Color notation/Translations

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Color notation, Ups and Downs notation, and Pergens notation can all be translated into other languages. Just like conventional notation, staff notation must be universal, and not vary by language. Many terms can be translated, but a few terms can't be. Just as one must learn a few Italian words like allegro and andante to read conventional staff notation, one must learn a few English words to read color notation. Fortunately, the full word needn't be learned, just the first letter.

The color accidentals w, y, g, z and r must not vary. Spanish speakers shouldn't translate yellow into amarillo, and then shorten it to amo or mo. In order for terms such as 1o, 3u, 17a, etc. to be universal, -o, -u and -a for over, under and all must not vary. Thus wa, yo, gu, zo and ru are also invariant. Po and qu and p and q are invariant.

Not only staff notation but also written chord names must not vary. Ch7 and Cs7 are invariant, thus h and s are also invariant. The words harmonic and subharmonic can vary, and are generally abbreviated to make a concise chord name.

All colors for primes 11 and higher can vary. In many European languages, tho/thu/tha becomes tro/tru/tra. Spanish for 11 is once, and lo/lu/la might become onco/oncu/onca. Italian for 11 is undici, suggesting uno/unu/una. But if 1o is uno, an "uno chord" would also be a "one chord". Thus 1o becomes either undo/undu/unda or perhaps unó/unu/una, with the accent distinguishing unó from uno.

The short form of temperament names and subgroup names must not vary, because they are likely to be written at the top of the score. In such names, primes 11 and higher must be written in their numeric form. Thus on the score the thulu temperament is written 3u1uT, and the yalatha subgroup is written ya1a3a.

The disambiguation prefix i- is invariant, and is used as needed in all languages. Disambiguation is only necessary if the other word needs to be used in a musical context. The note C sounds like sea, but there's no problem, because noone ever needs to discuss a "sea chord". But "no" as in no5 and nowa is invariant, therefore 19o must be ino in most European languages. In combination with other colors, the prefix is not needed: 19/15 is nogu, not inogu. Disambiguation is also needed if the other word is extremely common, like "the" or "and".

Sometimes one color needs disambiguation from another. In Latin American Spanish, z and s sound the same, and zo and so are a problem. The rule is to add i- to the higher prime's color. Zo is pronounced "so", and 17o is pronounced "iso". Unlike ino, i- is used even when 17o is not alone, thus 17/15 is isogu. Sa becomes isa, to differentiate it from za. Su needn't change to isu, but might for consistency.

Another example: the Dutch word for 17 begins with z, so Dutch might use zo/ru/za for 7 and izo/(i)zu/iza for 17. Or Dutch might borrow from nearby English (seventeen) and German (siebzehn), and use so/su/sa for 17.

Two colors might possibly sound alike and also sound like some musical term. If so, use i- for the higher prime as before, and reuse the final vowel to prefix the lower prime. If z and s sound the same, and the solfege syllable is So, 17o becomes iso and zo becomes ozo.

Another use for i- is for when thick accents make communication difficult. In Castillian Spanish, zo sounds like "tho". A Spaniard pronounces 3o as "tro", so there's no conflict among Spaniards. But a Spaniard might be confused talking to an American who says 3o as "tho". Therefore the American says zo and itho, and the Spaniard says tho and itro.

For primes above 19, the final digit is abbreviated similarly to English's -wo/-tho/-so/-no. Italian for 31 is trentuno, and 31u is trentunu. But 31o needs to be distinct from 31, and trentuno won't work. The solution is to accent the final syllable, so that 31o = trentunò or trentunó.

L and s are invariant, but the spoken words large and small can be translated. This is analogous to an English speaker seeing "f" or "p" on a score and thinking loud/soft, not forte/piano. The translated words must not have any musical connotations such as major/minor or augmented/diminished or largo (slow tempo).

