Tony Bergstrom, Karrie Karahalios, and John C. Hart. Isochords: Visualizing Structure in Music. Proceedings of Graphics Interfaces 2007.


Tony Bergstrom

Music visualization has a tendency to focus on the physics rather than the structure of the music. Common plugins to WinAmp, iTunes, Windows Media Player, and others are build around the Spectrogram or the Oscilliscope. Both are exceptional in revealing details about sound, but are much less effective in making chordal structure and inverval distance more apparent.

Building upon the Tonnetz structure, developed by Euler and furthered by Riemann, Isochords makes chords, harmonies, and intervals more salient to the viewer.


It is the structure and interplay of notes that defines notes, harmony, melody, consonace, dissonance, etc. The most recognized visual depiction of chords and intervals, sheet music, is very explicit in notating the structure of musical ideas. However, it reveals this structure to most people only through thorough examination. Musicians train themselves in musical theory in order to be able to recognize and articulate the relationships between various pitches. Isochords makes these ideas more visually salient. Via the Isochord visualization, structure becomes apparent to the casual lesser trained musicians as well as the untrained.


Insturment alterations were not made in our Isochord midi player. As a result, all insturments are on a piano. We did, however, remove the percussion - as it's mapping from percussive insturment to note values does not actually correspond to notes.

Isochord Video

Original MIDI

Take the A Train - Ellington MIDI
Bye Bye Bye - n'Sync MIDI
Giant Steps - Coltrane MIDI
Imagine - Lennon MIDI
Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen - J.S. Bach MIDI
Here Comes the Sun - Beatles MIDI