Sound Symbolism


Music is an integral part of human life.  Throughout time we have used music to praise our gods, celebrate life and death, prepare for war and hunts, teach, and entertain.  From the voices speaking incantations and spells, names of gods and goddesses, singing and chanting, to two sticks beaten together, drums beating to the rhythm of our hearts in soul inspiring rhythms to the electronic instrumental sounds of today, sound and music has been a tool of magic and healing in the lives of people throughout the world.

Different rhythms, tones, tonal qualities, and tempos of music have a significant effect on our physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Different musical qualities have different meanings and effects, so a song can be composed to fit very special situations.  For example, music composed to promote relaxation or a meditative state would have calm, soothing rhythms; a tempo of 72 beats per minute or slower(approximate adult heart rate) and use woodwind instruments, flutes, and stringed instruments.  Music was not always composed for entertainment, it originally was composed by the spiritual leaders of different cultures as a tool for healing and meditation, and as an aid on the path to enlightenment.

For over 250 years composers of spiritual music have used a system of letter-pitch equivalents to analyze a persons name and to compose music for specific people:

 Letter – Note  Letter – Note  Letter – Note  Letter – Note
 A – a  B – b  C – c  D – d
 E – e  F – f  G – g  H – b
 I – c sharp  J – d  K – e  L – f
 M – g  N – a  O – c sharp  P – d sharp
 Q – e  R – f sharp  S – g sharp  T – a
 U – b  V – d sharp  W – e sharp  X – f sharp
 Y – g sharp  Z – a sharp

Besides the letter-pich equivalents, the intervals between the pitches in a name can also be helpful in analyzing a persons name.  By analyzing the intervals the amount of harmony and dissonance can be determined.  An octave is symbolic of transformation, the passing from one phase of  life to the next higher one; the perfect 5th represents materialization on the physical plane; the perfect 4th symbolizes the process of going beyond the material world to the mental plane; the major 3rd is symbolic of the beauty of the material world and fulfillment; the minor 3rd represents the intuitive, a person’s inner world; the major and minor 6th intervals are much the same as the 3rds, except they encompass a much larger area of a person’s life; the major 2nd symbolizes the stepping stones one walks on towards a goal, patiently persevering and consistently moving upwards toward the fulfillment of the octave; the minor 2nd has the same basic meanings and the major 2nd but on a more psychological level; the major 7th is a somewhat inharmonious interval which requires resolution, it symbolizes the material relationships a person has with others; and the minor 7th represents the emotional relationships a person has with others.

Pythagoras and his Musical Theories

“the Pythagoreans saw that the … ratios of musical scales were expressible in numbers … all things seemed to be modeled on numbers, and numbers seemed to be the first things in the whole of nature, and they supposed the elements of number to be the elements of all things, and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and a number.”


Pythagoras was the first Greek philosopher to say that the universe is based on the laws of music.  He specified three types of music in his philosophy: musica instrumentalis, everyday instrumental music; musica humana, the constant but unheard music made by every living being; and musica mundana, the music made in the universe, the music of the spheres.

The contribution to music Pythagoras is most well known for is his discovery of the mathematical associations between the harmonic intervals.  He proved his theory with the use of a monochord.  The monochord is constructed by stretching a single chord over a sound box, the string is then stretched tight by pegs or weights on either or both ends. A moveable bridge is used to change the pitch as the sting is plucked or strummed.

In his theory on the music of the spheres Pythagoras’ calculations of the intervals between the planets were as follows:

 Earth to the Moon is 1 tone(1 whole step)
 Moon to Mercury is 1 semi-tone(1 half step)
 Mercury to Venus is 1 semi-tone
 Venus to the Sun is 1 minor third (3 half steps)
 Sun to Mars is 1 tone
 Mars to Jupiter is 1 semi-tone
 Jupiter to Saturn is 1 semi-tone
 Saturn to the fixed stars is 1 minor third

The Pythagorean scale is C, D, E-flat, G, A, B-flat, B, D.

