• elizabethcackett

Use of Colour in Creating Music

Fairly recently I discovered the use of colour in music as a handy compositional tool and not merely a procrastination device it originally started as.

Colour coding tracks and files can reveal the structure and balance/imbalance in your music, help you plan ahead, and rectify problems quickly, plus it looks pretty too.

Below are just a few tips and reasons why you may find it beneficial to get colour creative 🙂

Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen


Above is a screen shot of a recent tune where colour coding was really useful. I had close to 50 tracks, some with only a few audio files on them, the vocals had been rerecorded numerous times and were all over the place. There are a lot of effects and automation in this tune, which meant creating new tracks was sometimes necessary to deal with this. As you can see most of the tracks are audio (blue) with only a few software tracks (green). All in all it was very hard to see where the problems I could hear were occurring and ultimately became really time consuming to fix. So I decided to use the colour palette tool.


1. In Logic simply click on the colour palette icon in the top RH corner of the arrange window and a floating colour palette box will appear.

2. Go through your tune and systematically colour code groups of instruments/timbres/sounds etc. You can either do this by track or by region.

In the track above I made all the drum tracks green, vocals pink and pads purple. I then colour coded the remaining sounds which were harder to label, in different colours.

3. Once I had done that I realised that my tracks were not grouped together properly and so I moved them together. Eg. Previously I had vocal tracks mixed in with percussion, pad 1 and 2 which are very similar at the top and bottom of the tracks. By colour coding it made it much easier to group tracks together and therefore locate the sound I could hear when playing the tune!

4. When colour coding I found it very useful not to use random colours but to actually think about the sounds in terms of colour. You could do this in a number of ways:

– give low frequency sounds dark colours – give high frequency sounds light colours – tracks which are dominate in the mix stronger colours -lead vocals a dark colour (eg. purple) & backing vocals a lighter version of that (eg lilac) – pads/tracks which are there to help with the texture but not so important lighter colours

There are many possibilities…


In the tune above I coded drums – green, percussive sounds – dark blue, sound of a bicyle wheel used in various ways – orange, breath noises – red, lead vocals – pink, pads – purple.

Benefits of Colour Coding Tracks

I didn’t colour code this tune until I was at the mastering stage, but it helped me enormously in a number of ways:

– I could see the overall structure and where there were too many conflicting percussive sounds – I took out the ones that were not missed when i muted them (scissors).

– unnecessary breath noises which you could not hear with dominant lead vocals.

– able to see that there was no drum break and that the mid break down section would work even better without any drums.

– the number of drum tracks meant that in places it was competing with vocals for listeners attention and so I turned the volume of these (drums) down a lot.

– the balance between sustained sounds like pads, breath noises and vocals were in pretty much equal balance to the short sounds of drums, percussion, blip/blop (bicycle sounds), which I was happy with.

It is all pretty obvious but when you work on a tune over a long period of time you stop seeing & hearing things clearly and when inspiration does strike there is a tendency to work quickly. Using colour will help you work quickly and easily from the start.

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