How I memorize Progressions.

4 posts / 0 new
Last post
#1 12 July, 2017 - 13:42
Joined: 4 months 2 weeks ago

How I memorize Progressions.

My first post! I'm so pumped!

Below is the technique I've used to memorize chord progressions -i.e., The Beau Method ;D
Following the technique are some thoughts, a potential problem, and possible solution/modification.

+ For progressions I've assigned each scale Degree to a person.
-Tonic/1 (my father); Super-tonic/2 (my brother); Mediant/3 (me); Subdominant/4 (my ex-wife); Dominant/5 (our son); Submediant/6 (my mother); Leading Tone or subtonic/7 (my grandmother)
++ Every degree has a person 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

To remember the progression 1-4-5 it would involve my father, then my ex-wife, then my son.
Chord qualities and letters are encoded through associative actions/images.
-for instance I create doubles of things to remember Sharps.

What about a progression like the first verse of "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane?

F# ----------------------- G
One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small
F# ------------------------- G
and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all
---- A ------ C ------D ------A
go ask Alice when she's ten feet tall.

I'm ignoring the lyrics.

First I identify a relevant tonic (F# in this case) and assign that to my father.
-It all begins at a tree not far from my home.
A white rabbit runs out of a knot in the tree and at my father (Tonic) -who has two giant Falcons(F#) on his shoulders.

My brother (Supertonic/2) appears as a mage casting a spell turning both falcons into Gold (Gmajor).

The Falcons(F#/Tonic) break the gold -chasing him to a telephone pole nearby and steal his hat.

As they fly away, my brother casts GOLD(G) again and their heavy metal bodies tumble into a tree.

I, Beau, (Mediant/3) fly to rescue the hat using my Angel wings (A) then land on a gate when my son (Dominant/5) runs up wearing a magic Cape (Cmaj) and turns me into stone.

A Dragon (D) ridden by my mother (submediant/6) crawls down a tree nearby and takes the hat from my son.

I (A/Mediant/3) fly and rescue the hat in mid-air from the Dragon -before crossing the street on an IMAGINARY BRIDGE.
So that is the VERSE progression, and it ends by segueing into the progression for the BRIDGE.
-When I transition back into the VERSE after the Bridge, I use V from V for Vendetta as my link.

I've done a few songs this way.

1) Because chord names repeat so often in progressions -I use on-the-fly associations more often to inspire creative links -as opposed to pre-set associations (e.g., The Amajor chord in this story is Angel wings. In another story I used an Apple.)
2) Keeping themes running in stories seems to help strengthen the links (I keep using the GOLD spell, so I remember when I'm dealing with a Gmajor chord).
3) I use real locations to give the story strong context.
4) The people I use are originally encoded onto my fingers. I have 10 people encoded onto each of my 10 fingers, and I use the first 7 fingers to remember the first seven scale degrees.

One problem I foresee is:
What happens when key changes occur... especially if they occur frequently (a la Jazz) ?
A change I'm considering:
1) How would it work if I assign an OBJECT to each scale degree (tonic, supertonic, mediant, etc.)
-AND assigned 7 people to each note name (G, A, B, C, etc.)??

If I want to encode I-IV-V in Cmajor:
Carl drinks tonic water (C/Tonic) and falls off a ledge landing on Frankie the Judo practitioner (F/Subdominant) who breaks the wrist of Gladys the dominatrix (G/Dominant).

I've also got a system for memorizing every note on the staff A0-C8. I'm extremely excited by it, and I'd love to share and help perfect all of these systems. I'll make a new topic about it soon.

Thoughts and comments about memorizing progressions the way I'm doing it?

12 July, 2017 - 14:35
Joined: 4 months 2 weeks ago

Another thing I like about this:
-I quickly get a grasp of the chord AND it's relationship to the other chords.

In one story My Father(tonic) sends his mean bullDog after my son(dominant) who's eating an apple.

-I instantly am aware of the notes and their relationship to each other (A is the 5th of tonic D).

23 July, 2017 - 09:19
Joined: 4 months 2 weeks ago

The possible change I proposed at the end I consider flawed now.
-With people representing scale degrees, I can rather quickly transpose a song to a different key.
--If I used people for note names, transposing means I'd have to focus on the OBJECTS and ACTIONS in the stories, and attempt to ignore the people, which feels unnatural for me.

An addition to memorizing progressions is memorizing the song's structure separately, in order to recall which progression chunks are played when (e.g., when to play the verse progression, chorus, pre-chorus or bridge)
-Having a little story or song to indicate something like: Verse, Chorus, Verse Verse, Chorus, Bridge Chorus.

Novelty helps greatly.

I memorized David Bowie's "Heroes" progression while I sat at the bar of my kitchen eating breakfast.
I made all the characters miniature and the action took place along the bar -eventually making it's way to the floor nearby.

--I'm considering a Lukasa memory board for retaining links to all the stories/loci I create -so I avoid forgetting to review certain progressions (thereby forgetting them altogether). Credit to Lynne Kelly writing The Memory Code -which is how I learned about Lukasas.

9 November, 2017 - 08:31
Joined: 4 weeks 1 day ago

Very interesting. However can I ask a question?

YOU WROTE: "I've also got a system for memorizing every note on the staff A0-C8. I'm extremely excited by it, and I'd love to share and Bhelp perfect all of these systems. I'll make a new topic about it soon."

I've done that as well and been using it for a good while now. It is also cross-referenced to the piano the guitar and especially the Grand Staff, each octave is a different colour (following the order of the rainbow sandwiched between Black and White.) Octave Zero starts with Black (only four notes obviously), then Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink and finally white (one note on a piano C8). I encoded C4 (middle C) as 40 Green Octave. And worked up and down in twelves.

Each note, or pitch, has an Person, Action, Object and additionally a Symbol and is colour coordinated.
It took a bit of work, as I wanted it to be future proofed. But it is very useful for both reading through music and hearing it in your head as well as for memorisation. Of course, you need to know what relative pitch sounds like in your head to 'hear' it as you read it.

I don't encode every pitch, that's not needed. Just the bass note with whatever inversion (like figured bass).

It would be too difficult to do if you were encoding every pitch. For example:
Pitches 40 44 47 is a C triad (CEG) in terms of pitches. But musicians don;t generally use this form.
A guitar would use the standard beginners chord: 28 32 35 40 (another C) and 44 (another E)
But on a piano you could have:HUNDREDS of different combinations of a basic C triad.

Here's a home made rendering of how I saw (long ago) a way to encode the info: It's doing exactly what you say you are doing: Numbers on the console are Piano Keys relating to the Grand Staff.


Here's an example of my encoding:

Here's the piano Keyboard envisioned with the colours of each octave:

So as I said, I use a figured bass symbol for each chord where you know by the symbol if the lowest note is the Root, the Third or the Fifth in the base. It's not perfect as there are as you know, not just simple triads, but seventh, ninth and eleventh chords as well as suspensions (sus Chords) and all manner of others not to mention stuff that does not fit into the shorthand of chords or any sort of musical analysis.

I'd be interested to hear more about your system.

Thanks for posting


Download our free ebook! Just click the "Sign up" button below to create an account, and we'll send you a free ebook with tips on how to get started.

Related content: