Reading Music Images

These images are spectrograms (wikipedia) of sound waves. 

This 15-second video shows examples:


Basic Patterns

Like sheet music, time runs across and pitch (frequency) runs up and down.

Unlike sheet music, you see all the vibrations in the sound. This picture of a plucked string shows the harmonic series (wikipedia) :

Plucked string, with harmonics

Notes are horizontal  . . . rhythm is vertical.

Musical pitch is a frequency that lasts in time, so it's wide.  Sudden, rhythmic sounds contain lots of frequencies, so they're tall (or have a tall edge).

handdrums, low and high  

  Octaves are the same color.

An octave (wikipedia) is a doubling of frequency. Octave related notes are musically equivalent (or nearly).  I often use the color wheel (wikipedia) to echo this relationship.

More details..

Higher pitches are better defined in time.

  A frequency of 16 cycles per second can't be pinned down to .01 seconds.

Vocals are noisy.

  The human speaking voice is less pure than most instruments, and has many kinds of sounds.  Music with vocals is harder to understand visually.

Complex music looks complex!

  It's difficult to hear separate musical parts, or to read a score.  The images can also take patience.

© 2003-18  N. Resnikoff