A mapping between musical notes and colors

bpert said:

If you take A = 440 Hz and keep doubling and doubling until you get into the range of light you will find ROYGBIV = F, G, A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F. Try it yourself.

So I did!  If you take the frequencies of each note in Hz (in equal temperament) and multiply them by 240 (40 octaves), you get a number in the THz, which would fall into the visual range if it represented the frequency of an electromagnetic wave instead of a sound wave. “A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nm.” Does it match up with ROYGBIV? Kinda.

Note Freq (Hz) +40 oct. (THz) Wavelength (nm) R G B Color HTML name
F♯4 370 407 737 174 0 0 dark red
G4 392 431 696 255 0 0 red
G♯4 415 457 657 255 0 0 red
A4 440 484 620 255 102 0 orange-red
B♭4 466 513 585 255 239 0 yellow
B4 494 543 552 153 255 0 chartreuse
C5 523 575 521 40 255 0 lime
C♯5 554 610 492 0 255 242 aqua
D5 587 646 464 0 122 255 sky blue
D♯5 622 684 438 5 0 255 blue
E5 659 725 414 71 0 237 blue
F5 698 768 390 99 0 178 indigo

I used this Python code to generate the RGB values for each wavelength, and Wolfram Alpha to find the nearest named HTML color.  Should find the nearest color names from the XKCD color survey instead (and “nearest” should be defined as distance in L*a*b* space, not in RGB space).

Since the starting point of F♯ is arbitrary, basically all this means is that our visual range covers about 1 octave.  Our audible range is 9–10 octaves, for comparison.

25 thoughts on “A mapping between musical notes and colors

  1. Adam

    This is interesting… The use of colors in teaching pitch sensitivity has been recognized as an effective way of teaching music. I am personally using the method in a program I an writing to teach notes on the guitar. I am attempting to “gamify” guitar learning in a similar way to how popular video games function. Using colors was the basic idea, but I think using this color seq

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  2. DEBORAH

    INTERESTED TO KNOW MORE INFO HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED THIS MYSELF AND I THINK I HAVE A NATURAL TALENT NEEDED TO BE EXPLORED TO CONNECT MUSIC AND ART/COLOUR I SOON WILL BE TEACHING BLIND AND HAVE DONE IN THE PAST HOW WONDERFUL WOULD IT BE IF I WAS TO USE MUSIC TO TEACH ART AND COLOUR AMAZING
    I HAVE BEEN TEACHING MANY YEARS AND NOW AM ART THERAPY TRAINED AND WORK WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
    CHEERS DEBORAH

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Cea

      A 440 is close. Find exact freq to as many decimal points as possible rc..

      oh no if we could all pool research if there are 10 octaves that we here and what octave that we see possibly each octave me here we’ll have some number variation Point whatever and some color variation or text her or something we need to test it on actual human beings or things in the physical world to see if there is a change Ronnie …. Oh I have an idea that’s experiment memorizing perfect pitch from Seattle’s net have been generated intervals starting at 432 someone has to find the exact point numbers and see if it’s easier that way because that’s supposed to be the natural multiple multiples of physical space matter time

      compare those that have try to learn Perfect Pitch some colors generated a 440 as the Hub to those generated a 4:32.????hatever is physically solid. Get back to me on the website for this do it do it at musiqdoc10@gmail.com or Facebook Ronnie cea

      Reply
  3. ZetaCron

    I’ve been looking for something like this for YEARS!!! I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought it was possible. Now all that has to happen is for it to be thrust into the general populous!

    As other people have said, this will make an EXCELLENT learning tool.

    Although, I’m surprised to see that both G and G# are red, but I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, so to speak.

    Reply
  4. R. Endo

    I came across your site looking for a conversion of wavelength to RGB! I came up with the same values notes to visible light wavelength using Excel.

    P.S. My family name is “Endo”

    Reply
    1. Endolith Post author

      Cool. My screen name has absolutely nothing to do with my real name. 🙂 It’s a type of archaea/bacteria.

      Reply
  5. Joseph

    I have been working on a color scheme that is working very well for myself and my students. Im still looking for corralations with roy g biv. My colors are easy to remember especially if you like or play golf. It goes like this, “Your tee-ing off first you look out and get Clear(A) on where your going to hit that ball. Your ball disappears into the Black(B). But lucky for you it lands on the Green(C) There is a Red(D) White(E) Blue(F) Flag in the hole sitting in a Gold(G) cup…… Try these colors for yourself and see if it helps….

    Reply
  6. lorri

    i was listening to fm radio in tucson. they were interviewing musical prodigies. a young woman said she visualizes different colors to different notes. naturally. the whole group of youngsters were amazing, and i thought what wonders!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Piano de colores y texturas de Xul Solar | sonopuntura

  8. michael bello

    I would love to “hear” some Van Gough, using a painting as a “score”. Different strokes of the same color and placement on the painting gives us the length of notes, the key centers and where certain keys come back.

