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Colors, Keys, E-Motions

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

We have been studying keys, colors and the emotions they have naturally for us and in the history of western music and in many cultures.

There are just 12 notes!!! How they are put together, composed, improvised, played and how each person expresses this, is the truly interesting and amazing thing.

We started by sharing a few phrases of a piece we are playing and having a clear emotion we feel the composer is asking us to convey. We played it and then the rest of the Studio each guessed the emotion. It was really interesting how clear the feedback was! When we are super clear about what we are committed to sharing emotionally, musically, how clearly it can be felt.

I like to think of emotion as E- Motion= Energy in motion, movement.

How are we moving the energy in our music making?

I shared how I see, feel, hear the colors on the flute:

Ms. Keeney’s Flute Colors

C’s - Silvers, platinum, mercury, snow- to transparent…

D’s - Reds/cherry, cayenne, bubblegum, maroon, strawberry….

E’s - Oranges, tangerine, pumpkin, saffron

F’s - Yellows, - banana, - mustard, lemon, hay…

G’s - Greens, forest green, lime green, asparagus…

A’s - Blues, ocean blue, midnight blue, sky blue, teal…

B’s - Purples, violet, plumb, lavender, orchid…

Then we took our Major Scales and our Harmonic Minor Scales and gave each scale a color and feeling. I asked that for one week they explore the harmonic minor and for one week the major scales and write down the color and feeling each day. Coming up with the natural way the scale sounds and feels to them via emotion and color. Again we shared this in Class.

Next assignment is for everyone to play Debussy, Syrinx and to use all they are learning about color, emotion and to add, inflection as in a Story in Sound to this, the myth of Syrinx in Greek Mythology.

And of course to apply this to all they are doing in their scales, etudes, pieces, excerpts. To be curious about sound, notes, intervals, keys, colors, emotions... the expression of sound in all it forms is the main goal!


Some of the things I put together for them:

One of the most influential descriptions of characteristics shared in German-speaking cultures in the late 18th and early 19th century was from from Christian Schubart's Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806):

C Major

Completely Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naïvety, children's talk.

C Minor

Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key.

D♭ Major

A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.--Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key.

C# Minor

Penitential lamentation, intimate conversation with God, the friend and help-meet of life; sighs of disappointed friendship and love lie in its radius.

D Major

The key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key.

D Minor

Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.

E♭ Major

The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God.

D# Minor

Feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key.

E Major

Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major.

E minor

Naïve, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.

F Major

Complaisance & Calm.

F Minor

Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.

F# Major

Triumph over difficulty, free sigh of relief utered when hurdles are surmounted; echo of a soul which has fiercely struggled and finally conquered lies in all uses of this key.

F# Minor

A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language.

G Major

Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,--in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.

G Minor

Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.

A♭ Major

Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.

A♭ Minor

Grumbler, heart squeezed until it suffocates; wailing lament, difficult struggle; in a word, the color of this key is everything struggling with difficulty.

A Major

This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.

A minor

Pious womanliness and tenderness of character.

B♭ Major

Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world.

B♭ minor

A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.

B Major

Strongly colored, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring colors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere.

B Minor

This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting ones's fate and of submission to divine dispensation

Wishing you a wonderful colorful and emotional exploration as you get more curious about notes, sounds, keys, colors, and the emotions they convey... next we are going to explore rhythm, articulation and inflection...

Happy Creative Practicing, Playing and Performing!


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