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?

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?


Roman Numerals for Music (I need help)

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).



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.


(MM Scot of Glasgow) #4

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I’m trying to develop a similar system to remember as many chord progressions as possible. However, I’m not interested in the chords themselves, just the relative scale degrees. So not Gm C D7 but 1m 4 57. Here’s my original post, I’d be interested to have your input.



I’ve mentioned this in another post.
But I think it would be more efficient to apply chunking here.
Instead of encoding Tonic, which is equivalent to just one number, as one image,
encoding I-IV-V (Example C-F-G) as 145. 145, in turn, could be encoded with the major system.
There are 343 such images when considering a diatonic scale (7 notes).

I haven’t tried this idea myself but it seams like a way to go.



I’ve modified my method a bit.
Problem: Since chords (& their degrees) can be repeated in a progression, things start to get confusing if you only have one image for a certain degree (or chord).

My solution so far:
I’m using the Major system images (00-99).
So, if we’re in the key of C Major, the C chord (aka the 1 chord) gets Major system images 10-19.
This grants me 10 images for the first degree.
D chord (aka the 2 chord) gets images 20-29.
E chord (the 3rd degree) gets 30-39.

If we’re in the key of Bb:
Bb (the I) gets 10-19
A (the vii) gets 70-79.

This allows repeat chords without repeating images.
Let me know your results.



The only issue with the method you mention, Chrizthewiz, is:
What if you want to play a substitute chord?

The method you mention works if you’re playing the progression, “I-vi-IV-V”.
-But what if you want to play, “I-VI-IV-V” or “I-vi-iv-V” or “I-vi-IVaug-V” ?

How do you indicate chord alterations? In the examples above, how would you identify a Major VI chord? or a minor IV chord? or an augmented chord?

Hence, individual images for each chord become very useful.
Augmented could always involve a “robotic augmentation.”
Minor substitutions could involve Miner’s hats or tools.
Major chords could involve military equipment or outfits.

What about diminished chords? Augmented minor 7ths?
Add-9 chords?

Or borrowing a chord built off the b3 in a progression that usually stays in a Major key?