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The colors of sound - Tattoo ideas. Physics and Artistic nerds needed!

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Systolic, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    I suppose this is technically music related, but i'm not sure it fits anywhere else.

    While I have a rudimentary understanding of both physics as a whole and the physics of sound, i am by no means adept.

    So the general idea is to represent the sounds of the standard open strings of the bass (E,A,D,G) in tattoo form. My initial thought was to do this via an accurate representation of the sine wave of the notes...so basically the fundamental wave form. Upon further consideration, I realized this only represents part of what we hear, as i didn't take into account the harmonics of the struck note. Am I correct in saying that a more accurate portrayal would be a triangle wave?

    My second thought was based upon the synesthesia condition. To represent the different waves in corresponding colors. We all know that red has a long wavelength and indigo has a short wavelength. In my head i'd take the 44.1 hz E string to 441 Thz (i think) in a dark red and the subsequent higher strings in progressively cooler colors. Using the same multiplier to take sound waves to the visible light spectrum, the G string at 98 hz come out of the visible light spectrum entirely and into ultra violet.

    So while trying to stay as scientifically reasonably as possible and understanding that some artistic freedom is necessary, does anybody have any ideas on how to proceed. I know it's a tall order.

    Thanks TB.
  2. Just go ball-park with the colours, you're not going to get too perfect with the colours anyway as you aren't really going to get close to monochromatic light when drawn in the form of a tattoo, plus things are "darker" to the further reaches of the reds and violets because our eyes are so much less sensitive to those wavelengths.

    I don't know if I'd go with the triangular waves, it just wouldn't seem that pretty (IMO).

    (and yes, 441 Thz is your 680 nm, getting into the deeper stretches of the reds and the 980 Thz would be about 300 nm, which is well into the UV)
  3. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania

    A triangle wave isn't a very accurate description of the waveform. It will vary depending on the tone of the note. A sine wave of the fundamental would be a good representation to keep it simplistic IMO, and you could differentiate the wavelengths relative to each other.

    The color thing could work if you have the artistic/creative mind for it, I can't really help there. Synesthesia probably doesn't follow a multiplier scheme.
  4. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    Sine wave of the fundamental it is then. Synesthesia was just my jumping off point, i'm sure you're right and it doesn't follow a multiplier scheme. I'll obviously represent the E with red and G with violet. I think A should be a yellowish green, and D a greenish blue. Now to figure out how to represent the waves themselves.
  5. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2006
    Couldn't you superimpose fundamental sine waves with a few overtone sine waves? Color of each matching the given overtone frequency, with reducing amplitude. That would make each string a multi-color thing when looking from afar, with cool colors towards the middle. It might look nice if you just present each frequency as a simple, solid color sine line with proportional period. In addition, adding the overtones would widen the frequency range you're covering.

    Also, no matter how you put it, your tattoo would reflect strumming all strings at once and letting them ring :D Not the most beautiful of sounds
  6. Ironbar


    Aug 24, 2013
    Portland, Oregon
    Are you sure this doesn't belong in the bass humor forum?
  7. You're gonna get tired of explaining your complicated tattoo after a few years. Just go the easy route and get the UPC from a can of Spam and get it inked on the back of your neck. Or a tramp stamp.
  8. Well, as an artist and a tattooer, there are many variables at play. Using sine waves in different colors would work, but would definitely have a tribal feel/ look to it. Also color choices would greatly depend on your own skin tone. Some colors work well some don't depending on your pigmentation. I personally would need a little more information to even begin with a drawing let alone the tattoo.
  9. bolophonic

    bolophonic SUSPENDED

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    As a guy with dozens of tattoos, I can tell you that highly conceptual tattoos rarely turn out as well as they are intended. A great tattoo is a bold, readable piece of artwork. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen people trying to explain the deep, meaningful concept behind a fundamentally hideous tattoo. It is awkward for everyone.

    My suggestion is to find the absolute best tattoo artists in your area -- the ones that are booked a year in advance -- and take a look at their portfolios. Talk to them about your idea and see what they think.

    This is not to say that there is anything wrong with your desire to express the musical experience permanently on your skin, but I guarantee that after a few years of explaining a bunch of wiggly colored lines vis-a-vis bass strings and the visible light spectrum, you will probably notice people yawning and after a while, you will be thinking about how to cover it all up with an actual piece of artwork. Might sound harsh, but seriously... there are a bazillion terrible tattoos out there. Get something cool.
  10. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
  11. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    I definitely get the "it's gonna be hard to explain" aspect and that's fine by me. Science, music, and art are three passions of mine and this would combine them all. I have one of the most well respected tattoo shops in the midwest a couple miles down as well as some "celebrity" artists that I can work with. My issue isn't that I don't feel confident in the basic idea or in the artists, I'm just trying to work out the specifics. To find that happy medium between amazing concept and something that translates well to skin. What is "cool" is relative to the individual I don't get work done because others like it, but because I do.

    Madman4string. I have a fairly pale skin that leans warmer.
  12. Tattoos should be self expression. All of mine are things that hold meaning to me, not to anyone else. They are unique designs that usually warrant conversation. I never grow tired of explaining them.

    While I agree there are a ton of bad tats out there, there are also some extremely talented people in the industry. It comes down to concept and execution. A good artist can take your concept and make it a piece of art worthy of display. A bad one keeps the good ones in business.
  13. Systolic

    Systolic Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2009
    My thoughts exactly. Now to find somebody to do the math for me to figure out how they waves look.

    Edit: I can make the math happen. Just not sure what to do as far as amplitude.

    More research edit: Perhaps 90dB will do.