Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians digital download.

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Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians

Type: Digital download

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians

Math is a vital skill for anyone in, or aspiring to be in, the music industry. From understanding music publishing deals and royalty statements to applying music theory and music production concepts, math can help you enormously. For many of us, though, math is something that’s preferably avoided or best left to someone else. Applied Mathematics for Musicians is designed to change that and to build your own knowledge of, and confidence in, math in practical ways that relate directly to the world of music.

The course explores fractions, percentages, proportions, averages, and algebra, in addition to exponential and logarithmic equations. A focus is placed on real-life applications, with the mathematics, itself, a means to achieving an end. For example, you will use fractions to determine whether notes are consonant, algebra to determine minimum ticket sales to earn a certain amount at a show, exponential equations to determine the frequencies of notes in various tuning systems, and logarithms to determine decibel levels. In addition, the course provides an overview of the mathematics underlying personal and business finances, which will help you make better decisions about your financial future.

The course is designed specifically for those who find math intimidating or who feel that their math skills have become rusty. The course is action-oriented. It will walk you through math problems and how to solve them, and then ask you to try your hand at them. The course is based on a similar offering taught at Berklee’s Boston campus, where this learn-by-doing approach has been very effective.

The connection between music and math is strong. Research has shown that the same area of the brain that processes music is also responsible for mathematical thinking. The goal of this course is to make that connection real for you, so that you walk away with practical knowledge that better inform your decisions and work in the music industry. By the end of the course, your math skills will be well-honed, allowing you to use math to solve any relevant problems that crop up.

For those students lacking a background in math and interested in pursuing a bachelor of professional studies degree in music business through Berklee Online, this course serves as a prerequisite for Music Business Finance, a required course in the major.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Relate fractions to music
  • Use algebra as a predictive tool, such as in predicting ticket sales
  • Achieve a greater appreciation for scale, useful when understanding finances
  • Calculate the value of assets
  • Assess the utility of potential investments
  • Apply geometric series to compound interest
  • Describe mathematics related to debt and loans
  • Employ exponents to calculate the frequencies of notes in various tuning systems
  • Use logarithms to determine decibel levels
  • Translate word problems into algebra, via translating key words and phrases into mathematics
  • Describe and apply the iterative process, which is useful for solving both mathematical equations and non-mathematical life situations


Lesson 1 Basic Calculations and Operations

Lesson 2 Percentages, Time, and Handling Unusual Numbers 

Lesson 3 Expectations and Breaking Even 

Lesson 4 Proportions, Averages, and Rates of Change

Lesson 5 Substitution, Significant Figures, and Scientific Notation

Lesson 6 Exponents and Equal Temperament Tuning

Lesson 7 Harmonic Series, Just Intonation, and Pythagorean Tuning 

Lesson 8 Geometric Sequences and Financial Math Part One 

Lesson 9 Geometric Series, Rate of Return, and Asset Value

Lesson 10 Debt

Lesson 11 Logarithms and Mathematical “Ear Training”

Lesson 12 Decibels and Sound


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements

This course does not have any prerequisites

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Hardware Requirements

  • A scientific calculator is recommended

General Course Requirements


Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians
Kevin Block-Schwenk

Author & Instructor

Kevin Block-Schwenk is an associate professor of Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught mathematics courses for musicians since 2005. In addition to creating Berklee Online’s Applied Mathematics for Musicians course and teaching it since its completion in 2013, Kevin operates a small real estate business. He received his B.A. in Economics from Brandeis University and his M.Ed. in Mathematics Education from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He lives in Boston with his wife and five cats, and enjoys biking, games, history, vegan cuisine, and being on the receiving end of music.

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians
Mary Beth Valuk


Mary Beth Valuk is an associate professor of Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music, where she has taught mathematics courses for musicians since 2015. In addition to teaching Berklee Online’s Applied Mathematics for Musicians course, she teaches eighth grade algebra. She received his B.S. in Mathematics and Science, as well as her M.S. in Language and Literacy Studies from Wheelock College in Boston. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, two children and two cats.Mary Beth Valuk teaches at Berklee Online.

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians
Matthew Smith


Matthew Smith is an associate professor of liberal arts at Berklee College of Music, where he has been teaching courses in mathematics, statistics, acoustics, Logic and programming since 2011.

Kevin Block-Schwenk - Applied Mathematics for Musicians
Katrina Jackson


Katrina Jackson is a Mathematics teacher, Mother of four children, freelance Model and a Mentor to young men and women in the community. Katrina has been teaching mathematics for the past 20 years in the Boston Public Schools district at John D. O’bryant High School, Young Achievers (k-8), English High School, Dorchester Academy, Charlestown High School and Community Academy. Since 2015, she has also been tutoring students with their math courses and teaching summer enrichment math to high school students enrolled in Artward Bound at Mass College of Art. Katrina has experience teaching courses that cover middle school mathematics, through advanced calculus concepts, using Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. These topics include but are not limited to manipulating integers, solving multi-step equations, determining geometric angles and properties, and calculating derivatives. Katrina has integrated Arts and Technology into her curricula over the years and looks forward to sharing her love of Math and the Arts with the Berklee Online students.

What’s Next?

When taken for credit, Applied Mathematics for Musicians can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Certificate Programs

  • General Music Studies Professional Certificate
  • General Music Studies Advanced Professional Certificate

Associated Degree Majors

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Music Production
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Music Business
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Music Production and Sound Design
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Music Studies (Create Your Own Major)
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Songwriting
  • (Pre-Degree) Undeclared Option
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Songwriting and Producing Music