Imagine hearing your favorite song from the point of view of a dog. Dogs perceive all sounds as being at a far lower pitch than we do. If you could hear what you sound like to a dog you'd find that you sound like a giant with a very deep and low-pitched voice.

There is a remarkable relationship between colors and notes in a musical scale. In music, doubling the frequency corresponding to a given note transposes the note up by an octave. If you double the frequency corresponding to a given musical pitch enough times you will have a frequency that corresponds to a color. That said, it's not that pitch and color are the same phenomenon at different scales but rather that there is an analogy present.

Take for example the note E_5=659.25Hz. Double this frequency over and over until the frequency is the same as a frequency of light corresponding to the color blue. Then take for example the note A_4=440Hz. Double this frequency over and over until the frequency is the same as a frequency of light corresponding to the color red-orange.

If it is indeed the case that musical pitch perception varies among individuals then there are of course some constraints as to how it might vary:

I assume that the ratios between the frequencies corresponding to musical notes is the same for everyone. That is, you and I would agree on the musical interval between between a note and the note that is a tritone above that note. We'd agree it's a tritone, but that only speaks to the ratio, so even though we're both claiming to hear the same song in A♭ it might be the case that if I were to step into your point of view it would actually sound to me like the song is in some key other than A♭.

As in, I think I'd still be able to jive to a song I like if I hear it from someone else's perspective because the musical intervals between every pair of of the notes in the song would still be the same. The intervals dictating how we perceive harmony would not vary from individual to individual.

If it were not the case that the musical interval between notes is the same for everyone, then we'd definitely know about it by now empirically. Some people would experience music drastically different from others and some people would be way off if you ask them to guess the interval between two notes

If what I call orange-red may very well be what you call blue and so on, can it likewise - analogously - be the case that what I call the musical pitch A_4=440Hz is what you call E_5=659.25Hz?

The lower and upper bounds on what frequencies you the reader can perceive as pitch are on average only going to be slightly different than my lower and upper bounds. While abiding by the constraint that we probably shouldn't be that different in that regard, can it nonetheless be that when I hear a song that you and I both agree is in the key of A Major and I prefer a cover of the song that you and I agree is in E Major where the singer has transposed their part up by seven semitones, there may be someone out there who hears the original song in what I would actually consider E Major?

That is, if I were able to step into your mind and hear a song which we both agree is in A Major, could the version that I'm hearing through your ears - metaphorically - sound like it's actually not at all what I would consider A Major.

It's a well-known phenomenon that as you increase the Hz from zero, the sound of a steady rhythmic pulse (beats evenly spaced in time) becomes the sound of some musical pitch. Likewise, if you speed up a repeating polyrhythm what you get eventually after having sped it up enough is actually just the sound of a chord.

If you take an extreme case, can a sound that one person perceives as a polyrhythm be at the same time perceived instead as a number of simultaneous pitches (a chord) by a different person? That seems like a rather extraordinary thing to think about.

Based on what I can understand it seems to me that the perception of pitch is a neat trick our brain performs when the brain chooses not to perceive a series of beats as individual beats but instead as a collective to which one can assign a so-called "pitch".

An illustrative consideration is what it's like to hear sounds as a dog. Things are appreciably lower pitched for them in their subjective experience of a given sound. You can imagine then that you can create a low-pitched enough song which to dogs would sound like a rhythmic ensemble rather than having a discernible melodic line or pitch at any point.

It's also worth pointing out that dogs experience the passage time at a faster rate than we do, by which I only mean that a minute feels much longer to them. That being the case, you can imagine that some very low pitched continuous note to which we humans would typically assign a pitch is heard by dogs instead as a series of evenly spaced beats, albeit a series of evenly spaces beats which all occur very close to one another in time

Consider a scenario in which you are recording audio of a singer singing a note. Now imagine that you use Audacity or some other software to slow down the audio by a great amount. The more you slow the audio down, the more clearly you will be able to hear a series of individual beats in rapid succession rather than one continuous, sustained note.

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    there is an earnest and interesting question in this, but idk exactly how to even begin to answer, so...
    – user67675
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 21:10
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    Probably... (I don't know if much more can be said on the topic)
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 22:44
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    The starting premise "Just as it can be the case that what I call red is what you call blue" is false. As children we were shown colours and told their name. (Colour blindness apart – the inability to distinguish). As for the discussion on sound, a tuning fork will soon dispel that. Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 22:54
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    I used to think that way. It will be even more obvious once you mix primary colours. If it were the case that one person says "that's purple" and another says "'that's orange" it would be common knowledge. The thing that really differs in peoples' worlds is their understanding of what makes the world 'tick'. We can agree on what a table is but not why. Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 23:12
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    "We step into a different person's perspective" is nonsensical. We can stay the same person and only get access to other person's "data", in which case color switch or lack of it entirely depend on how that access is set up, or we can merge and then "we" is no longer we, so color switch, if any, is irrelevant. Either way, "we" do not "step into" anything. Nonetheless, this contrivance seems to be irresistibly enticing to people, and it is amazing how many pseudo-questions can be dismissed once it is thought through.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 23:44

3 Answers 3


That question involves a lot of different domains with their own jargon around these things.