Roman numerals are invariant, for chord progressions. P, M, m, A and d are invariant, for chord names and pergens. The spoken terms are of course translated into the usual terms for perfect, major, minor, etc. Many countries have adopted jazz chord names such as CM7, even if their word for major is dur. Pergens are never written on the score as quarter-fifth, but as (P8, P5/4). A pergen's enharmonic interval is written as C^^ = C♯. Edos are indicated as ^1 = 1\31.

The symbols ^ v / \ ~ are invariant, but the terms up, down, lift, drop and mid can vary. Up and down may possibly be translated as above/below or top/bottom. Lift/drop may be translated as raise/lower. Lift and drop should be translated into verbs, since ^ is high, but / starts low and goes high. Preferably transitive verbs, drop not fall. All five terms should be words not usually applied to notes or clefs or melodies or intervals, e.g. not high/low or treble/bass or rising/falling or neutral. In temperament names, both "and" and "plus" should have distinct names.

Clear, ca and noca are never used in interval names or chord names. They are never used on staff notation without a lengthy explanation, since staff notation assumes octaves. Thus they can be translated freely. Clear means transparent, not "easily understood". The words plain, central, double, triple, quadruple etc. can also be translated freely. Plain must be distinct from natural and clear, and may be translated as simple. Central must be distinct from mid and neutral.

Invariant terms Meanings
-o, -u, -a, over, under, all
w, y, g, z, r white, yellow, green, azure/azul, red
wa, yo, gu, zo, ru (the long forms of the above)
ya, za, no, nowa yellow-all, azure-all, no (as in omit), no-white
p, q, po, qu pythagorean-over, pythagorean-under
L, s large, small
h, s harmonic series, subharmonic series
T, i- temperament, disambiguation prefix

Languages that use non-Roman alphabets may write these terms in their own alphabets in text, but not on the score. Such languages have two columns in the table, one for each alphabet, and they have rows for the invariant terms.

Western European languages

English German French Spanish Portuguese Italian Swedish
11 l- l- onz- onc- onz- un-? und-? l-
13 th- dr- tr- tr- tr- tr- tr-
17 s- s- s- s- s- s- sj-
19 n- n- n- n- n- n- n-
-1 -w- ein- -un- -un- -um- -un- -ett-?
-3 -th- dr- -tr- -tr- -tr- -tr- -tr-
-7 -s- s- -s- -s- -s- -s- -sj-
-9 -n- n- -n- -n- -n- -n- -n-
L large groß grand grande grande grande
s small klein petit pequeña pequena piccolo
central zentral central
h har natur armo
s sub sub sub
^ up oben haut? arriba cima? su
v down unten bas? abajo baixo? giù
/ lift heb levante
\ drop senk soltando
~ mid mitte milieu medio meio medio
plain schlicht? sencillo
& and und y
+ plus plus mas
W wide weit ancho
ca clear farblos claro
2 double doppel doble
3 triple dreifach triple
4 quad vierfach cuad
5 quint fünffach quint
6 sixfold sechsfach
4thwd quartwärts? a cuarta
5thwd quintwärts? a quinta

Disambiguations: (1o refers to 11-over, and -1o refers to -1-over, e.g. -wo in thirty-wo and forty-wo)

English: 1o = ilo ("low C"), 1a = ila (La solfege), 17o = iso (So solfege), 19o = ino ("no 3rd"), 19u = inu ("new key")

German: 19o = ino

French: 13a = itra (tra vs. trois), -3a = -itra-, 19o = ino

Spanish: -1o = -unó (31 vs. 31o), 19o = ino, Latin American Spanish only: 17 = iso / isu / isa (z and s sound the same)

Portuguese: 19o = ino

Italian: 17u = isu (su means ^), 19o = ino, -1o = -unò or -unó (31 vs. 31o)


In Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland (and Sweden before about 1990s), B natural is called H and B flat is called B. In German, "Ha sieben" = H7 = H D♯ F♯ A, and "NaturSieben" = h7 = w1 y3 w5 z7.

Spanish: the "c" in onco / oncu / onca is pronounced "s", as in once. (Should it be onzo / onzu / onza? onso / onsu / onsa?) 17o is so, not iso, because so and Sol sound distinctly different.