Initiates into the teachings of Pythagoras were taught that the basic intervals (octave,1:2: major fifth, 2:3; perfect fourth, 3:4) were of major importance because they were all contained in the sacred figure of the tetractys.  Since then other occultists, philosophers, and musicians have expanded on his theories and created their own.  Other ancient philosophical systems also has similar theories on music and its powers.

Pythagoras knew the healing qualities of music and composed songs to heal the soul and rid it of negative emotions. He would play this music for his disciples in the evening to help them relax and leave behind the days negativities.  The next morning he would play music that would wake them and energize them.

       Chinese Music Philosophy…

Music was a cornerstone of ancient Chinese society.  The ancient Chinese believed that music was the creative basis of all things and that a man could and would be defined according to the music that played inside him.  The primal sound,Kung or Huang Chung, is everywhere.  If the Kung is out of tune, the celestial order was said to also be out of balance, and chaos and disorder would soon follow to the people on earth.

In Chinese music theory is it said there are eight different musical sounds in nature:

  • The sound of skin(there are many types of this sound…different kinds of drums)
  • The sound of stone.
  • The sound of metal.
  • The sound of clay.
  • The sound of silk.
  • The sound of wood.
  • The sound of bamboo.
  • The sound of gourd.

The early Chinese philosophers composed music that was attuned with the universe and cared little about its entertainment value. Chinese musical philosophy is based on a five tone scale, five being the number of heaven and earth united (2=earth and yin, 3=heaven and yang). The Chinese five-tone scale is given the following attributions:

 Name  Kung  Shang  Chio  Chih  Yu
 Pitch  D  E  F#  A  E
 Element  earth  metal  wood  fire  water
 Season  center*  autumn  spring  summer  winter
 Direction  center  west  east  south north

(* Center, as the fifth season, is the nine days before and nine days after Winter Solstice.)

The five principal modes of the Chinese five-tone scale are:

 Kung  D  E  F#  A B
 Shang  E  F#  A B D
 Chio  F#  A B D E
 Chih  A B D E F#
 Yu  B D E F# A

Music of the Spheres…Planetary Scales

Music of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical belief that regarded the proportions of the movements of  the Sun, Moon , and planets as a form of music.  It is generally believed that this system was first developed by Pythagoras.   Some scales, like the one of Pythagoras, are based on the distances between the planets, others are based on the orbital movements of the planets, and some are a combination of the two preceding types.

     According to Ptolemy(Claudius Ptolemaeus (83 – 161 CE)), known in English as Ptolemy, was a Greek mathematiciangeographerastronomer, and astrologer) the planetary associations were:

Note* Greek Name of Note Planet
e Hypate meson Moon
a Mese Venus and/or Mercury
b Paramese Sun
d’ Nete synemmenon Mars
e’ Nete diezeugmenon Jupiter
a’ Nete Hyperbolaion Saturn

The planetary scale according to the Pliny the Elder(Gaius or Caius Plinius Secundus), (AD 23 – August 24, AD 79) was a Roman author, naturalist or natural philosopher, and naval and military commander) was:

 D  E  F  F#  A  B  C  C#  E
 Earth  Moon  Mercury  Venus  Sun  Mars  Jupiter  Saturn  fixed stars


     The planetary scale according to Aristides Quintilianus, a Greek philosopher and musician who lived in the third century AD, was:

Note Greek Name Planet
A Proslambanomenos Moon
B Hypate hypaton Mercury
c Parhypate hypaton Venus
d  Lichanos hypaton Sun
e Hypate meson Mars
f  Parhypate meson Jupiter
g  Lichanos meson Saturn


Robert Fludd(1574-1637), an English Hermeticist, devised several different planetary scales, here are two:


G A  B  C  D E F# G A B Middle C D E, F#, G
earth water air fire Moon Mercury Venus  Sun  Mars Jupiter Saturn fixed stars angels