    Or use the RGB to break down chords? White is C- or Ab Major = G,G# Red, C Green, D# (or Eb) Blue. A major chord or it’s relative minor!

    Now reverse and visualize Beethoven’s 9th!!! Ha!

    What kind of symphony or painting or video could be created by mathematical equations twisting our information intake to a different sense?

    Reply
  9. Jason Johnson

    Endolith, How different really is Chromesthesia from Chromoacoustics? Think of it as energy being interpreted by our brains in more than one center (format) and thusly tied into a different conscious perception. You are correct they are not the exact same but related they are! And how!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Cea

      Super! I was trying to take the human consciousness to a higher level. Doing the note at the same time as the color and possibly other sense which are all related to frequencies. I’ve been told there is a sacred key because it relates to harmonic multiples of physical things. can you map out colors if a was for 32 and everything else relative and not do it on an equal temperament instrument as the piano I’m told a guitar any other string that does not have the temperament forced on it may the overtones in different places although slightly different it may matter to our psyche thank you Ronnie C Musiq doc 10 at gmail.com please answer

      Reply
  10. Jason Johnson

    What about Newton’s color circle from his book named Opticks? There he assigns colors to musical notes.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Cea

      Re. .Math to color for notes. And hoe to get hue right on medium available! .I was trying to take the human consciousness to a higher level. Doing the note at the same time as the color and possibly other sense which are all related to frequencies. I’ve been told there is a sacred key because it relates to harmonic multiples of physical things. can you map out colors if a was for 32 and everything else relative and not do it on an equal temperament instrument as the piano I’m told a guitar any other string that does not have the temperament forced on it may the overtones in different places although slightly different it may matter to our psyche thank you Ronnie C Musiq doc 10 at gmail.com please answer

      Reply
  11. ChrisT42

    if you do the same math with A=432 and use medium wavelength of each color, you get a reversed version of this color scale (c= dark red and f#-g=green). Dividing by Pythagorean fifths yields interesting scales, as well.

    Reply
  12. Nathan Brydn

    Similar to ChrisT42. I’ve been trying to get the HEX code or RGB code for the Solfeggio frequencies used in ancient music. It’s basically the same you have listed here for A=440Hz, except the tonal centre changes to A=444Hz or A=432Hz. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and you seem to have figured it out. The frequencies are:
    UT – 396Hz
    RE – 417Hz
    MI – 528Hz
    FA – 639Hz
    SOL – 741
    LA – 852
    TI – 963

    A couple others that fall out of the THz to NM range are 174Hz, 285Hz … 1174Hz and 1285Hz. I keep getting the wrong answers. I found that 528Hz is lime green HEX code BYE202 and RGB code 176,226,2 for a reference.

    They’re supposed to have healing and spiritual significance. I just wanna change my Facebook background to these colours. Can you please look into this. If I get them first I’ll leave them with you.

    Reply
  13. james soto

    This is great! I had written someyhing similar years ago. Unfortunately it was stored on a disc that was corrupted. Working on ideas for a painting project.
    Painting while listing to symphonic music.
    Reading in depth about Kadinski and relation to music and art.
    In addition, Kandinsky was considered a “synthe”, he could colors as sound. He believed there was communication between the artist and viewer as being available to both the senses and the mind (synesthesia). Hearing tones and chords as he painted, Kandinsky theorized, as an example, yellow is the colour for middle C on a brassy trumpet.  Black is the colour of closure, and the end of phrases. Also, that combinations of colours produce vibrational frequencies, akin to chords played on a piano.
    My task before this Friday is to match the frequency of notes to the frequency of colors on visual light spectrum. Wrote a program for this a few years back. Time to dust it off and fire it up.
    Time! Time should have a frequency as well. Another project.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Cea

      Oh yes…do! and we have to nail down the exact a 4:40 and not use it on the equal tempered forced instrument the piano someone’s got to do it on the strings that vibrate where they physically naturally Wood. Ronnie C someone needs to make a website where we can all pool/brainstorm experiment outcomes and theorys.

      I’m a musician and also have a hobby of anti-gravity ‘everything is frequency’ those are my papers.

      Ronnie Cea musiqdoc10@gmail.com

      Lets get a professor at a university to get on board and bring all levels of musicians to this science. how about a concert where I really levitate the audience haha yea baby! Said professor though will in no way trump anyones research since this is information and a science that has not yet been nailed down and or taught.

      Reply
  14. Eric Patton

    That’s funny because I started imagining colors as I started to get really good at improvising on guitar. I always saw A as a red (darker if minor) and E as a deep blue, etc. This list is actually pretty close. I wonder if this is a natural perception that just comes up eventually or, perhaps, years of playing with photoshop has created some sort of connection in my subconscious (probably the latter, haha).

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to put this together!

    (You can go to YouTube and search “eric patton looping” if you want to see how I improvise music…)

    Reply
  15. Ryan Emmons

    I wonder if the colors would line up more traditionally if you used the Verdi tuning, basing the “A” note at 432 hz. That’s what they use for the cymatic geometric shapes.

    Reply

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