Previous page    Harmony Assistant    Next page 

What's new ?
Music theory
Page mode
Engraver mode
Discontinuous selection
Tie, slur and beam
Multi-voice staves
Color notation
Gregorian notation
Break symbols
Key signature
Time signature
Free objects
Text commands
Character fonts
Character sets
Virtual Singer
Software license
Technical support
Printable manual

symbol marks changed chapters.


Color notation

Color notation of notes or intervals is a concept developed by It consists in using colors to "make simple what appeared complex".

Colors enables to learn or pratice guitar (or any other fretted string instrument) much easier and faster than in black and white.

Using colors unveils a lot of information, and understanding notions that often remain vague for many guitarist becomes obvious.

And when understanding is here, learning and improvement become easier and faster, like a train that only has to follow the track.

You will find below a quick explanation of this concept. For more information, you can download "Les grands principes de guitare-et-couleurs" (in French only) from this page (or by clicking this link).

This booklet shows that, thanks to an original creative and educational concept based on colors, you can learn then improve more easily and more durably the miscellaneous essential notions a guitarist needs to master, regardless of their style.

If you haven't any background, you might not size up what such a concept can bring you. But if you already tried to learn guitar from scratch, or  wished to improve your knowledge, or tried to compose, improvise, or reproduce a tune by ear, you will undoubtedly perceive the interest.

Doing better, faster and easier is eventually our common goal, isn't it?

Depending of the kind of target you aim, two color codes can be used: the absolute or relative color code.

The absolute color code

Why "absolute"? Because each note matches one and only color:

  • C in red

  • D in brown

  • E in salmon-pink

  • F in light-green

  • G in light-blue

  • A in purple

  • B in pink

Thus, in any key signature, these colors will always be related to the same notes:

le code de couleur "absolu"

This code is especially useful for those who widh to learn notes on the guitar neck, or locate them instantly.

Is it actually of use? Not necessarily, some will say, because tablatures let us avoid to match the guitar neck and the classic staff.

Certainly. But there are however some benefits to know note names (or at least to know how to retrieve them easily), especially those of the three bass strings...

For instance to know where to move a chord diagram (especially a barre) so that its root note match a given note. If you don't know that the G is in 3rd cell of the E string, you won't know that the F barre chord can be moved to this location. Or you will have to learn by heart all the possible chord positions!

The relative color code

This is the most used because its applications are numerous.

It draws inspiration from the colors used in the "Dadi's ruler", an actual guitar-dedicated slide-rule, almost unobtainable nowadays, that enables (among other useful features) to find and view in colors all the  possible guitar scales or chords.

In this color code, called "relative", colors don't match a specific note (C, D, E, etc) but its interval from the rootnote (third, fifth, etc.).

For instance, a major third (two tones interval) will be colored in burgundy, a perfect fifth (3 tones and a half) in orange...

If necessary, the "+" or "-" symbol will be added. For instance, "-" will be added to specify a minor third

This relative color code will be preferentially used when displaying chords, scales, arpeggios, etc, because it oferr much more capabilities than the absolute colors.

Why "relative"? Because the note that matches a given interval is not always the same: it is relative to the current key signature.

For instance, in C major, the root note is C. The note located at a perfect fifth interval is G, displayed in orange. But if we change the key signature to E major, the perfect fifth, still orange, won't be G anymore but B.

This relative nature is extremely useful, because it enables to keep the same code for any key signature. So if you know where the third, fifth or 7th are in a chord or a scale for a given key signature, you'll also know it when you change the key signature.

It is the same spirit as the the Nashville notation, for instance.

Here is the map of "relative colors":

  • The root note is always black

  • The 2nd / 9th is light-green, with a "-" symbol if minor

  • The third is burgundy,  with a "-" symbol if minor

  • The forth is plain blue.

  • The fifth is orange, with a "-" symbol if diminished, and "+" if augmented.

  • The sixth is sky-blue.

  • The 7th is light yellow, with a "+" symbol if major

Here is a map, that also highlight the fact that some intervals can have "synonymous" colors.

relative color intervals

For instance the interval of augmented 2nd (2+) is 1 tone and a half, like the minor third (3-). And you can view, on the same comumn, its octave doubling (9+).

Color chord diagrams

Fingering on chord diagram can be displayed in black, absolute or relative color. This can be set up in the global setup, "Appearance" section.

For instance, here is the C# major chord in relative colors:

C# Maj Relatif

You can spot immediately the root note (black), the thirds (burgundy) and the fifth (orange)

This coloring can be useful, as well educationally as for creation.
For instance, it's much more interesting to learn this chord while being aware of its intervals. Not only we understand immediately its "architecture" but moreover, we can modify it to create new chords from a single one..

If you want to transform the above chord to a minor chord (C#m), you know that all the thirds have to be lowered by one semitone (Cf interval map above). So, all burgundy notes will be shifted toward the top of the neck and displayed with a "-" symbol:

C#m relatif

Conversely, if you wish to transform the original chord in C#sus4, you will add one semitone to the thirds, which boils down to replace them by fourths (blue):

Csus4 relatif

Here, the 4th on the D string would be too difficult to play so we remove it.

Please note that colors are also present when editing chord diagrams ("Configuration > Edit chord diagrams" menu option)

You will probably find numerous other applications to this chord coloring, either in absolute or relative colors.

(c) Myriad - All rights reserved