Music Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

There’s no doubt about it — music is magical. Few art forms can transcend time and language barriers in the way that music can. It’s one of our oldest forms of self-expression, and it’s difficult to find a person who doesn’t like music. 

It’s no wonder, then, that tattoos dedicated to music are popular, no matter the culture or region. They’re a creative way to express your love of the art in any way you can imagine.

Popular designs include:

  • Song lyrics
  • Bass clef
  • Treble clef
  • Microphone
  • Music notes
  • Instruments
  • EKG lines
  • Album covers
  • Meaningful artists
  • Sheet music
  • Cassette tape
  • Speakers

Popular Designs and Meanings

Tattoos are a deeply personal piece of artwork, and each one means something unique to its owner. It can be as simple as liking music, or as deep as a lyric that saved a person’s life. Here are some well-known meanings behind different types of musical tattoos.

Song Lyrics

Tattoos of song lyrics are generally a single line or a verse of a song. These song lyrics are words that resonate with the person wearing the ink. They may be words that helped them through tough times or words that give them power. Seeing those words on their body reminds them of the inner strength that those lyrics give them.

Sometimes, people choose to have music quotes tattooed rather than music lyrics. Quotes such as, “When words fail, music speaks” are especially popular. 

Treble/Bass Clef and Music Notes

These attractive designs are well-liked by musicians and music fans alike. Treble clefs, bass clefs, and music notes are all easy designs to get creative with and generally symbolize a love of music.

Treble and bass clefs, in combination with music notes, are the most popular designs for a music-themed tattoo. It’s an excellent choice for your first ink.

Microphone or Instruments

A microphone and an instrument are both meaningful choices for those who love to sing or create music. Whether music is your livelihood or hobby, your love of the craft is made obvious by your choice of artwork.

The most popular instruments used as designs are guitars, drums, and violins. They tend to represent a musician’s passion for the instrument.

Whether you love to sing in the car, play ukulele to relieve stress, or find yourself up on stage every week, a microphone or a musical instrument are excellent choices for expressing your passion. 

EKG Lines

EKG lines, also referred to as “heartbeat lines,” are the little lines visible on a heart monitor with every heartbeat. These tattoos aren’t musical on their own, but they’re often tied in with another design, like sheet music or a treble clef, to show that music is close to the person’s heart. 

Album Covers

Typically a larger piece, like a back piece or part of a sleeve, album covers are chosen by people with whom the album really resonates. Similar to song lyrics, these designs are chosen by people who feel a strong connection with the album and want a beautiful reminder that brings them strength and joy.

Album covers can be inked in any color, copying the exact album coloring or going for a neutral black theme. These usually cover a larger area than their treble clef counterparts. 

Meaningful Artists

Some people choose to get the image of their favorite artist tattooed on them. Similar to song lyrics, they represent an artist who’s had great significance in a person’s life. It’s a good way to pay homage to a person whose music has had a profound effect on you. 

Popular Art Styles for Music Tattoos

Several popular art styles are typically used with music tattoos. 


Tribal tattoos are characterized by their solid black lines and general lack of color. Music tattoos done in the tribal style were especially popular in the early 2000s and continue to be a common choice today. Some of the most frequently used designs in the tribal style include music notes and treble clefs.


For those who like a splash of color in their tattoos, the watercolor design is a great choice. This style is characterized by thin linework with color exploding across the borders. Colors most commonly used with this style are blue, red, and purple, though greens and yellows occasionally make an appearance, too.

Treble and bass clefs are frequently chosen as the subjects of this style. The same goes for album covers, which can receive an interesting touch with a variety of colors.


Typically decorated with motifs like beads and jewels, Bohemian tattoos are another popular design, especially when it comes to music tattoos. These designs incorporate dreamcatchers, feathers, and other images into classic musical imagery such as sheet music and music notes


The most common style is the traditional style, where musical themes aren’t blended across other styles or genres. Traditional tattoo art can be identified by its rich pigments and bold lines. They may also be colorless and can range from realistic depictions of instruments and famous people to abstract musical designs.

Colors Used in Music Tattoos

Black music tattoos are by far the most common. These colorless designs aren’t limited to simple motifs like bass clefs and music notes — many larger pieces, like images of album covers and instruments, are done in black and white as well. 

Black and white ink tend not to fade as quickly over time as colored ink, which may be a factor in why many people choose to go with a colorless design. It’s also thought that colorless tattoos tend to hurt less than colored tattoos.

That’s not to say that people don’t get music tattoos that are colored. Colored tattoos are still popular; some use just one color to add a splash of vibrancy to the design, though pieces with multiple colors are popular as well. 

In general, color is a great way to add that extra touch of self-expression to your tattoo. The most common colors used in a music tattoo are blue, red, and purple.

Body Placements

Whether you want your tattoo placement to be subtle or you want it to stand out, choosing where to place it’s a big decision. Here are some typical placements of different types of music tattoos.

Small Tattoos

Smaller tattoos are great for your first ink or your hundredth piece. They’re often placed in spots such as:

  • Behind the ear
  • Wrists
  • Finger
  • Hand
  • Ankles

These tattoos can easily be concealed or shown off, depending on your needs. Though they may cover a much tinier area, these tattoos still allow for a lot of creativity and self-expression. Who says a tattoo has to be huge and obvious? Sometimes, small and understated is the way to go. 

The meaning of the tattoo could also be tied to the size and placement. For example, a tattoo of a cochlear implant or a music note behind the ear could also symbolize a lack of hearing. 

If you’re trying to choose a small design that will be easy to cover up, or visible whenever you want it to be, consider designs such as music notes, treble or bass clefs, or minimalist designs, such as tiny microphones or instruments. These images work well with small spaces and hurt less than a large tattoo.

Large Tattoos

For larger tattoos, such as back pieces and full sleeves, it’s common to place them in areas such as:

  • Back
  • Arms
  • Back of the leg
  • Shoulder
  • Chest
  • Stomach

These pieces are usually larger clefs, instruments, album covers, or the image of an artist that means a lot to them. Choosing one of these spots also means your artist has a bigger canvas to work with. Large tattoos turn your body into a beautiful mural celebrating your passion for music.

Some beautiful large designs that would make a great sleeve or back piece are instruments, equipment,  such as traditional cassette tapes, or an album cover. Combine these images with other motifs to make a design your own.

Best Music Tattoos