(starting in the bass clef working upwards)


Middle c B A G F E D C B A G F E, D, C
earth water air fire Moon Mercury Venus Sun Mars Jupiter Saturn fixed stars angels

(starting in bass clef working downward)


H.P.Blavatsky changed the order of the planets in her planetary scale.  She switched the positions of Mars and Jupiter because the planetary color of Mars comes before the color of Jupiter in the color spectrum of the rainbow:

 C  Mars  red
 D  Sun  orange
 E  Mercury  yellow
 F  Saturn  green
 G  Jupiter  blue
 A  Venus  indigo
 B  Moon  violet

* The a’  etc. is an octave above a, two above A. The notes in modern transcription to avoid accidentals were A B c d e f g a b c’ d’ e’ f’ g’ a’.

        Misc. Sound and Music Symbolism


Planetary Tempos

Planet Beats Per Minute
Sun 118.3
Moon 98.6
Mercury 66.2
Venus 103.7
Mars 67.8
Saturn 69.3
Jupiter 86.1
Neptune 99.1
Pluto 65.7
Uranus 97.2


  Music, Sound, and The Chakras

Chakra Music Note Lower Plane Sound Higher Plane Sound
Root C – 65.41 Hz rumbling thunder soft whistling
Sacral D – 73.42 Hz roar of the ocean gentle wind blowing through trees
Solar Plexus E – 82.41 Hz bell or gong sound waterfall or rushing water
Heart F – 87.31 Hz buzzing…light swarming of bees flute
Throat G – 98.00 Hz wind ohm or humming
Brow A -110.00 Hz distant violins carried by the wind deep woodwinds
Crown B – 123.47 Hz soft “huu…” all sound and no sound, and sound felt as opposed to heard


Hebrew Alphabet and Music

Letter Musical Note
Aleph E
Beth E#
Gimel G#
Daleth F#
Heh C
Vav C#
Zayin D
Cheth D#
Teth E
Yod F
Kaph A#
Lamed F#
Mem G#
Nun G
Samekh G#
Ayin A
Peh C
Tzaddi A#
Qoph B
Resh D
Shin C
Tav A

Elements and Music

Element Musical Note
Fire C
Air E
Water G#
Earth A


Tarot Trumps & Musical Notes

  Tarot Trump Music Note
0 Fool E
1 Magician E
2 High Priestess G#
3 Empress F#
4 Emperor C
5 Hierophant C#
6 Lovers D
7 Chariot D#
8 Strength E#
9 Hermit F
10 Wheel of Fortune A#
11 Justice F#
12 Hanged Man G#
13 Death G
14 Temperance G#
15 Devil A
16 Tower C
17 Star A#
18 Moon B
19 Sun D
20 Judgment C
21 Universe A


Ancient Greek Musical Associations and Uses

When considering  the notes of the major scale…do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do… the ancient Greeks saw the scale as a descending not ascending scale comprised of two tetrachords.  The most important note in the scale was called the mesç, or middle note, which was the highest note of the lower tetrachord.  Many times this was the most played note of a scale.  To the Pythagoreans this note corresponded to the Sun with the other notes representing the various planets. The ancient Greeks created seven different scales, or modes (named after cities that reflected the mood of the modes)…the Dorian, Hyperdorian, Phrygian, Hypophrygian, Lydian, Hypolydian and Mixolydian…known today as the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian modes.


The ancient Greeks were aware of the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of music and believed music composed in their musical modes could effect a person in a positive or negative manner.  These musicians may have also been the first to understand the relationship between mathematics and music theory, which lead to what we know today as the major and minor scales.

