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Tone-taste. Chord-taste

Subtypes of auditory-gustatory synesthesia


Some synesthetes perceive different taste sensations in response to the different notes on the musical scale. Others receive their taste perceptions not from individual notes but from chords. Both subtypes can coexist in the same person, in which case on listening to or playing music they get taste concurrents from both notes and chords. There are likely synesthetes for whom musical keys evoke flavours (although I am not yet aware of any reported cases), and in his book Musicophilia Oliver Sacks lists the associations of a person with musical interval-taste synesthesia (see below).

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:


“It’s like certain notes or things on pitch like have certain flavours, like it’s in my mouth. (...)

For example for me personally, C, G or any happier sounding major chord is almost fruity with some being radically different. C is like a citrus but B is like a softer almost plum taste? Hard to describe it perfectly but yes.

It gets kinda crazy when there is an ensemble because it’s a lot of them get mixed together and creates literally indescribable tastes in my mouth. Some good some bad.”

(Source: This comment on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


(Source: This post on Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


"Gian Beeli, Michaela Esslen, and Lutz Jäncke, researchers in Zurich, have described a professional musician with (…) music-taste synesthesia: “Whenever she hears a specific musical interval, she automatically experiences a taste on her tongue that is consistently linked to that musical interval.” 

In a 2005 article in Nature, they detailed her associations: Minor second - Sour; Major second - Bitter; Minor third - Salty; Major third - Sweet; Fourth - Mown grass; Tritone - Disgust; Fifth - Pure water; Minor sixth - Cream; Major sixth - Low-fat cream; Minor seventh - Bitter; Major seventh - Sour; Octave - No taste.

Any auditory uncertainty as to what musical interval she is hearing is immediately compensated for by its “taste” for her musical-synesthetic tastes are instantaneous, automatic, and always correct."

(Source: Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, Chapter 14.)


Go to the page on auditory-gustatory synesthesia in general


This page last updated: 08 August 2021


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