What color is your favorite key?

Recently, I've been exploring the idea of associating colors with different musical keys. It's part of a phenomenon called synaesthesia, which has to do with a person associating more than one sense with something. For example, perhaps when you think of the number 2, you always think of the color blue. Or perhaps the smell of rain seems "green" to you. Or perhaps you associate a feeling of sadness with smelling garlic... yeah... it sounds kind of odd, but I think it's a really cool thing to have. Just think of the extra dimension that would add to the world! Instead of just experiencing something in one sense, you would have the vividness and uniqueness of experiencing it in multiple senses.

So, for awhile I've thought synaesthesia was interesting, but I never really thought it applied to me. You see, I have absolute pitch, which means I know where middle C is and can figure out what other notes are based on that (and I'm working on perfect pitch, where I'd know every note instantly). So most of the time I'm able to recognize what key a piece of music is in (if I think about it long enough).

But recently I've been realizing that absolute pitch is not the only thing that makes it easier for me to recognize the key. I also do think about musical keys in colors. The thing is, it's very vague, like the shadow of the color is floating in the back of my mind as I hear the key. And I can't distinguish the color very well because it eludes my gaze as I try to catch it.

I thought I would set out a challenge for myself: to try to "catch" each of these colors that I see with each key.


C Major is a kind of hazy white, like a white sky with just a glow of yellow around the edges.
C Minor is dark... hard to define a distinct color. Perhaps like an umber (brownish).
C#/Db Major: as C#, I'd say some kind of jewel tone, like a vivid turquoise. However, to me, Db Major is periwinkle blue, like a partly cloudy sky. This is really odd because they're technically the same key. :P
C# Minor: I hardly ever play or compose anything in this key (I should!), so it's hard to say... something dark, that's all I can tell.
D Major: A bright, military blue.
D Minor is a slightly bluish or silvery-grey, soft and heathery.
Eb Major: is very bright (both in sound and in color)... definitely a warm color, but other than that hard for me to tell.
Eb Minor: a very dark, rich burgundy.
E Major is red with a hint of orange.
E Minor: very muted, pale rust-red. Close to my idea of G Major, actually, which is interesting because E Minor is the relative minor to G Major.
F Major is a cross between green and blue... but not turquoise. Somewhere inbetween, or perhaps both. :P
F Minor: a dark forest green.
F#/Gb Major: as F#, I would say muted indigo. However, for some reason I would say Gb Major is muted brick red. Another instance of enharmonic equivalents looking different for me.
F# Minor: A more saturated version of F# Major's muted indigo.
G Major: rosy pink
G Minor: dark red, perhaps
Ab Major: not sure... perhaps kind of a peach-y color.
Ab Minor: the color of light. (And this is only because I played Schubert's Impromptu Opus 90 No. 4 which starts out in Ab Minor. I don't really have any other dealings with this key.)
A Major: bright, sunshiny yellow.
A Minor is golden, like wet yellow leaves on the ground.
Bb Major: violet
Bb Minor: a darker, muted, muddy purple.
B Major is almost not a color - I think of sparkles and kind of a bright metallic - perhaps almost blueish or purplish in tint.
B Minor: pale dark blue.

So there you have it! What do you think?

And I'd like to invite you to explore this, whether it's in the realm of music, smell, or words, or anything else that you might have more than one association with. It's great fun - because rarely do two people associate the same things together!

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