What Color Is Music? The Fascinating World of Synesthesia

I have come to the conclusion that the singer known as Prince was actually a Synesthete. let’s face it, he knew that rain was Purple!

Its something that I hadn’t thought about before. It was only when I commented on an article and stated that ‘rain is purple’ did it dawn on me! Yes, I am a bit slow sometimes!

The other thing I learned while researching synesthesia, is that many musicians claim to be synesthetes too.

So okay, I hear you screaming at me.

‘What the hell is Synesthesia’?

In simple terms, its when hearing, seeing, smelling etc get muddled up. For example, if I think of Monday, I see the word bathed in a blue/grey light. Tuesday is always bright yellow, Wednesday is Green and so on.

Others hear music and see each note as a different color. There are many forms of synesthesia.

Sight, hearing, taste, and touch can be involved. I suppose the best way of describing it is that each of our brainwave pathways take a right or left turn and pick up a color or feeling on route from A to B.

Before we go into the technical bit behind the mental happenings, let me explain what I see and feel, so you get the picture.

For starters my online name is Nell. I chose that name for three reasons. One, my real name is Melanie, so either Mel or Nell, two its the name of one of my Great Great Aunts, and third, its because its Blue! Yep, there we have it!

Nell is blue! As is my favorite color, Eleanor, which was my Great Great Aunts name. The second name, Rose, obviously is Red, because our colors can get muddled with reality. Roses are red, get it?

But its a lot more complicated than that. For example, up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t even realise that:

1. There was such thing as synesthesia.

2. I thought everybody saw the world this way!

It didn’t help that my brother was and is exactly the same! For example we could be walking through a park that is holding a Fete’ or Fair. The smells would be coming thick and fast. Hot dogs, Burgers and Cotton Candy/floss. He would turn to me and say, ‘That smells blue, or Pink!

And I would agree!

So, as you can see, its not just words, names, places and letters that do it for me, its also smells.

Oh and don’t forget music! I recently took an online test to see just how synesthetic I am, and was surprised to find that I cover half the darn spectrum!

Here we will look at the various forms below.

Jealousy smells like the water in the bottom of a flower vase after the flowers have died.

— Megan Hart, Tear You Apart

Grapheme-Color Synesthesia

Sounds so scientific doesn’t it? But actually it really just means that the person will see letters or numbers in color.

For example:

N = Blue

J = Red

And so on.

With numbers it means that say, number 4 is going to be blue and 3 is Green. This is my perceptions, others will see the colors differently.

My Days of the Week Synesthetic Style!

Spatial-Sequence Synesthesia.

This type of synesthesia is also very familiar to me, and once again something I took for granted. It didn’t help that my brother also experienced it.

Harder to explain, this sequence is rather strange. Do you see days of the week, or months of the year floating in front, behind or above you? No? most people don’t. but I do. Well sort of.

Some are obviously more synesthete in their way than me but I do understand it.

Evidently some people see the days of the week floating past them, instead of it just being a word in their heads.

And even more strange, they may not be in order, or Wednesday could be above their head, while Tuesday is behind!

Yes it does sound like a Hologram! But that’s the point.

Personally I just see the names of the week or month in boxes, going from right to left. Not left to right. But there are various forms of the same layout.

Strangely enough my brother see’s it this way too. So now you can understand why we never knew we were different mentally to other people.

Synesthesia from the Ancient Greek σύν syn, meaning together, and αἴσθησις aisthēsis meaning Sensation.

Ordinal-linguistic Personification.

Okay, this type of synesthesia is a pretty weird one! I have never experienced it myself, but I felt it worthy of a few words just to point out how different it is to the others.

Evidently according to Wiki :

‘Ordered sequences such as ordinal numbers, days, weeks, and months, seem to have personalities’.

This form of synesthesia was first spotted back in the 1890’s but has been ignored ever since.

I would imagine the reason is that not many people do experience color and feeling this way.

Unless you know different of course? If you are ‘Ordinal linguistic’ let me know below!

So, what does it really mean?

In plain English it means this:

1, 2, 3, are small children, 4 is a woman, 16 are teens and so on. I can hear you saying, well that’s because a child is 1, 2, 3 etc.

That’s what I thought, until I realized it wasn’t as simple as that! Evidently 8 is an older woman, and 8 for a guy is self centred and selfish!

So, what about Letters?

