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What color does a song give off?

What color does a song give off?

Music has the amazing ability to evoke emotion, imagery, and meaning without needing anything more than sound. While songs don’t actually have an inherent color, the connections we make in our brains means that we often visualize them as having certain color palettes. The colors we associate with music depend on many factors, both in the composition of the song and within ourselves. Elements like key, tempo, lyrics, and genre can all influence what color a song makes us think of. Our personal experiences and cultural associations also play a role in the colors that music brings to mind. With so many variables involved, it’s clear why there isn’t one simple answer, but examining how and why we connect music to color can give insight into the nature of music, emotion, and the mind.

The Effects of Musical Elements on Color

While everyone has their own personal interpretations, there are some common trends in how basic musical elements impact the colors we visualize:

Musical Element Color Association

– Bright major keys like C or G major evoke warm colors like yellow, orange, red

– Minor keys and dissonant keys evoke cool colors like blue, purple


– Fast tempos evoke bright, energetic colors like red, yellow, green

– Slow tempos evoke cool, calming colors like blue, purple


– Pop music with electronic instruments can evoke neon and pastel colors

– Rock music with guitars may evoke bold reds, blacks, silver

– Orchestral music evokes royal colors like gold, crimson, forest green


– Lyrics referencing nature evoke greens, blues

– Passionate lyrics can evoke reds and purples

– Lyrics about nighttime/darkness evoke blacks, greys, deep blues

As you can see, faster, brighter, more energetic musical elements tend to evoke warmer, more saturated colors, while slower, sadder music evokes cooler, darker colors. Lyrics can directly mention colors or imagery that we associate with certain colors too. Overall, color connections tend to align with the mood and emotions of the music.

The Role of Experience and Culture

Our personal histories with music impact the colors we perceive as well. The colors we associate with a song often relate to:

  • The emotions we personally feel when listening to the song
  • Times, places, and people we connect to the song
  • Any music videos or live performances of the song we’ve seen
  • Album artwork and other imagery associated with the song
  • Our learned cultural associations (ex: red=love, blue=sadness)

For example, a song you always listen to when spending time with a loved one may evoke the colors you associate with that person. A song you hear during a memorable travel experience may evoke the colors you saw at that location. Any imagery the musicians intentionally pair with the song also plants color connections through sight and memory.

Additionally, color associations in our culture impact our perceptions. Red makes us think of love, passion, or anger, while blue makes us feel calm or sad. Green evokes nature, yellow is cheerful, and black is mysterious. These learned color meanings in society creep into our visualizations of music too.

So while musical elements nudge us towards certain color perceptions, our personal experiences and cultural associations also play a big role.

Synesthesia Links Music and Color

For some people, the connection between music and color is very literal. People with a form of synesthesia called chromesthesia automatically see colors when hearing sounds. Their brains are cross-wired so music, or even specific instruments or keys, trigger involuntary visuals.

Musician Pharrell Williams and painter Kandinsky both had chromesthesia. Some people describe it as seeing the sounds emerge as colored shapes or auras. Others feel the color mentally or along their skin. The colors triggered depend on factors like key, tempo, instruments, and more. While non-synesthetes experience music and color connections metaphorically and emotionally, for chromesthetic people, the visuals are real and consistent.

Music-Color Connections in Marketing

These natural associations between sound and color are utilized in music marketing as well. Album artwork, band logos, music videos, concert visuals, and more take advantage of colors that fit the tone of the music or emotions the artist wants to evoke.

For example, an artist with a melancholic indie album would likely use cool tones like blue, grey, or black on their marketing materials. Meanwhile, a pop star with an empowering dance album would choose bright, warm colors like pink, orange, or yellow to convey the energy of their music.

Using the colors people naturally associate with certain genres, emotions, or musical elements helps reinforce the vibe and experience of an artist. When the sound, lyrics, and visuals all align, it creates a cohesive experience for fans across senses.

Album Colors Used Reasons for Color Choice
Lana Del Rey “Born to Die” Black, white, red

– Monochromatic palette reflects her melancholic, cinematic style

– Red evokes love, passion, danger in the lyrics

Taylor Swift “Lover” Pink, purple, blue

– Pink is associated with love, connects to album title

– Blue and purple are whimsical, romantic colors

Imagine Dragons “Night Visions” Black, green, red

– Black reflects album title and mystical vibe of music

– Green and red provide contrasting pop of color

This table shows how various artists use strategic colors to reinforce the themes and emotions of their albums. Marketers take advantage of the psychology connecting music and color.

The Brain Basis Behind Music-Color Synesthesia

On a neurological level, there are a few theories for why our brains associate music with colors:

  • The visual cortex is activated by auditory cortex stimulation. Hearing music triggers visual areas.
  • Music and color processing occur near each other in the brain, causing crosstalk.
  • Emotion pathways link auditory and visual areas. Music evokes emotion, which triggers color.

Research does show music and color processing are handled in nearby regions of the brain. Scientists speculate this proximity could cause activation to spill over from one area to the other. The strong emotional impact of music could also trigger color-processing visual areas further downstream.

Synesthetes appear to have even stronger cross-wiring between sound, emotion, and color areas in their brains. Their automatic sensations likely result from atypical neural connections.

Using Music-Color Connections in Therapy

Since music can naturally evoke visuals, color associations, and emotions, there has been interest in using it for therapy purposes. Associating colors with songs, or visually representing music with paintings, has been proposed to help Alzheimer’s patients, for example. By engaging multiple senses, it may be possible to strengthen memory, cognitive skills, and emotional processing.

Connecting music to colors also has therapeutic potential for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. Listening to songs that evoke positive color associations could help boost mood through emotional and visual mechanisms. More research is still needed, but music clearly has strong ties to sight and emotion that therapists may be able to utilize.


While songs don’t objectively have colors, the human brain instinctively associates music with visuals. Musical elements, personal experiences, culture, synesthesia, and brain connectivity all contribute to the colors we perceive when listening to songs. Music-color associations not only give insight into the mind and emotions, they also allow artists and marketers to strategically enhance the music experience. Overall, exploring how and why we visualize color when hearing songs reveals the profound ways our senses are interconnected.