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Page 7 of 7

Painting with Color Scales


Major scale described above. The notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. We visualized this above as the white keys of a piano keyboard. If we start at the bottom C and play the notes in ascending order we hear the C Major scale. But what happens if we play these same white keys, but start at D instead of C. The answer is that you get a completely different, but somehow related, sound; it has a completely different, but somehow related, vibe or feeling. If you try this starting on E, you again get a completely different, yet somehow related, result. And so on. These are the different modes of the C Major scale.

To me, this means that you can use the exact same seven colors from a color scale, and by somehow “starting with” or featuring, or otherwise emphasizing, the different notes/colors of the scale, you can create completely different vibes with the same colors, just by which color you make the root. The original Synchromists did not appear to consider this at all. And that’s just with the Major scale; there are lots of other scales out there, each with a full array of Modes. Also, there are other ways to generate harmony, over and above the triadic method described above.

Neosynchromism is my attempt to update the original principles of Synchromism to reflect the new, more wide-open, approach to the elements of music that abound today. This means new scales, new advanced, extended harmonies and new rhythms. That should give me plenty to do for the next 50 or so years.


The use of color scales has been a very gratifying and rewarding experiment; it has allowed me an easier understanding of the color wheel and also has helped me create some pretty cool paintings. This has led me to find more connections between musical and visual arts and to deepen my understanding of that connection. For example, how can I let my natural, well-developed sense of musical rhythm express itself visually? What are the similarities and differences in the way our senses perceive pitch/sound and color/sight? I will explore some of these connections in future articles.


South, Will, Color, Myth, and Music: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism, 2001.

Wright, Stanton Macdonald, A Treatise On Color, 1924.

Copyright (c) 2007 Joey Howell. All rights reserved.

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