Eastern European languages

English Finnish Polish Hungarian Russian
11 l- yks-
13 th- kolm-
17 s- se-? s-?
19 n- ?
-1 -w- -yks-
-3 -th- -k-
-7 -s- -s-
-9 -n- ?
L large
s small
h har
s sub
^ up
v down
/ lift
\ drop
~ mid
& and
+ plus
W wide
ca clear
2 double
3 triple
4 quad
5 quint
6 sixfold



Finnish: G is not a native sound, and could possibly be confused with k. Thus qu could possibly become iqu, but it probably wouldn't.

The -o suffix may change to -ö after yks-, thus 1o, 31o etc., may use yksö. The -u suffix may change to -y after yks- in 1u, 31u, etc.

Middle Eastern languages

English Arabic Turkish Persian Hebrew
w wa wa wa wa wa
y yo yo yo yo yo
g gu gu gu gu gu
z zo zo zo zo zo
r ru ru ru ru ru
p po po po po po
q qu qu qu qu qu
11 l-
13 th-
17 s-
19 n-
-1 -w-
-3 -th-
-7 -s-
-9 -n-
L large
s small
h har
s sub
^ up
v down
/ lift
\ drop
~ mid
& and
+ plus
W wide
ca clear
2 double
3 triple
4 quad
5 quint
6 sixfold



South Asian languages

English Hindi
w wa wa
y yo yo
g gu gu
z zo zo
r ru ru
p po po
q qu qu
11 l- gy-
13 th- t-
17 s- s-
19 n- n-
-1 -w- (see below)
-3 -th- "
-7 -s- "
-9 -n- "
L large baRaa
s small chhoTaa
central mukhya
h har bhu
s sub anu
^ up upar
v down neeche
/ lift uThaa
\ drop giraa
~ mid madhya
plain saadaa
& and aur
+ plus plus
W wide chauRaa
ca clear berang
2 double dvi
3 triple tri
4 quad chatur
5 quint pancha
6 sixfold shaT
4thwd ma ki or
5thwd pa ki or


Hindi: ina (na means not), isa (Sa means Do)


Hindi bhu for har comes from svayambhu, a Sanskrit term for overtone that is often used in Carnatic music. Anu for sub is a Sanskrit prepositional prefix corresponding to under- and sub-.

Hindi has a separate word for each number, not formed by combining the tens digit and the ones digit.

English Hindi
23- twenty-th- te'ees-
29- twenty-n- untees-
31- thirty-w- iktees-
37- thirty-s- saintees-
41- forty-w- iktaalees-
43- forty-th- taintaalees-
47- forty-s- saintaalees-
53- fifty-th- tirepan-
59- fifty-n- unsaTh-
61- sixty-w- iksaTh-

Southeast Asian languages

East Asian languages

English Mandarin Japanese Korean Vietnamese
w wa wa wa
y yo yo yo
g gu gu gyu
z zo zo zo
r ru ru ryu
p po po po
q qu qu qyu
11 l- ich- il-
13 th- s- sam-
17 s- sh- chil-
19 n- ky- gu-
-1 -w- ich- -il-
-3 -th- s- -sam-
-7 -s- sh- -chil-
-9 -n- ky- -gu-
L large dae
s small so
central 가운데 gaunde
h har 에이치 "aitch"
s sub 에스 "ess"
^ up sang
v down ha
/ lift seung
\ drop nak
~ mid jung
& and 앤드 "and"
+ plus 플러스 "plus"
W wide keun
ca clear 투명 透明 tumyeong
2 double 두번? -番
3 triple 세번? -番
4 quad 네번? -番
5 quint 다섯번? -番
6 sixfold 여섯번? -番
4thwd 사도쪽 -度- sadojjok
5thwd 오도쪽 -度- odojjok



Korean: wa is written and spoken as awa (wa means "and" and i means 2)


Korean: -u for -under is -유 -yu. Thus g is gyu, r is ryu, and 19u is guyu.