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Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions (Read 364 times)

Offline noam1

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Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
« on: February 14, 2021, 02:48:24 AM »
Hello all,

I'm wondering if anybody has good mnemonic techniques for memorizing chord progressions.

My questions stems less from a challenge in memorizing a piece, and more from a challenge in keeping it memorized in the long term. Once my muscle memory kicks in, it's like my brain stops thinking about what I'm playing. This is fine until I stop practicing that piece for a while, or until I slip up during a performance, and then I no longer have a mental map for where to start.

If I could easily access the chord progressions in my logical brain, it would help me stay on track.

Thanks!

Offline ranjit

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Re: Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
«Reply #1 on: February 14, 2021, 02:53:26 AM »
What level of repertoire are we talking about?

Fwiw I usually just think of roman numerals. I, ii, V, vi, iv, N6, V7, i, etc
And you can usually think in terms of cycles from the I chord ... to the I chord.

Offline noam1

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Re: Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
«Reply #2 on: February 14, 2021, 05:12:29 AM »
Any level. Advanced classical, pop, Broadway.

Thinking in Roman numerals doesn't help me much. They're just numbers with modifiers. Not really a mnemonic.

Also, my brain can't translate from numbers to chords that fast while playing.

Online j_tour

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Re: Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
«Reply #3 on: February 14, 2021, 05:27:07 AM »
Any level. Advanced classical, pop, Broadway.

Thinking in Roman numerals doesn't help me much. They're just numbers with modifiers. Not really a mnemonic.

Also, my brain can't translate from numbers to chords that fast while playing.

I think I can understand that.  I do use RNA for classical music (when it's appropriate), but even in jazz/pop/rock, the numerals get in my way sometimes.  I still analyze the music.

Subconsciously, sure, numerals play a role, but it's not an ideal system for pieces with lots of modulations or strange chord progressions.

Really I just memorize the raw chords for those kinds of tunes in, I don't know, a handful of keys.  And with some familiarity, then the abstraction can take over and transpose into other keys (as long as they aren't awful keys to play in for a given tune).

I don't know any real method other than raw memory:  jotting down chords on a Post-It note, is probably my favorite. 

And then when I inevitably can't find my little cribs, I just kind of make something up.  And with some concentration and listening, I sometimes get pretty close.

There's always relentless drilling of memory, with paper flashcards or something, but I somewhat doubt there is a real flawless system.

There are systems of memorization, such as that used in the Pimsleur language series, and some others, probably, but "adaptive" flashcards little kids use on their phone is just putting lipstick on the old pig of rote learning.

Which I happen to think is the way to go.  No different than learning multiples or powers of, say, 16, or any number of things one might find useful.

For classical, you might try sight-transposing various fragments, but that won't work for very complex pieces unless you're a savant or something.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
«Reply #4 on: February 14, 2021, 06:36:08 AM »
Makes sense. Not a method as such, but I tend to make note of inner line movement sometimes. For scanning, G#B -> GC or something. I'd say it often helps recollect a chord in context.

I know it's not a mnemonic, don't kill me lol  ;D

Offline ted

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Re: Mnemonics to memorize chord progressions
«Reply #5 on: February 14, 2021, 09:21:33 AM »
I donít recall ever memorising using names of chords and certainly not mnemonics for them. Going from a harmony to its name and back again on the fly is far too much for my brain. I think I just memorise physical, visual and to some extent aural entities and cut out the middle man, so to speak. Most of my music doesnít lend itself to thinking in chord blocks at all these days but even decades ago I doubt I consciously registered a name like E seventh whenever I happened to strike E,G#,B,D in some voicing. The exception would have been playing tunes from fake books, but only while reading or learning them.

In that connection, I recall spending an interesting Sunday morning long ago at the home of an American jazz pianist who thought of his music exclusively in terms of blocks of complicated chords with even more complicated names and had shelves of thick ring binders in which he wrote hundreds of progressions for future reference. I had never met anybody who thought that way and was most impressed with his ability to consciously implement them during his improvisation. I am pretty sure he used no mnemonics though, just had all chords and names at his fingertips.

So in other words I might just be lazy I suppose. On the other hand, he played absolutely nothing that could not be viewed as a series of chords, which I found creatively limiting. It depends what you enjoy playing, what music makes you happy.
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