Home | Site Map | Watch | FAQ | History | Store | Contact

Harmonic Coloring:
A Method for Indicating Pitch Class

(IMAGE: The artist's color wheel with the circle of fifths mapped onto it)

Harmonic coloring assigns twelve colors from the artist's color wheel to the twelve pitches of the musician's circle of fifths.

In the chart above and the examples that follow, blue is assigned to the tonic pitch (I).

(IMAGE: Same image but only showing part of wheel that corresponds to major scale)

The notes of a major scale (above) are contiguous on the circle of fifths -- five notes are found directly clockwise from the tonic, and one directly counterclockwise. (In a minor scale, the balance would be reversed, with more notes lying counterclockwise from the tonic.)

(IMAGE: Wheel showing tonic at 12 o' clock, fifth at 1 o' clock, and major third at 4 o' clock) (IMAGE: Wheel showing tonic at 12 o' clock, fifth at 1 o' clock, and minor third at 9 o' clock)

In both the major triad and the minor triad (above), the root and the fifth are adjacent on the wheel, and the third is more distant. The third, whether major or minor, adds the note to the triad that is most distant harmonically from each of the others.

Examples of harmonic coloring in (static) Music Animation Machine notation:

(IMAGE: see paragraph below)
Above are the first four bars of Chopin's Prelude, Opus 28, No. 3 in G major, rendered in Music Animation Machine notation using harmonic coloring. This excerpt remains entirely in a single tonal area, that of the tonic.

(IMAGE: see paragraph below)
Above are four bars (23-26) of Chopin's Nocturne, Opus 27, No. 2 in D-flat major. This excerpt modulates chromatically, ending with a V-to-I cadence (violet-to-blue in the bass line).

Back to Music Animation Machine main page
For information about the MAM video (Note: only the 2nd demo reel features Harmonic Coloring)