Physically it's not just a difference of frequencies between sound and light, but while both are waves, they are different kind of waves.

Sound waves are longitudinal pressure waves. Meaning the oscillation happens in the same direction that the wave is traveling in. So the wave pattern is a change between compression and decompression.

(this is supposed to be seen as a 2D image, nothing 3 dimensional happening, so the "peak" is just lines being closer together and the "valley" is lines being further apart, so that oscillation (change of peaks and valleys) happens in the same direction in which the wave is traveling).

While light is the usually much more intuitive concept of a transversal wave, meaning the direction in which the wave travels is perpendicular to it's oscillation. So think of standing at the beach and looking at the sea, then the waves come towards you (direction of travel), but the oscillation (the "wave pattern") is up and down, so perpendicular to the direction of motion.

Now I don't know how the biology of this works, but I'd assume that if you were played a sound of 400 THz (light red) on your headphones (might not be as easy to produce as it sounds anyway) you'd likely not feel a light red sensation or really anything because the change in compression/decompression happens so fast that you don't feel it as change at all. so you like won't hear, see or feel that at all.

However as the production of the sound might create a transversal wave pattern on the membrane of the "drum" you might be able to perceive that as colored.

So in order to for your brain to associate a frequency to a color or sound, you'd first need to perceive that and you're likely not going to be able to perceive a steady drum beat or pitch outside of the audible spectrum even if it enters the visible spectrum.

In terms of steady beat and pitch it's much easier. They are both longitudinal waves and a beat, while maybe associated with one event is already somewhat smeared out in time. So if you beat fast enough you're essentially doing the same thing as idk a string or tube of air oscillating. So that's not so much an illusion created by the brain, but the membrane in your ear is actually stimulated with a similar wave pattern. So from the perspective of the ear there is no difference between a fast rhythm and a single pitch. So both perceive that as polyrhythm/pitch.

That said just because you have the same input doesn't mean you have the same perception of that input, so yeah the association of a frequency signal with a sound/color in your brain could be different as it could just be a mapping that happens ever so slightly different for different people.

Now with regards to notes, pitches and intervals things can get even more complicated because that's a mix of physics and perception. Like what note corresponds to what frequency is more or less arbitrary and has changed over time. There are several ways to compute intervals from whole number fractions idk major third would be 5/4 of a tone, to equal temperament where you divide the octave into 12 steps of equal length, then there is a just noticable difference margin around frequencies which is not linear over the whole spectrum but increases with frequency. And then there is an emotional connection to certain sounds. Idk usually the advice to learn to identify intervals is to compare them to the start of common tunes, so if you associate idk a major third with happy birthday that might be more pleasant than a minor third associated with Jaws. On top of there already being a preference for certain intervals because the wave patterns are more similar or different.

So there is a lot of potential to hear different things with the same frequency. From perceiving the note itself differently, to being trained to the octave and thus intuitively correcting a note that is slightly off while people trained to a different scale might perform a different correction. To how these intervals are associated or what intervals are considered in the first place and whatnot. So there are a lot of things coming together and you should probably check physics and music to narrow down your focus.

  • It's not about associating a sound to a wave of light with some frequency. It's about associating a pitch to a frequency that is half of half of half of half of half the frequency
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 14:47
  • A pitch is the internal representation of a sound wave, so if you half the frequency more and more it becomes too high to be perceptible so there is no sound and conversely no pitch.
    – haxor789
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 14:55
  • Double the frequency if it's pitch. Halve the frequency if it's light. You got it backwards. Pitch has the lower frequency; light has the higher frequency. You'd be right that if you DOUBLE the frequency of a pitch over and over you would eventually get a dog whistle type noise that you can barely recognize as a pitch and after some amount of doubling you'd no longer be able to perceive a pitch at all because it is above say 20,000 Hz (the upper end of what frequencies a human can typically hear)
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 15:01
  • You've confused wavelength and frequency. Shorter wavelengths do correspond to higher pitches and that is what you were getting at. Halving the frequency over and over gives a very low frequency which corresponds to a very low pitched sound. If you halve the frequency of the color blue exactly enough times you will get the frequency corresponding to the note E
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 17:19
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    @SimonM I thought more about the fact that for example just intonation and equal temperament use either fixed ratios between root and other notes in the interval or use a fixed distance between notes and thus end up with several cents difference between what is expected to be the same note/interval. Though they might coincide for the octave. Sure you can make the argument in theory, just trying to point out that this integer correlation is likely more of a coincidence given how much wiggle room there actually is on both ends.
    – haxor789
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 23:09

