How color works

how to see soundIf ColorMusic is going to work, then it has to be done right. You can’t just use any random colors. They’ve got to be the right ones … but, of course, which ones? We already know that music is all about patterns. And color is too. So let’s look at color patterns first. After all, color is easy to follow—and everyone knows how colors work.

For example, check out the color wheel below. This basic pattern is probably familiar. It has 12 colors, with each color moving to the next. Red passes to red-orange … which passes to orange … which passes to orange-yellow … and so on.

To make each color stand out, the primary and secondary colors are shaped like squares, while the other colors (called “tertiaries”) are shaped like circles. And these shapes show how the color wheel is built. You remember how it works—there are three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue):

And these are mixed to make secondary colors (orange, green, and purple):

Then, to fill in the gaps, these colors are combined to make tertiary colors. For example, red and orange make red-orange … orange and yellow make orange-yellow … yellow and green make yellow-green … and so on:

There really isn’t much to it. Every color follows this same, simple pattern. And nothing is a surprise.

But … just for fun … let’s look a little closer. When you first learned colors, you heard about “complementary” colors. Any two colors are complements if they’re directly across from each other in the color wheel. So red and green are complements … orange and blue are complements … yellow and purple are complements … red-orange and green-blue are complements … etc.



Every color has its own complement. And each pair of complements has a special connection because they are complete opposites. (They also make each other stand out.) For example, red is the total opposite of green. So they’re across from each other in the color wheel. Orange is the opposite of blue, so they’re also directly across from each other. Yellow is the opposite of purple, and so on.

So what would happen if we mixed things up a little? Just for fun, let’s make each pair of complements switch places. In other words, let’s move every color into its opposite position. (To do this, we just rotate the squares 180 degrees.) The result looks a little weird, but it’s easy to follow.

In the picture above, the color wheel has been twisted around. So now, red is where green was … and green is where red was. Orange is where blue was … and blue is where orange was. And, like you probably guessed, yellow and purple have switched places … and so on.

At this point, you may be wondering, “Okay, I get it. But what’s the point? Are we going to sit here all day and just play with color? Or are we going to make some music?” Well … now we can. Because we’ve just cracked the code to music. As it turns out, this is the color pattern. The one that people have been trying to find for a very long time. For musicians, this is the “holy grail” of patterns. And once you see how it works, you’ll be playing music faster and better than you ever thought was possible.

  • Lorenzo

    This makes complete fucking sense!!!!!!! Thanks so much, you really made things much more clear in an easy and comprehensible way….. i owe you…. You broke the Da Vinci Code 😉 this truly is the rosetta stone and the colors are the greek language…. hear you soon…. cheers

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