How Did Pythagoras Influence Music From the Ancient Times to the Modern Age?

Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician, is known for his contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. However, one of his lesser-known contributions is his influence on the world of music.

Pythagoras believed that music had a profound impact on the soul and could be used as a tool for healing and spiritual growth. In this article, we will explore how Pythagoras influenced music from ancient times to the modern age.

Pythagorean Music Theory

Pythagoras’ influence on music can be traced back to his contributions to music theory. He believed that music was based on mathematical principles and that musical intervals could be expressed as ratios between whole numbers. Pythagoras discovered that the most harmonious intervals were those in which the ratios of the frequencies of two notes were simple whole numbers.

He also believed that each musical note had a corresponding celestial body in the cosmos, and that the movements of these celestial bodies produced harmonious sounds that could be translated into musical notes. This idea led to the development of musica universalis or “music of the spheres,” which was a philosophical concept that linked music with astronomy.

Pythagorean Tuning

Pythagoras’ theories on musical intervals led to the development of Pythagorean tuning, which was a system for tuning musical instruments based on his mathematical principles. In this tuning system, each note was tuned by using ratios based on whole numbers.

However, this system had its limitations because it only worked well with certain keys, and some intervals sounded out of tune when played in other keys. This led to the development of other tuning systems over time.

The Influence of Pythagoras

The influence of Pythagoras’ ideas about music can be seen throughout history. During the Renaissance era in Europe, musicians and composers began using Pythagorean tuning in their compositions. They also began experimenting with different musical scales and temperaments based on Pythagoras’ principles.

In the 20th century, Pythagoras’ theories on music influenced the development of microtonal music, which is a type of music that uses intervals smaller than the traditional half-step interval used in Western music. Microtonal music is based on the idea that there are infinite possibilities for musical intervals based on mathematical principles.


In conclusion, Pythagoras’ influence on music has been significant throughout history. His ideas about musical intervals and tuning systems have shaped the way we think about and create music. His belief in the healing power of music has also had a lasting impact on the world of music therapy.

Even in modern times, musicians and composers continue to explore new ways of using mathematical principles to create innovative and experimental forms of music. Pythagoras’ legacy lives on through his contributions to the world of music theory and his belief in the transformative power of music.