Seeing colours with music!

October 4, 2004 at 02:54 AM · I watched this programme the other day and they were talking about people who saw colours when they heard music and they associated different colours for the different pitches. They saw at the same time they heard colours. They saw incresingly lighter colours when the pitch was higher. The scientists said that they were synaesthete and their visual senses were connected with their audiotary senses.

Whenever I hear music I see swirly colours. What do you see?

Replies (26)

October 4, 2004 at 02:55 AM · lol synesthesia is a weird thing and is not something I would want to have. it can happen with any senses, smell something when you hear a tone, or taste something-those are a bit more rare. (where i learned absolute pitch) deals a bit on the subject.

ive heard it can happen under influence of certain drugs as well.

if you see swirly colors, lucky you. :P

October 4, 2004 at 05:32 AM · Didn't you just start that other thread about keys and association with feelings, etc? I was just thinking about colors and pitches, and then I came to this thread. For the E Major Partita by Bach that I just performed last night, I was inspired by gold swirling leaves. I knew that the song was definitely yellow, but I just couldn't see anything past yellow notes, perhaps mixed with red. Then I saw yellow leaves, starting on a sunny day, shining on tree tops. A breeze picks up, and they begin swirling down in loops and gusts, mixing with the red ground foliage. Those are the colors I see for that song.

They don't always show up in a straight-forward fashion. I don't necessarily think the colors are lighter the higher the pitch is.

Mr. Rogers used to play with crayons and markers while listening to classical music. Try it.

October 4, 2004 at 12:50 PM · Cool, E is yellow for me, too! And yes, I see swirly colors. Syneasthesia is a very weird thing, and I find a majority of people don't believe me, so I tend to keep my mouth shut. As an undergrad I painted the Bach d minor partita in an art class, one movement per canvas, for a final project and I couldn't get the teacher to understand what I was doing for the life of me. :-)

'Erie (-:

October 4, 2004 at 05:46 PM · I see colors too

minor is red

major is yellow

lydian is green

locrian/dimished is black

i see these colors when i hear a scale or a cord

it is interesting when you omit the 3rd from a cord or scale, the color is ambiguous - you cant tell if its happy or sad thats why I love suspended chords, the 3rd is replaced by a 2nd or 4th

October 4, 2004 at 06:01 PM · I think of certain things when I play, but not specifically of colors. I've heard of this before, but was always skeptical. Frankely, I still am. When you say you see colors, does that mean you think of a specific color, or does a curtain of many colors come down over your vision, while your fingers continue playing automatically?

October 4, 2004 at 09:28 PM · Do you think that the color base will change according to the geographical location ,say from east to west.

(White is sad in northern china ,black is trustworthy ,yet in europe its seems reversed.

The balance between white and black also is strikingly diffrent in Montenegro,bakans.A poet tfrom there told me that balck is the beginning of celebration of the life of one who is mourned after an armband of white is worn ,to signify sorrow.)


Mark N

October 4, 2004 at 10:04 PM · well I haven't paid much attention to this aspect of music interpretation.... I guess the only one i know off by heart that no one has already mentioned is fmajor is green, heh :P

October 4, 2004 at 10:52 PM · F major green? Nah... largely light orange with some watery blue splotches. :-)

Joseph, it's like you ACTUALLY see the color in front of you. Your "curtain" analogy is pretty good, but the colors move (at least for me...).

Mark, the colors actually vary from person to person, no need to add geographic location to the equation. Some theories suggest the color associations are formed by things or events like the ones you suggested early in life becoming "attached" to colors that were present when the memory was formed. (or whatever sense is involved for a particular individual)

A few links if you're curious:

October 4, 2004 at 11:06 PM · I associate specific pitches with colors. I don't actually see the colors, but rather hear them. Generally it goes like this:

G--forest green


B--Cobalt blue


D--Medium blue

E--Yellow (seems to be pretty popular...oddly enough)


Weird how certain notes/music can evoke different reactions, whether that's aural, visual, etc.

October 4, 2004 at 11:24 PM · cocaine is a powerful drug

October 5, 2004 at 03:59 PM · You can see if you're a syntha...thing bob bye doing these online tests. I love this part of the website because I just spend ages doing the different tests! Have a go!

One-Sim :)

October 5, 2004 at 08:14 PM · Traffic. When I hear music I usually see traffic.

