How to draw a song

Hi Messians! It’s Essie here, very happy to be back with you in this inspiring season of music.

You know how some music gets you feeling big things? Some fills you with joy, some pumps you up, some makes you uncomfortable, and some calms you right down.

Not all music has me experiencing the feels, but you can bet all my favourite and most memorable stuff does. This tutorial (for want of a better word) is about accessing that, and taking it just a bit further.

Now, I’m about to get a little abstract on you, but stick with me, because art is about being open to new ways of looking at things, and allowing yourself to experiment with new ways of experiencing the world.

I want to teach you how to draw a song.

I want to be clear about the fact that I’m not talking about representing the song’s narrative in a literal way. Instead, I want to help you visually represent the essence of the song and how it makes you feel.

Are you still with me? Good!

If you’ve ever come across the concept of synesthesia* I think it will help you here. What we’re essentially trying to do is take something we experience through one sensory mode, in this case hearing, and translate it into another, i.e. the visual.

To some of us, this comes very naturally, and to others it will be more of a challenge. That is totally okay. We all have different ways of seeing the world, and that’s what makes us all important and unique. What I’m hoping to do in this post is ask you some questions that might help you translate the auditory to the visual, for the purpose of representing songs artistically.

So the first thing you want to do is set up your song on your music device of choice. Ideally, put it on a repeat loop so you can listen to it several times without being interrupted.

Next, close your eyes and listen to the whole thing through once. Be present as you listen, and notice any reactions you have to the song, whether they’re emotional responses, mental pictures, physical reactions – anything. Just notice these and sit with them.

Then, listen to the song again, and start to take notes. These don’t need to be detailed, just a simple list of words that come to mind as you listen. While you’re listening and taking notes, ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • If this song were a colour what would it be?What is the shape of this song?If this song had edges, would they be sharp or blurry?
  • What emotions does this song evoke in me? How might I represent these visually?
  • Does this song have a temperature? Does it feel warm or cool?
  • Are there layers to this song? How might I represent them?
  • Is this song dynamic? Does it shift around in tempo, volume? How might I represent these shifts?
  • If this song had form and I could touch it, what texture would it have?
  • Does this song evoke symbols in my mind’s eye? What kind of meaning do these convey?

As you listen and ask these questions, others will probably present themselves to you. Be open to this, and jot down whatever answers surface.

When you’ve been through this process, you’ll have a piece of paper filled with visual elements that you can now pull together into an artwork that will visually represent how you experience this song.

Here are some examples of how I did this:

gm-essie-howtodrawasong-01

gm-essie-howtodrawasong-03

gm-essie-howtodrawasong-02

gm-essie-howtodrawasong-04

What’s awesome about this, is that it really brings into focus how differently we can each experience the same stimulus. I would really love to see your own responses to one of the songs I used above, because I think the way you each see them will be unique and beautiful.

*(read more about synesthesia here, and here)

Essie

Essie is basically a Unicorn. She has healing powers, magical properties, and she refuses to be handled by men.

7 Comments

  1. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    I love this idea Essie!

  2. Gilly Welch

    Such a lot of great ideas Essie, thanks Essie.

  3. Sarah Maddox

    I think I’ll try it. Hope you’re feeling better Essie.

  4. Melody Willoughby

    I would never have thought about ar journaling this way. I can’t wait to try it.

  5. Tanyalee Kahler

    I had literally given up on trying to paint a song but this has fired up my inspiration once again. Thank you Essie, and I really hope you get to the bottom of your health hiccup really soon. Big love xx

  6. Emily@squiggleandswirl

    I certainly feel better equipped now to try drawing a song, a little curious too.Thanks Essie, another great tutorial from you !

  7. Kelli CRESWELL

    I love how you always inspire me not just to create, but to also think about what I’m making, think about what I’m feeling, and just do deeper. Thanks for the inspiration!