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The Development of Musical Colors

The idea of using color to represent musical whole tones in tandem with the idea of combining these same colors to represent the musical half tones between them is practically as old as the science of music itself and in the 18th Century, these notions culminated in the division between a purely analytical and objective approach to the relationship between music and color, as in Newton's optical spectrum, and a purely perceptual and highly subjective experience with color and sound, as in Goethe's color wheel.

Natural Prism

Goethe Tetra


The later approach lends itself well to the how Musical Colors has taken it up to color-code musical notes and instruments. The colors chosen are more visually discernable from one another and hold true to the theories of one-dimensional white light as well as the 2D Hexagonal and 3D Tetrahedral Theories of the unfolding of radial light. These studies have led us to our own revised theoretical model. Western music is based on a twelve-tone system composed of seven whole tones and five half tones. These twelve notes have all been arbitrarily color-coded based on previous public and historical knowledge.

Whether these half note color combinations are represented as actual mixtures of two colors (i.e. one resulting mixed color), or whether these half notes are represented by two separate colors (i.e. not mixed into one color but never the less shown in tandem with one another), does not really matter, for the two colors chosen are still present in referencing half notes. Therefore, the theory behind such an idea remains consistent.

One specific and fairly recent example that validates these principals quite poignantly is the U.S. Patent No. 2,284,868, which clearly states that "...seven elements representing the natural notes of an octave in the musical scale are preferably colored... (And understand that this is an arbitrary selection of colors); while the "...five elements representing the half notes of the octave are preferably colored as a mixture of the colors applied to the natural note-representing elements at opposite sides thereof...", also being arbitrary, although enharmonically theoretical in nature based on previous musical knowledge. This patent was granted on June 2nd, 1942 to Gertrude M. Heaney, an elementary school teacher, and it provides that this knowledge is now and forever legally in the public domain.

Our system is for helping you begin to visualize, through the use of color, how musical notes are laid out on the surface of your musical instrument.� It is a visual aid and tool that will help you uncover musical concepts to improve your overall musicianship. You will learn firsthand about how music is made, what it is composed of and how to get around musically to open up avenues for your own creativity. At first, it may seem complicated, however color will help you see many connections. Just look at this color-coded guitar fret board, and check out the musical Circle of Fifths color-coded wheel.

You can also enjoy Standard Musical Notation converted to Musical Colors Notation. The seven natural notes or the White keys of a piano are colored and each is displayed with a standard symbol, for "natural" directly to the left of each colored note. This type of colored coded musical notation stands out as one can clearly see.  Notice that the note C is colored White or Gray depending on the lightness or darkness of the background on which it appears.

The remaining five half notes or the Black keys of a piano in tandem with the two natural half steps found within the natural note scale (between E & F and B & C), all have fourteen possible forms of accidental notation. These following fourteen notes are due to the seven natural notes each having both a sharp and a flat form of notation representing half steps away from each. Notice that our color-coded notation system shows the implied movement of a musical note to resolve up or down, using color to see the correlation between notes that are a half step away from each other. The five half notes in music are C# or Db, D# or Eb, F# or Gb, G# or Ab and A# or Bb. The two natural half steps are between the natural notes E & F and B & C. Therefore each accidental form of these four naturally occurring half step notes can reference one another when in their own altered accidental forms. For example, E# is Yellow (the sounding natural note F) while Fb is Orange (the sounding natural note E). Likewise, B# is White (the sounding natural note C) while Cb is Violet (the sounding natural note B). The five chromatic half notes all have two forms of enharmonically derived names, each having a version of a sharp or flat notation (enharmonic spelling), as well as a mixture of their two adjacent colors (enharmonic coloring). This coloring clearly shows the difference between the two.

In addition to the fourteen accidental forms of notation (i.e. using single sharps and single flats), there are also ten forms of double sharp or double flat notations based on the five natural whole step notes found within the seven natural note scale (between the notes C & D, D & E, F & G, G & A and A & B). These are, in essence, the seven natural notes; however in this case, these double sharp and double flat notes are used as enharmonic extensions between related musical keys.




All of this might seem a little overwhelming at the start, however after some time for study, this system will begin to make sense. You will then begin to grasp some music theory terminology and how it applies to your personal musical experience, as color can and will accelerate your learning capacity. Musical Colors serves as an inclusive and comprehensive approach to the study of music theory and composition, to be used in tandem with a musical instrument. This is achieved through the use of color-coding musical notes by applying colorful stickers to musical instruments. The musical instruments can then be linked to many types of color-coded visual displays. Our Musical Colors manual is the product of over ten years of research and development into the art of presenting very complex chord and scale cross-referencing information in a simple, colorful and efficient manner. Though this method is a case in some serious study, the freedom and ability to realize on a musical instrument what you are studying is quick and responsive. Almost anyone can take to this system very quickly, as color is a key that can unlock our minds to be more creative and improve our memories. This is a sample page from our Interactive Musical Colors Manual where musical chords and scales are displayed with color-coded notes demonstrating sonority possibilities and cross-referencing tonal functions.
If you would like to skip the printed manual and use a personal computer, you will be able to use an application called MC Composer, which will do the musical navigation for you through these extensive manual resources.

Musical Colors can be notated not only with standard music notation, as we have seen, but it can also take the form of building blocks for younger minds to grasp. All made possible by our MC Converter application.


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