October 5, 2004 at 10:25 PM · Weird , Erie. Sort of like looking into an agitated bag of marbles, I take it, save that there is one specific color accented at any one time.

I've never thought of music in terms of color. More of emotion. There's something about the keys of E flat minor and A flat minor which really makes me sad. B minor is nostalgic. D major is bright and happy, etc. Like Mattheson's doctrine of Affections (or whatever it's called).

October 6, 2004 at 02:30 PM · yea i never thought of music in colours before. they dont come naturally before my eyes when i hear music. but thats reallyreally cool. i see more imagery when i hear music.

October 6, 2004 at 09:41 PM · I've heard about that in a class.. You should feel special.. only 1 out of every few thousand people have that trait.

October 6, 2004 at 10:28 PM · Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees colors in such a manner...I thought it was really rather odd of me.

For example:

G - forest green

A - a copper/gold color

B - deep red

C - a lighter yellow, except on A string I see it more orangey...

D - dark dark purple

E - navy on the D string, silver when it's the...E string....

F - red again

But, following the masses, the colors are lighter as the notes get higher.

I see minor keys in deep colors, major in the brighter colors, but that makes sense to me.

I also see certain notes as a certain gender. Well, that's getting really odd so I'll save those to myself!

October 7, 2004 at 07:04 AM · i see my teacher yelling at me

October 7, 2004 at 10:02 PM · Ha Ha...I don't think I see colours for every single note but when I hear music and close my eyes-I see changing colours swirling about. When it's a happy jolly and high in pitch song it seems to be more yellow in colour, sad or middle pitched seems to be more blue and eerie, creepy greys and browns and blacks.

October 8, 2004 at 07:30 PM · Hey Owen, that's funny so do I! Then I hear myself making excuses :)

November 8, 2004 at 05:55 PM · I cannot say that I've ever actually "painted" with music. When I'm playing, I see the notes...the values, the rhythms. As I play louder, the notes get bigger, & vice versa. I see them envelope the listeners when they are interested, & pass right by them when they are not.

I know...I need help.

November 8, 2004 at 07:12 PM · lol, interesting thread. not at all weird though, lots of people see colors while they're playing. some people are lucky enough to see videos--moving scenes in their heads that they make up to go with the music. an amazing pianist I know sees pictures. I don't see anything.

but I write music while I sleep :)

November 9, 2004 at 07:55 PM · That's funny, do I. I write the greatest stuff in my dreams. Yet, when I awaken, the harder I try to remember it, the more it slips away. Do you ever get the feeling that if you could remember just one of those pieces...

My girlfriend tells me that I play in my sleep as well. She finds that quite amusing.

November 9, 2004 at 08:39 PM · hahahaha really!! I try to get myself up usually to record it quickly and get back to sleep. Once I record it, in attempt to remember it the next day and be able to write it out, I never have much of a problem remembering it! So then I think to myself... I didn't have to get up!

I've heard it is common, but I've never known anyone else that does it, so nice I do now :) however, it's new to me, I just started doing it about a year ago. Still trying to figure out how to best utilize it.

Have you ever tried to control one of your playing dreams? I've been able to control some of my dreams, realizing that I am dreaming, but none of the ones where I'm playing. I wonder if we could control our playing and make it perfect in our dreams, if it would work the same way visualization does only more powerful, because we're "less" conscious?

I'll start a thread for writing music.

November 10, 2004 at 02:08 AM · Thats really cool. I wish i did some awesome stuff like that. It's almost like having perfect pitch....neither of which was I blessed with.

Ever heard of John Mayer? He's a pretty famous guitarist/singer. He has this seeing colors condition too. You guys are so lucky! haha Actually I'm not really sure what i see when i close my eyes. But I'll see right now...okay. Nothing too particular! haha

November 10, 2004 at 05:44 AM · So did Sibelius, and Glenn Gould.

November 11, 2004 at 12:29 AM · A while ago I watched a presentation called "Rhythm Magic!" by percussionist Michael Bayard; he spoke a lot about synesthesia and played different percussion instruments for us to try it out. For me, the color I see depends on the instrument's particular sound quality. For instance, if a block of wood is hit, I see a saffron yellow color. Why? It's kind of convoluted, but it sounds like the little "thing" monks hit in temples to keep time when they pray, and their robes are often saffron yellow...

Anyways, synesthesia is indeed very interesting. Try it with taste and smell as prompted by certain sounds; it actually does work.

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