Memorizing chord progressions

I am a newcomer to Art of Memory and a working musician.

I want to construct a system for memorizing chord progressions for songs. I’d like to be able to store these in long term memory, and add more and more progressions over time.

I’m thinking of creating a mind palace for this. Do you think this would be a good method? Any recommendations or ideas?

I’d like to be able to store the progressions as relative degrees of the major scale. If I could encode the chord quality that would be even better.

So C Am Dm G7 becomes 1 6m 2m 57.

Am I being overly ambitious here? Any ideas, critiques and criticisms welcome.


Sounds like it would work. I’ve wondered if figured bass notation could help with creating images for chords, but I haven’t tried it.

I didn’t know figured bass notation existed until I just looked it up! That would be a good way to reduce chord quality to a number or numbers as well. I guess I just need a good system for visualizing numerals, and a good system for storing sequences of said numerals. Interesting, thanks for your input.

For numbers, see the Major System. There is also a video on how to memorize numbers. For storing sequences, see memory palaces.

Thanks for your help


I have done composition, piano and guitar.

It’s an interesting subject. I have thought about similar ideas.
One approach would be to find some good way to chunk pairs of chord progressions.
If we disregard minor/major and 7:th or other colourings, we would have
7^2 chord progressions and for three chord progressions we have 7^3 = 343.
Many of these will not occur but in any case, I would go with memorizing more than one chord as one image…
For example Dm-G7-C would be encoded as 251 which would correspond to one unique image…

Why bother memorizing chord progressions for each individual song? You can easily and extemporaneously reconstruct the chord progressions on the fly by using the following four steps (combined with your personal memory/familiarity with each song):

  1. The last root note of the basic chord (not inverted chords) of a song is almost always the same note (+1 or more octaves below) as the final note of the song/melody (or final note of the opening stanza/verse).

  2. When the melody progresses upward or downward chromatically, the root note of the basic chord is often 3 note intervals below (+1 octave) the melodic notes played on the main down beat (or sometimes immediately after the main down beat if the down beat melodic note is just a passing note).

  3. Otherwise, the root note of the basic chord is either 1, 3, or 5 note intervals BELOW the melodic notes played on the main down beats (or immediately after the main down beat). Try playing some traditional Christmas carols on piano in the key of C to easily observe and confirm this simple correspondence between melodic and root notes.

  4. Form the chords by playing he root note with left hand pinky, and hold left hand in a claw like position to play/roll up notes at 5, 8, and 10 note intervals above the root note.

Use these four steps to identify the chords to play with any given song melody by simply and literally watching for the melodic notes played on the right hand on the main down beats - a process I’ve come to call “playing by sight” as opposed to “playing be ear”. To “play by ear” using these five steps (minus playing the melody with the right hand), identify the melodic notes as you sing the melody out loud or in your head using the solfege (do-re-me) method.

I had a look at chords and how they are constructed a few years ago. Turns out very little memorization is required as at their core is a fundamental idea about hand shapes and neck positions.
Its detailed here using the ukulele as an example (only 4 strings)