The Smarts #12 - Music Smart: The Song Inside Your Child

The Smarts #12

Music Smart: The Song Inside Your Child

Today I’ll continue the series about the 8 great smarts with information about being MUSIC smart. You can read more in my book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Childs’ Intelligences, including how to strengthen this smart, and how it relates to learning, relationships, careers, character, and spiritual growth.


Music-smart children think with rhythms and melodies. When they’re excited, they make music. They need to be able to express themselves musically. They get joy from being lost in music and accomplishing or exceeding their goal. Sound and music are their powers.

Many music-smart children don’t just think with music in the traditional sense. They also find rhythms and melodies in the world around them to think with. American composer George Gershwin once said, “I frequently hear music in the heart of noise.” He reported getting many of his best musical ideas from the sounds of the city and your music-smart children might, too. Car windows going up and down, basketballs dribbled in the driveway accompanied by children’s laughter, skateboards on the sidewalks, and babies crying in the kitchen.

Hearing music and sounds aren’t all that music-smart children do. They also make noise. While listening to the above environmental sounds, if your son is inspired to drum along with his fingers or hum a tune, he’s more music smart than his sister who listens but doesn’t create. And, they’re both more music smart than their sibling who doesn’t even hear the sounds outside or in the room next door. You’re more music smart than all of them if you actually go to your piano or guitar and compose and write down a little jingle triggered by the sounds you hear. Remember, every intelligence has a hierarchy of smartness.

You’ll know when your music-smart children are excited because you’ll usually hear or see the music inside of them. They may tap their fingers or feet to a particular beat or their whole body may shake, rattle, or roll to their internal song. They may spontaneously hum, whistle, or sing because of what’s going on in their heart and head. Frequent reprimands to “Stop that noise!” or “Be quiet!” can paralyze this intelligence. Of course, so can ignoring or harshly critiquing their musical practices and performances.

Almost from the time my nieces could talk, they could sing. They responded frequently to life through song. They still do. If Betsy or Katie hears a word, phrase, or Bible verse that reminds her of a song, she will often begin singing. Soon her sister, brother, and parents join in. No wonder we sometimes refer to them as the “Von Koch Family Singers.”

When music smart is a strength, children will do more than enjoy it. They may be able to sing in tune and/or play one or more instruments. Their musical ear will help them know if their violin is tuned correctly or if they’re playing their trumpet at the right volume. They may want to participate in choir, orchestra, band, or musical theater. They might get involved in marching band, pep band, and/or pit orchestra. They might sing or play in ensembles to bless residents of nursing homes and in groups at church. They could travel internationally as part of a cultural exchange.

Music-smart children may enjoy different musical styles and may be able to distinguish among them and composers. Within the first few measures, these children can tell which of their favorite artists composed and is singing the piece. They begin to know their styles. If they’re familiar with classical music, they may know if a symphony is by Brahms or Bach.

I discovered an interesting and vital intelligence combination when in different Asian countries to support missionary families. Some of these missionaries had struggled to learn the language of the people they wanted to serve even though they’re very word smart. Why? Because the language is tonal. Though they have word-smart strengths, some of them lack the music-smart ability to hear or create the fine differences in pitch and intonation required to express different meanings of words and phrases in a tonal language. The opposite implication is also clear. Children and adults who are music smart and word smart may have a special ability to learn tonal foreign languages.

I’ll never forget watching some of the adults as they learned about these eight great smarts. They were listening as parents wanting to help their children and then the look on their faces changed. Some cried at a place in my teaching when tears don’t typically flow. (Discoveries about past lies and new truths often result in tears. Relief and optimism are powerful outcomes of understanding these smarts. I’m so glad you’re reading this and open to discovering new truths for you and your children!)

Couples approached me to express amazement and gratitude and then I understood their reactions and tears. They found out they’re not dumb even though the Asian language had been so hard to master. No. They’re just not smart in a way that would have been very helpful. I know of at least a few families who chose to serve God in different regions because of what they learned. Victory!

From 8 Great Smarts, by Kathy Koch, PhD, (Moody Publishers, 2016), pages 122-125


Who do you know who is music smart? Affirm these people. If you think they haven’t thought of themselves as smart, make sure to talk with them. If you think others have put them down, talk about that, too. Because these children are also word smart and logic smart, hopefully this hasn’t happened. But, it does happen. Being music smart is a smart! Also, how could you help them benefit others because they’re music smart? Talk with them.