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Music Tattoo Designs: One Art Form Expressed Through Another


Because a love of music can be expressed in many different visual ways, there are many different styles of music tattoos.


Music can stir the soul and inspire whole range of emotions, from fear to excitement to sadness. For whatever reason, some people are more drawn to music than others. For some people, music is life. These people, whether they create music or simply enjoy it, are often drawn to music tattoos.

Music is not a visual experience, so translating it to tattoo designs, a purely visual medium, can be tricky. Creativity goes a long way in using visual imagery to express something auditory. Shape, style, size, color, and rhythm are all artistic techniques used to translate sound into picture. Because a love of music can be expressed in many different visual ways, there are many different styles of music tattoos.

The first type of music tattoo is designs that mimic sheet music. In order to write down music, a language was developed that instructs readers about all aspects of the piece, describing the notes, the tempo, etc. A person educated in music and sight reading, or the act of reading sheet music, is able to examine a written piece and understand how it sounds. Sometimes, the person might also be able to recreate the work on an instrument, depending upon their talent and skill level.

Tattoos of sheet music, like bars of favorite songs or musical pieces, is a common design. Furthermore, musical symbols, like notes (like the quarter note or beamed note), clefs (particularly the treble clef and bass clef), or other notational symbols (the segno, for example). Music tattoos that involve these symbols not only display a love of music, but also a knowledge about music and a musical education. People with these music tattoos have often spent time studying music and musical theory. These music tattoos express a deep love of music that goes far beyond a casual or superficial appreciation. These people not only love music, they love the language of music.

Musical instrument tattoos are also popular. Tattoos of guitars, especially specific guitars are common, along with piano keys, violins, trumpets, harmonicas, harps, and a multitude of others. There is a good chance that if a musical instrument exists, then there is probably someone loves it.

Like people with music note tattoos, people with musical instrument tattoos probably understand their design and are intimately acquainted with the instrument. Music students and music teachers alike sport instrument tattoos. If you love something enough to devote your spare time or even your life to it, you probably love it enough to want to incorporate it into a permanent artistic expression. The type of musical instrument, as well as the style of instrument, are very informative. A standard guitar depicted beside cowboy boots and a cowboy hat implies a much different message than an electric Les Paul Gibson guitar. Similarly, a baby grande piano is far removed from an 80's keyboard.

Perhaps the most popular music tattoo is also the most artistically rich design. Man Ray, a famous artist and photographer, photographed his lover and model Kiki de Montparnasse nude in a series of work reminiscent of Ingres, a famous painter. In one image, Le Violin d'Ingres or Ingre's Violin is on her naked back with violin F-holes superimposed. Violin and cello fans all over the world have copied Man Ray's image, getting their instrument's distinctive holes tattooed on their back in a similar location. Fans of Man Ray have also gotten the design. However, it is important for music aficionados, who may not be fully aware of the meaning of the controversial image, to understand the artistic and historical significance. Man Ray was very focused on female eroticism and sexuality.  In this particular image, his mistress is depicted without arms and is transformed, from a woman, into an object. The overt and controversial objectification of women, plus the pun title – which can also refer to a hobby or activity to pass the time – is offensive to some people.

A person can also show their love for music with a music tattoo design of a rock star or a well known musician. Timeless designs can be of a rock star like Jimi Hendrix, a legendary band like The Rolling Stones, a deceased metal god like Dimebag Darrell, or even a classical music composer such as Beethoven.

Whatever the design used, musical tattoo designs show great respect and love for everything that is music.


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