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Did Leonardo Da Vinci Play An Instrument?

Updated on June 4, 2012

Da Vinci's Code Of Music

Copyright Tony Margiotta

Leonardo Da Vinci is considered by many as the greatest genius of all time. The reason is because he was a master of many skills: Inventor, Scientist, Architect, Astronomer, Painter, Sculptor, Mathematician, Engineer, Anatomist, Geologist, Botanist, and Writer.

He is probably most known for his famous paintings “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.”

What many people probably don’t know about Leonardo was that he was an excellent musician. However, in his day, he was renowned as a brilliant musician along with his other known talents. He was popular at the palaces of his patrons because of his musical talents and ability to entertain at events. It’s even been recorded that he was asked to perform at events and parties of very influential people including the Regent of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.

In fact, Leonardo applied for a position as an inventor under Ludovico Sforza and was hired. Later, historian Giorgio Vasari stated that it was probably his “courtly charms” and his talents as a musician that were responsible for him being hired.

He knew how to play the flute and the lyre, which was a stringed instrument well known for its use in Greek antiquity. And according to Historian Vasari who knew Da Vinci, said that “he sang divinely without any preparation.” We even have a few manuscripts that contain some original musical compositions that still exist today. It is believed that Da Vinci probably had written more music but it was never found.

There is little doubt that music played an influential role in the development of Da Vinci’s mind. Though Da Vinci is most known for being an exceptional painter, he acknowledged that music was only second to the supremacy of vision.

Leonardo wrote, “Music may be called the sister of painting, for she is dependent upon hearing, the sense which comes second…painting excels and ranks higher than music, because it does not fade away as soon as it is born…”

When Da Vinci painted, he always sought musical accompaniment to stimulate his senses. He believed that when all his senses were awake, the mind could be better nourished and more productive. Probably all the masterpiece paintings that we all enjoy looking at were given birth with musical notes flying through the air.

This begs the question: Did learning how to play musical instruments and to compose music put Da Vinci on a path towards being a genius? No one could possibly answer this question with the utmost certainty. But I believe music did have an impact.

Listening (music, sounds, and silence) was second on his list of senses, and he wrote a lot about the importance of developing all the senses in harmony to achieve the highest levels of consciousness. He even wrote about it and put a lot of careful thought about the balance of Art and Science. According to Da Vinci, the two were indivisible and necessary to achieve understanding of the logic and beauty of the world.

Music is a human need that cherishes beauty, and underneath that blanket of beauty, lie the details, the precision, the logic, and the code of organized sound. For those who pursue an understanding of music and its beauty, will develop an intellect that can discover, analyze, and rationalize, and can aspire to be creative and productive like that of Leonardo Da Vinci.


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    • TheMusiconomy profile image

      TheMusiconomy 6 years ago from New York City

      You're right Spotlight19, it's not very common that one person knows how to do many things. And he did many things extraordinarily well! Da Vinci should inspire us all to challenge ourselves and our limitations. And challenging ourselves is something inherent in learning to play a musical instrument that sets a person up for a stronger determination to overcome obstacles in life.

    • spotlight19 profile image

      Jennifer Pena 6 years ago from California

      Wow I did not know he knew how to sing or even that he knew something about music and I think he was a great person because to even know many things that's nto common in people that much.

    • TheMusiconomy profile image

      TheMusiconomy 7 years ago from New York City

      Thank you Simone! I'm so excited! Thank you for the nomination. Does the HubNuggets Contest work the same way? Someone for HB Elite has to discover me?

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Congrats, TheMusiconomy! This Hub won week 16 of the HubPages Top of the Class contest! That means it'll be featured on the Students page for the next three weeks :D

    • TheMusiconomy profile image

      TheMusiconomy 7 years ago from New York City

      Hi Rebekah,

      Thanks for the kind words as always. Did you vote by chance? I hope you vote for me :-)

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Congrats on the nomination! DaVinci certainly used his brain well and is such an inspiration to anyone interested in bringing out their best self. Thanks for sharing about this musical connection to his work!

    • TheMusiconomy profile image

      TheMusiconomy 7 years ago from New York City

      Hi Cogerson and safiq ali patel! This Hub about Da Vinci was just nominated for the "Top Of the Class" Contest. Thanks again for your great comments. Would you be willing to vote for it in the contest? I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask. This is the link to vote in the contest. It's just 2 clicks and you're done.


    • TheMusiconomy profile image

      TheMusiconomy 7 years ago from New York City

      It is rare to accomplish so much in one life time. But he's not the only one that had musical skills. Check out my article on Steven Spielberg and you'll see what I mean. We should all aspire for greatness like these tremendous minds.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 7 years ago from Virginia

      Da Vinci was a man ahead of his time. This is the first time I have read anything about his singing talent....what a great man...thanks for posting

    • safiq ali patel profile image

      safiq ali patel 7 years ago from United States Of America

      He was a profound man. An Artist, a wise man, a guru of his time. Rarely do men apply and discover so much within one short life time.