Guitar Zen: Illuminating the Color of Sound

Music has often been referred to as colorful which implies that sound embodies a particular visible shade of color. In many ways this is true as all color is the reflection of light and shade and music is the reflection of the light that shines from within the human spirit. In this way, seeing music as colorful is much more than a metaphorical conception of sound but a realization that the light of the soul reflects through art and is projected into the minds of others producing the visual concept of it’s sonic illumination.

Just as we can recognize the presence of energies and the different qualities they represent in musical form, so can color and texture embody sound in a manner that add additional experiential elements to the vibrations of sound. Much like a great painting or sculpture speaks to us through the voice of its shade and texture, a melody or song speaks to us in the same way. By creating a particular texture or color of sound, the mind is given an enhanced visual connection to the music and is drawn in to the emotional experience of the artist who created it.

A prime and simple example of the connection of color and sound is represented in the blues. The music was primarily rooted in the expression of pain and sorrow, which in the era of its origin was often referred to as “feeling blue” or “having the blues”. When this feeling was expressed in musical form no other name could justly suit it but the blues. The mellow and somber vibes of the stories the songs told were directly translated in the textures of sound and the mood of the music that accompanied them. This is also very apparent in a modern form of metal known as black metal. The word black refers to the dark and ominous nature of the music’s message.

SMG_Guitar_Texture

Texture is the other component that when mixed with light and shade will add dimension to any musical expression. Often the role of a producer is to find ways to conceptualize textures of sound and present the info back to the artist in a way that will expand the sonic vision. It is often difficult for every person to see, or hear, an idea in the same way and that is why it becomes important to be open to the textural visualization of sound.

I’ll give you a personal example of how I came to understand this concept and learned to apply it to my own guitar tone. My fellow band mate and I were trying to describe something that we felt was lacking in our guitar tone and he described it to me as masking tape. He said, “When you peel a big strip of masking tape off of the roll it has a very distinct sound of thickness, but not like a weight, more of a thickness that is held up by the fullness of the sound”. Well needless to say it took a minute to get it but as soon as I got my hands on a roll of masking tape and peeled a big piece off I GOT IT! With this picture in my mind of adding more masking tape to my tone I was quickly able to pinpoint what was missing in the way of EQ and tone settings and dial it in!

The key to adding texture to your sound is simply being creative and having an open mind. Ask yourself things like, what will add depth to my sound or what can add another layer or dimension to it that will raise it up from the speakers and reach out and grab your ears? The possibilities are truly limitless. If you can imagine it, you can recreate it!

So the addition of color and texture to sound is MUCH more than just a clever descriptive tool that a producer or songwriter uses to express an idea, but it is a living infusion of light and dimension with the vibratory frequencies of sound. Most of us play our guitar or listen to music or even write music and never give a moment of thought to the concepts of light and color, but these vibrations are ALWAYS present in the sound. By acknowledging their presence and learning how to use them to serve you in your creative process, your music will be heard and seen in a whole new light!

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  • Gregory Despain

    Thanks for the great post! One of the best post I have seen in a long time.

  • Yavor

    Dear mr. Van Heldt,
    I would like to thank you for sharing all those inspirational concepts and ideas in your blog and in “Mind over Metal” (and for kicking ass musically of course \m/ |Ò-Ó| \m/

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