Seeing sound

how to see soundSo how can we see sound? What do music patterns look like? At first, you might think, “Music notation, of course! It shows what notes look like. And it lets you see how patterns rise and fall as you move through a song.”

In a way, that’s right—but also wrong. If you’ve ever seen a page of sheet music, you probably noticed that it’s just a lot of black dots on a page of lines. It kind of shows you what music patterns “look” like. But to say that notation lets you see sound is like saying this stick figure looks like an actual person … it doesn’t.

In fact, standard music notation does a pretty bad job of showing patterns. It gives you the outline of a song, But how are you supposed to know which note is which? And what exactly are we supposed to be seeing? Because every note looks the same, notation looks more like a bunch of ants than any meaningful pattern.

No, when I say music is made of patterns, I mean real patterns. The kind that are so easy to see they jump off the page. I mean patterns that clearly tell you something. Patterns that are as easy to see as they are to hear.

And what’s cool is that music patterns are already right there. In fact, they’re staring us right in the face. Only until now, musicians have been wearing a blindfold. Or better said, we’ve been colorblind.

To see what I mean, check out the image below. In the black-and-white picture on the left, you can see 12 balls. Each one looks just like the others, so nothing is special. But when you look at the same picture on the right, everything seems to pop. With color, we suddenly see how the balls are arranged in a clear, organized pattern. In fact, the pattern is so obvious, it’s almost embarrassing.


“So,” you say, “we have the answer! We should use color to see music patterns. Then we’ll know what sound looks like—and we can easily play music.” But before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to stop and think.

  • I just order some of you keyboard stickers to use on my guitar cause i can’t wait. i love what you are doing. Have you been able to find highlighters to mark up tap and standard notation that match your stickers? I have looked at staple and couple art stores but no luck. this could a good product for you.

    • MyColorMusic

      Very cool — thank you, Blake! If you haven’t yet used the keyboard stickers we shipped, then keep them for a piano. And I’ll mail you a set of the newly-minted guitar fretboard stickers. Do you plan to use a classical guitar, electric guitar, or acoustic guitar? Based on the type of instrument, I’ll send the proper sticker set to the same address used for the keyboard stickers.

      For color notation, have you tried the ColorMusic plugin for MuseScore? Here’s a link:

      Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Rock on, my friend!

      • Hi Mike,
        I’ll check that out. I am happy to pay for the stickers I have a classical guitar. on another note(ok thats bad) had you seen either Rocksmith(software) or Fretlight(guitar and software) I think both would be better with your colors and shapes added. Perhaps you should start a dialog with them. another visual learning guitar website is it has animations of the neck for chord melody music.

        • MyColorMusic

          Hey Christopher,

          No — thanks for your keyboard stickers order. I think that’s cool that you went ahead and got some. I’ll send you a free set of classical guitar stickers. I want you to be able to jump right in.

          Also, thank you for the link and the heads up on Rocksmith and Fretlight. Very cool — I’ve had some ideas along those lines and am excited for how things will be developing. Please let me know when you’ve received the guitar stickers. And be sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments. —Mike

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