did average. That shows you how little potential I have. I joke, “I’m a conductor: I can only count to four!”
I don’t know how my conductor friends and colleagues fare on math tests, or how their math skills are. Since so many studies have linked math and music, I can’t help but imagine that it makes musician’s lives easier if they’re also naturally inclined towards math and logic. Frankly, my perspective is deeply skewed by my total… I was going to say ignorance, but it goes deeper than ignorance. Not only do I not know, I’m not even really capable of knowing. So I don’t know what I’m missing. I know it takes me forever to analyse chords and to figure out rhythms, both of which involve mathy, logicy sorts of skills. I know for a fact that every other conductor friend is better than I am at these things. Better, faster, more accurate. The only thing I can do is practice, take my time, and be aware that I stink so I can make up for this deficiency.
Luckily, I hope, those skills are the ones that a conductor uses in preparation. So I can make up for it on my own, before rehearsals even start. Once I know my score, I can get on podium and be okay. Unless there’s some other math-music connection that I’m missing. Which there very well might be. In that case, I’m still in school so hopefully my teachers will let me know.