T’s are usually ungenerous creatures, U is soulless and so on.

That must be a pretty strange thing to experience! And there’s y’ all thinking I am weird with my colors? Eh? But then again I do find that:

Four = Blue = Friendly

Three = Green = indifferent.

So maybe I am, a little. Not so much other letters or numbers though.

The word love has always tasted like the scent of fresh ink and soft paper to me Like a newly written poem.

— Megan Hart, Tear You Apart

Music and Synesthesia – Chromesthesia

I love this synesthesia! Its so darn cool! Sorry but it is! Its when you hear a piece of music and the notes and sounds turn into different colors.

I have always had color synesthesia. Obviously you won’t ‘see’ a color in every single piece of music. Well I expect some people will, but I don’t.

But when I do, its magical. Imagine listening to Vivaldi who by the way has a blue Name. Take his Water Music.

To me, it sounds like a multitude of color. Mainly yellows, reds and sparkly greens. The reason?

Because its light. Its high sounding and jolly.

But Mozart = Black (Name) His music is darker, bold flashes of red, with black streaks and basically a bit boring. And so on.

It does work for modern music too.

Its hard to explain, but the only way I can is that not all music turns into color. Some tunes are so bland they stay grey or black. Other music or voices are yellow or Vanilla.

If a voice is high, its always a light color, dark colors are low voiced.

Sometimes music and color can produce something really special. Take a look at the picture below, by Melissa McCracken.


Types of Synesthesia

  1. Grapheme color synesthesia – Letters or numbers in color. Evidently smelling different colors come into this category too. for example, cotton candy/Candy floss is always pink. Not necessarily the color that you see, but the smell is pink, get it?
  2. Chromesthesia – Sound to color. Maybe Prince did see Purple?
  3. Spatial sequence synesthesia – Seeing days/weeks/months in sequences
  4. Number form – Similar to Spatial only its when someone is remembering a time or date, and it curves into a simple line or form.
  5. Auditory tactile synesthesia. – Seeing a picture or movement and hearing sound to associate with it.
  6. Ordinal linguistic personification – This is a pretty weird one! Its when someone puts a personality on numbers, letters and words. For example: 4 is a fat lady and 8 is a guy with issues!
  7. Misophonia – In simple terms it literally means a sound can make you cry! Or on the good side, another sound may make you laugh. At this time its not certain what classification it should come under.
  8. Mirror touch synesthesia – when someone touches their face for example, then the synesthete feels it and has to touch theirs.
  9. 9. Lexical gustatory synesthesia – When words taste like waffles! Or other food. What happens if you don’t like waffles? You don’t say the word!
  10. Spatio temporal synesthesia – This is a strange one. I often wonder if everybody is like this? Evidently you see ‘Time as a ribbon, circle or ring’. Don’t we all?

Let’s check this for ourselves. If someone asks you the time, without looking at your watch or clock, do you ‘See’ Time as a clock face etc? Check below.

Mirror Touch Synesthesia.

Let’s take a step back and look at one of the most interesting of all the synesthetes. And this is one that you can practice yourself.

When you are on the bus or the tube sit opposite someone and scratch your nose or face.

See if anybody on the train copies you. Fun eh? I used to play this game many years ago when bored silly on the way home from work!

Nine people out of ten didn’t reciprocate, but one always did! I found a Mirror Touch synesthete!

Only I didn’t know what it was called back then!


So I have discovered a few things here. It seems that I am a:

Grapheme-Color synesthesia.

And a

Spatial-Sequence synesthesia

And of course a


With a possible side salad of

Mirror Touch synesthesia!

But what about you? Let me know in the comments or take the poll. You never know, you may just learn something about yourself you didn’t know!

Life is Color Let’s Round it Up…..!

Before you say you have no idea what the heck this is all about let me just remind you of something.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, the following have various beginnings, most of them disputed and disallowed leading to the fact that nobody has got any idea where they came from! Anyway, here we go.

I am feeling blue.

She is green with envy.

He was seeing red so I got out of his way.

He was the black sheep of the family. (possible explanation being black sheep are a pain in the butt, keep wandering off or other sheep don’t like them!)

It was a Golden opportunity.

Tickled Pink.

Yellow bellied yellow streak.

Get the picture? I think that the first person who came up with these Idioms was in fact a synesthete!

Don’t you?

Author: Nell Rose

Source: hubpages.com

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