I would say that, without hesitation, practicing music develops one’s ability to hold mental models of intangible phenomena. Aside from symbolic representations of the music such as notes on paper, there is no tangible music beyond that which can be perceived by the ears. To work on specific aspects of a composition requires the composer to hold the remainder of the musical structure in their mind. Similarly, until there is a working model, there is no ‘software’ aside from the vision and intention of the designer. The final result must be held in mind by the architect of the project, while being able to work on smaller, discrete portions of the project.
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“You must be a musician…”
I want to share a incident of Alex Jacobs who was heading to San Francisco on the Ferry Boat from Sausalito. He had just lead a group of fellow software engineers from Hack Reactor on a bicycle ride over the Golden Gate bridge.
They were discussing our experiences with forming and working with groups on our current projects. As is likely in the Bay Area these days, the man sitting next to them introduced himself as an engineer and asked what company they were at. They spoke for a moment about which engineering bootcamp they were attending.
He said he had been in the industry for about 15 years, and had put together many engineering teams, and the majority of his engineers were also musicians.
It’s a well-documented fact that coders are in high demand.Software developers now have a variety of backgrounds and are far more diverse than they used to be. In fact, the 2015 Course Report about coding bootcamp alumni found “the typical attendee is 31 years old, has 7.6 years of work experience, has at least a Bachelor’s degree, and has never worked as a programmer.” Moreover, 36 percent of students who attend bootcamps are female.
As it turns out, musicality seems to be a powerful predictor of coding success.
And even more important, those who successfully complete a bootcamp get well-paying jobs: On average, grads see a 38% salary increase, a figure equal to $18,0000. Perhaps surprisingly, the alums who saw the biggest salary increase after attending a bootcamp were students who majored in music as undergrads. As it turns out, musicality seems to be a powerful predictor of coding success. “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” the genius Albert Einstein once said, but why are musicians uniquely suited to be software developers?
First, thanks to their performance background, attention to detail, and innate need to perfect their parts, musicians tend to be analytical, logical and methodical—skills that the best coders also possess. “There seems to be a high correlation between musical ability and reasoning skills,” Terry Skwarek, the director of SharePoint administration at DePaul University, once told CNN. “It has to do with recognizing and manipulating patterns. That happens in music and in programming.”
Tech Elevator student Drew Sullivan—who has performed with the world-class Cleveland Orchestra and was only the second doctoral-level clarinetist student ever at the renowned Cleveland Institute of Music—agrees that analytical-minded musicians are well-suited to coding.
Yet Sullivan also adds that certain musicians—including his fiancée and fellow Tech Elevator student Rebecca Hurd, who plays piano, oboe and flute—make great coders because they pair an analytical bent with a more creative side. “I speculate that if one can feel music, one can also ‘feel’ how a computer works,” Sullivan says:
“And in computer science, has a great ‘feel’ for how an algorithm should work. She’s a great mix of the heart and head of software development.”
In other words, musicians will adapt well to programming due to their visual abilities—or “spatial/temporal” skills, in the parlance of physics professor Gordon L. Shaw, who co-discovered the “Mozart effect,” which highlighted the positive effects classical music has on reasoning. “To construct a good program, you want to be able to see the consequences in your head, not just do line by line of the code,” Shaw says. “You have to be able to totally visualize it.”
Learn Programming VS Learn Musical Instrument
As a software developer, programming languages trainer, musician and guitar teacher I can see lots of soft skills you need in both areas.
There’s a direct correlation between learning music and development of new brain skills:
Someone who develop software needs:
- Ability to memorize and concentrate
So, someone who plays a musical instrument needs exactly the same skills.
As a software developer I experienced it’s rare to have only one programmer for an entire project, so most of the software project’s need everyone to work as a team (teamwork).
All the musicians in a band need to have exactly the same skill, work as a team (teamwork).
Music is a way for our self-expression, different musicians play the same song in their own way, like programmers who writes a different piece of code and returns the same result.
The music teaches overcoming fears and take risks, it’s like programming, you have to make your decisions on the code you write.
Music lessons are like programming lessons, they make you think logically and analytically which increases your concentration, cognition and motor development.
The personal feeling result is the same, self-confidence and self-gratification, which relax and promotes self-taught, we always want to learn more and do a better work.
These are just some of the parallels between musicians and coding. In fact, there are myriad of ways in which being proficient on an instrument is a great pathway to learning how to program. And, the ability to code in today’s information economy is a ticket to some great career opportunities. If you’re wondering if your musical background makes you a good fit for this exciting and rapidly growing career field, I would encourage you to try this quick, free, mini-aptitude test, as a starting point to see if you’ve got what it takes to become a software developer.