Firstly, the relationship between colours and notes in music is not as remarkable as you suggest, being only weakly analogous at best. In our perception of light, there is nothing analogous to an octave, for example, nor is there the sensation of rising and falling pitch we associated with sound, or anything comparable to a chord in which we can still hear the individual tones while also experiencing their combined effect. However, as with light, the sensations we experience are a product of our minds, so it is possible that what you consider to be D is a sound that I consider not to be D, and vice versa. Even where you have two people with absolute pitch, it is still possible that they have different personal experiences of the same pitch.

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    @SimonM so what? I don't get your point. Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 6:14
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    The point is that color and pitch are weakly related in a roundabout way due to the fact that you can double a note’s frequency enough times so that you’ve arrived at an ultra high frequency that corresponds to some unique color
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 6:18
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    Yes, but what if you half the frequency of dark red, or of green? Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 6:25
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    My point is that your analogy between music and light is an extremely tenuous one. Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 6:29
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    @MarcoOcram It's not inconceivable to have visible octaves. The idea is basically that if you picture a wave pattern with it's ups and downs and then double the frequency, then you'd have all the same ups as before just with more ups in between, so there is some similarities between these two patterns. Compared to other tones where the ups are at very different places. However in terms of the visible spectrum the entire spectrum is slightly less than an octave so you'd need smaller intervals like a major third from light red would be orange and a tritone would be neon green
    – haxor789
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 9:05

Dogs perceive all sounds as being at a far lower pitch than we do. If you could hear what you sound like to a dog you'd find that you sound like a giant with a very deep and low-pitched voice.

I can find no evidence to support this claim. Without it, this entire question is based on a false premise and should be closed.

According to this article human sensitivity in the lower frequency range is equivalent or slightly better:

  • human 64-23,000 Hz
  • dog 67-45,000 Hz

According to your logic, a dog who hears a sound at 70Hz, perceives that sound at a much lower frequency than their ears can detect. That makes no sense.

Also, it's not possible to know what a dog perceives.

There is a difference between analog and digital sound. Just like a bitmap has finite resolution (magnify enough and individual square pixels emerge) digital audio has a sample limit. Slow down a digital recording until it reaches the sample limit and you will hear beats since the sample can't be divided any further.

The technique the drummer is using to create a tone is tremolo. And classical guitarists use this technique to create the illusion of a single long sustained note: Recuerdos de la Alhambra https://g.co/kgs/9cgjw3 The drummer is trying to get the drum head to resonate at its tuned frequency to produce the tone. This is very similar to the illusion of motion in movies where the frames per second needs to be high enough to give the illusion of motion.

Other percussion instruments using this technique are piano and marimba.

  • If I imagine what it would be like to hear a dog whistle from a dog's point of view, I can imagine that I would actually hear the noise instead of being oblivious to it like a human would be. So in order to "simulate" what it's like to be a dog, you must downpitch everything, otherwise the dog whistle would be inaudible to you. Everything in this post is about simulation, I suppose. Then the question can be salvaged if we assume I'm talking about simulation
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 16:12
  • @SimonM Your claim is an unsubstantiated opinion. Please provide references to back up your claims. Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 16:15
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    The fact is that humans cannot hear a dog whistle because it is too high and I find it silly to provide a citation for that since it's well-known. With simple logic you can conclude that in order to simulate a dog's point of view you must downpitch the world. Otherwise, the dog whistle would be too high to perceive. I used a known fact and then used logic to arrive at the conclusion. It's actually ridiculous to assume otherwise, because then a simulation of dog hearing would no longer be able to show us what it's like to hear a dog whistle
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 16:18
  • Also, I do believe that my unsubstantiated claim would not fall under the category of opinion. Just an unsubstantiated claim, about an objective matter, not a subjective matter ripe for opinions
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 16:19
  • I think you're implicitly making the claim that the YouTuber who made the video "How The World SOUNDS To Animals" was entirely misguided in his idea for simulating animal consciousness in a way suitable for the purpose of humans watching the video. I'm willing to concede that the idea is misguided only if you concede that the YouTuber was misguided as well. Or, explain why he was not misguided but I am
    – Simon M
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 16:25

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