Memorizing music theory

Discussion in 'Jazz / Commercial' started by mevenden, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. mevenden

    mevenden New Friend

    Apr 20, 2008
    london, uk
    Some music theory has to be memorize such as key signatures number of flats and sharps and modal scales when trying to learn jazz. Well I was wondering if anyone had really thought out the quickest way to memorize this stuff.

    Not everyone begins this instrument when there still young so it would be real helpful to be able to use memonics or something to pick up the essential theory stuff to hit the ground running when trying to advance.

    BTW happy new year and thanks to everyone. I really appreciate your feedback.

    Mark London UK
  2. jason_boddie

    jason_boddie Piano User

    Dec 26, 2008
    Jacksonville, FL
    Ah, Theory a subject I am not a comeback player at, right in my wheel house. The best and most long lasting way to remember various elements of theory is application. If you want to pound key signatures in your head, pull out a church hymnal and go song by song identifying the key signatures. You can also indentify what mode they are in.

    Identifying keys at the beginning of charts or fakebooks will come much quicker after you have done some practicing on it. As far as number of sharps/flats. I never identified key signatures by the number of sharps and flats. I did by the order of sharps and flats.

    for instance flats:

    BEADGCF is the order of flats. I memorized that by remembering; Bead Greatest Common Factor. Once I knew the order, and looked at a key signature with 3 flats. I knew that was either Ab major or f minor. As the next to the last flat names the Major key.

    3 flats = Ab
    5 flats = Db

    etc., etc.

    Sharps are different. You can either know the order by realizing that it is exactly the reverse of the order of flats. Or, I have a rather un-politically correct way of memorizing it.

    FCGDAEB = Fat Chicks Get Drunk At Every Bar they taught me that at 13 in basic theory and it has stuck all these years.

    Now, the rule to apply is:

    go to the last sharp, then up a half step to name your Major key.


    2 shrps = Dmajor or b minor
    5 sharps = B major or gminor

    Hope these simple little rules I memorized a long time ago may help.
  3. Liblip

    Liblip New Friend

    Mar 29, 2008
    I love this stuff. The one I grew up on for sharps and flats come from mevenden's home turf:

    Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket
    Blanket Exploded And Dad Got Cold Feet.

    Whatever works! -Ed
  4. Stile442

    Stile442 Piano User

    Mar 26, 2007
    Deland Fl

    I'm sure it was just a typo but 3 flats would be Eb major or c minor
  5. jason_boddie

    jason_boddie Piano User

    Dec 26, 2008
    Jacksonville, FL
    yes it was, sorry about that.
  6. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Here's how i learned the modes, two storys: First story, I suffered through a class of theory and was totally confused.
    Second story: I came up with two ways of figureing modes.
    1) memorize these names: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolean, Locrian
    How to memorize? take the first letters from each word and make up a phrase.
    The phrase I use is R rated so I'll give you a PG 13 version. Here ya go.
    I Don't Play Lousy Music Any Longer

    OK!! once you've done that play the C major scale.
    play C to C, that's a Ionian
    play D to D in the key of C. That's a Dorian
    play E to E in the key of C. That's a Phrygian
    play F to F in the key of C. That's a Lydian
    play G to G in the key of C. That's a Mixolydian
    play A to A in the key of C. That's a Aeolian
    play B to B in the key of C. That's a Locrian
    This works for all 12 major scales
    Betcha didn't know you knew so many modes didja.

    Now's the confusing part. Sometimes people will ask what key?
    C Ionian = C
    C Dorian = Bb
    C Phrygian = Ab
    C Lydian = G
    C Mixolydian = F
    C Aeolian = Eb
    C Locrian = Db

    An easy way to memorize this is to think numerically
    From any given key signature the
    Ionian stays as is
    Dorian, 1 step down
    Phrygian, 2 steps down
    Lydian, 2 1/2 steps down
    Mixolydian, 2 1/2 steps up
    Aeolian, 1 1/2 steps up
    Locrian, 1/2 step up
    So I just remember the modes are either down or up from a given key signature
    the modes that go down are 1, 2, 2 1/2 steps
    the modes that go up are 2 1/2, 1 1/2, and 1/2
    of course the Ionian = 0 as it does not move from the key signature.
    Hope this helps
  7. jason_boddie

    jason_boddie Piano User

    Dec 26, 2008
    Jacksonville, FL
    WOW I am glad you can wrap your brain around that, I am lost.

    Of course I am Southern, see the "It Works" thread for proof of that.......
  8. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Hi Jason,
    Just pay attention to the first part where the word 'play" is used.
    The other part(what key? and the number of steps) will make sense later.
    Good luck
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009
  9. JunkyT

    JunkyT Pianissimo User

    Jan 6, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I know this stuff pretty well, and I was confused by Markie's post until I worked it out. I think what confused me is that you started talking about playing the modes of the C major scale (i.e. D to D in the key of C), but then went on to explain the key signatures using the modes with C as your starting note.

    But as you say, it's more important to internalize the sound of each mode that to memorize key signatures.
  10. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    You bet it can be confusing. Hence, the "this is the confusing part" But, once you figured it out "you get it". Not bad huh, a couple of weeks of modal theory in one page.

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