The Seven Ancient Modes and the Four Humors
Mode Humor – Qualities Element Body Trait Emotional Qualities and Effects Guardian
Dorian Phlegm—sleepiness, lethargy, laziness, slowness, mental dullness, and forgetfulness, but also to calm and even-tempered detachment water, cold & moist connected to the etheric body and its well being happy, taming the passionsawake  Demeter (Virgo)Aphrodite (Taurus)
Hypodorian serious and tearfulasleep  Hestia (Capricorn)
Phrygian Yellow Bile or Choleric— boldness, exuberance, and passion…can lead to courage, a quick wit, and leadership, but in excess it produces pride, rashness, irritability, and a hot-tempered, violent personality fire, warm & dry associated with the ego and will inciting anger Hephaistos (Libra)Athena (Aries)
Hypophrygian inciting delights, tempering fiercenessflattery Hermes (Cancer, the Gate of the Moon)
Lydian Sanguine— imparts good cheer, optimism, friendliness, and a tendency to laughter, love, and song air, moist & warm associated with an active astral body happy Ares (Scorpi0)Poseidon (Pisces)
Hypolydian tearful and pioussad  Zeus (Leo)Apollo (Gemini)
Mixolydian Black Bile or Melancholic—  imparts solidity, firmness, and steadfastness, but also therefore a certain indolence and tenacity earth, cool and dry associated with the physical body uniting pleasure and sadnessmelancholy Artemis (Sagittarius)Hera (Aquarius)
Hypomixolydian*this mode is suitable for every use…the mode of celestial bliss beauty has no specific associated signs or guardians, it corresponds to all the Fixed Stars and to the Thirteen Olympians

Each mode is associated with a Muse: Clio, Calliope, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Urania (according to the Chaldean order)…Thalia, the ninth muse, is assigned the Terrestrial Sphere and governs silence. One to remember the correspondences is to use the verses of Agrippa from Three Books Occult Philosophy, II.xxvi, 1651):

Silent Thalia we to th’ Earth compare,
For She by music never doth ensnare;
After the Hypodorian Clio sings,
Persephone likewise doth strike the bass strings;
Calliope also doth chord second touch,
Using the Phrygian; Mercury as much:
Terpsichore strikes the third, and that rare,
The Lydian music makes so Venus fair.
Melpomene, and Titan do with a grace
The Dorian music use in the fourth place.
The fifth ascribed is to Mars the God
Of war, and Erato after the rare mode
Of th’ Phrygians, Euterpe doth also love
The Lydian, and sixth string; and so doth Jove.
Saturn the seventh doth use with Polymny,
And causeth the Mixed Lydian melody.
Urania also doth the eighth create,
And music Hypo-Lydian elevate.

Mode Intervals in the “Modern” Seven Greek Modes
prime second third fourth fifth sixth seventh
Ionian perfect major major perfect perfect major major
Dorian perfect major minor perfect perfect major minor
Phrygian perfect minor minor perfect perfect minor minor
Lydian perfect major major augmented perfect major major
Mixolydian perfect major major perfect perfect major minor
Aeolian perfect major minor perfect perfect minor minor
Locrian perfect minor minor perfect diminished minor minor


 Seven “Modern” Modes Associations
 Mode C-Major
Planet Day Zodiac Guardian
Lydian C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C  (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) Venus Friday Leo
Phrygian D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D  (Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do, Re) Sun Sunday Virgo
Dorian E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E  (Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do, Re, Mi) Mars Tuesday Libra
Hypolydian F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F  (Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do, Re, Mi, Fa) Jupiter Thursday Scorpio
Hypophrygian G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G  (Sol, La, Ti, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol) Saturn Saturday Sagittarius
Hypodorian A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A  (La, Ti, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La) Moon Monday Capricorn Hestia
Mixolydian B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B  (Ti, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti) Mercury Wednesday Cancer Hermes


Greater Perfect System

     In the ancient Greek musical system the notes of a scale were arranged in descending order and were comprised of two tetrachords…this two octave system was known as the Greater Perfect System.  The tetrachord was the basic musical unit in ancient Greece.  Tetra chord literally means “four strings”.

Greater Perfect System