Music and Self-Smart – Intrapersonal Intelligence

This series of posts explores connections between music and other Gardner-listed multiple intelligences. This post follows on from a description of Music and Emotional Intelligence.

Know thyself so that you can be yourself. The final aim is to be. – D.H. Lawrence

Self-smart people like to learn more about themselves, are generally comfortable with who they are, are secure in their own company, and have a highly perceptive understanding of their feelings and emotions. Humans are social beings, and most of us prefer to spend time in the company of others. Nonetheless, learning to spend time alone is an important skill. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, “Teenagers who cannot bear solitude sometimes have difficulty in later life with tasks requiring serious mental preparation”.

Music offers us the chance to sit, relax and listen. Losing ourselves in this way is a form of self-discovery.

One of the opportunities art offers us is simply to stand still for a moment and look, or to sit still and listen: the pleasure of being fully present while the ego goes absent and our consciousness is filled with something other than ourselves. – David Malouf, Australian novelist

James Mursell describes music as “the emotional essence of an experience crystallized in tone”. No other art form can elicit emotional reaction to the degree that music can. Stephen Handel explains why music is more emotive than visual art. “Listening is centripetal,” he says. “It pulls you into the world. Looking is centrifugal; it separates you from the world”. Music has the ability to enhance self-knowledge because of our unique emotional response to it. For this reason teachers should encourage children to listen to a wide variety of music. During adolescence children often listen to music that represents rebellion and experimentation. This is normal, but the adolescent heart is also capable of tenderness and gentleness, love and hope, and unbridled joy. When one engages in a range of musical listening experiences one discovers more glorious aspects of the self.

Music appreciation lessons in school often focus on a theoretical framework, with less emphasis on music’s emotive content. Teachers can use a descriptor list such as the one below as a prompt in classrooms and private studios to allow students to practise identifying emotion in music.

emotional desc

Emotion identification and awareness are important aspects of being self-smart. Other self-smart skills include personal reflection, metacognition, stress management, organisation, the ability to resist impulse, and resilience. These are the soft skills of expertise discussed in chapter three of my book ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’. The personal security that comes with self-knowledge enables us to be more fully available in relationships with other persons. Consider the model of self-knowledge in the Johari Window, below.

Fig 31 Johari

Music helps to reveal more of the self in the great unknown of quadrant four. Other persons reveal to us our blind spots in quadrant two. It may seem ironic, but we need social interactions and relationships to learn more about who we are. We need to be able to relate to others. My next post will explore Music and Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart).

 An excerpt from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin. Reviews below.

The Music Trust 


American Music Teacher

Ritmico NZ

“Super book. I am so impressed!” – Donna Michaels, USA

“Fantastic book, simply brilliant! – Ian Cooper, Norfolk, UK

“Don’t miss this opportunity!” – Mary George, USA

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

front cover final

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin


Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 123 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at


Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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Posted in Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, prep, primary
2 comments on “Music and Self-Smart – Intrapersonal Intelligence
  1. Judy Krings says:

    Here’s hoping schools wake up and realize the value of music to intellectual development. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Very informative graphics. Many thanks for sharing.

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