Memorize the notes in each key

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Mike Lasprogato, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. Mike Lasprogato

    Mike Lasprogato

    Nov 30, 2017
    Just as the title says. Im still a fairly new player but would like this level of understanding if possible. I would also like your opinions in terms of this being a priority or important. It seems thus far the more theory i know the better, is this in the same boat? I thank anyone that takes the time to help here.

  2. This question, and many, many, more have already been answered recently in this thread:
    Why memorize each note of every MA/MI scale?

    Memorization is the wrong word, though. You don’t just set out to systematically memorize every note in every scale. First you learn the notes on each string. Then you start learning how to play scales. Then you learn theory regarding the order of sharps and flats, key signatures, major and minor scales, then chords.

    Once you have learned all this, you will discover that you now know all the scales passively.

    Learning all the scale notes isn’t the goal, it’s the byproduct.
    StyleOverShow, Oddly, PillO and 2 others like this.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    There is no doubt that any theory you learn is not a waste of time. One single thing is no more important than another. It's like a jig saw puzzle, where each piece has it's place. It depends on your goals and how far you want to go with your bass playing. Equally important IMO is to develop your ear by playing along to songs without the use of tab. To REALLY know your scales is to know how chords are derived from them. It is chord tones that the bassist mostly uses.

    Chord Tones Are Primary | Bass Chord Patterns | StudyBass

    With theory, IMO it is important to start at ground zero and work your way up in small steps to where you want/need to.
  4. Knowing what the notes of the scales are, if you are playing from sheet music, is not really necessary, right at first. Knowing where they are on your fret board is important.

    Things like how to mute the beast and how to hold our bass with out wrist pain, etc. would come first in my book. But, I love to know what and why I'm doing things and it is here that theory knowledge is something I like to dig into. There are some good posts in the getting started sticky, I suggest that as a starting place on your theory journey. How to get started? Post number 4, 6 and 14 touch on what notes are in the scales and where they are on our fret board. There is a wealth of knowledge in the entire string and will be time well spent.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
  5. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Memorize these thinga:
    W W H W W W H
    Key of C major has no sharps or flats
    Relative minor is the sixth of the relative major

    Then you can figure out all the notes in every major and natural minor, Different thought process than memorizing 28 different scales only to realize you left out harmonic minor, melodic minor major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, blues scale, and a plethora of other more esoteric scales.
  6. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    1st ---> memorize the triads for the more the more common keys: caged, then f Bb Eb. You use this so often, might as well bite the bullet. The chord tones are simply adjustments to the triads...flat the 3rd for a minor, add a 7th, etc.
  7. Nickweissmusic

    Nickweissmusic Knows all intervals from one Fred, to Juan octave Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I teach lessons and perform live music in and around San Diego CA. Sometimes I even make money doing it!
    Here’s a shortcut method I came up with to understand and eventually memorize keys well enough to get through music school, as a very ear-heavy, poor visual learner myself. It literally took memorizing 4 sequences of notes, and I could then derive any key in 10 seconds or less. As I did it more and more, it eventually became automatic.

    First, understand why key signatures work. The key of F has 1 flat note in it, Bb, because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t sound like an FMaj scale if you played all the notes of the key in order. Without 4 sharps, F#, C#, G#, D#, you can’t play an E major scale, and so on. That may or may not be obvious, but understanding that concept certainly helps with everything else I’m going to describe.

    My “shortcut” here has to do with the fact that there is a systematic order in which the keys are laid out, and in which flats and sharps are applied to keys.

    Sequence 1 and 2: the order of Keys-

    The flat keys move up in 4ths from C, The Sharp Keys by 5ths. So I memorized this sequence:

    Flat Keys: F,Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Cb, and
    sharp keys: G,D,A,E,B,F#,C#.

    Yes this is the info contained in the circle of 5ths (and 4ths), but that circle imagery was not as effective a tool as just making and memorizing a few lists in my case. Everyone learns differently.

    Sequence 3 and 4: the order of Flats and Sharps-

    Now that you know the order of keys, it’s good to know how to apply accidentals (flats and sharps) to create the keys. They are added in the same order in all clefs. They are added in the same intervallic order as the keys themselves, but they start at a different note.

    Order of Flats: BEADGCF
    Order of Sharps: FCGDAEB
    Yes they are inverses of each other.

    And that’s it. With those 4 sequences and some basic counting, you can now create, or name, any key. If you see a key signature with 5 flats, just run the flat key list and the 5th answer is Db. If you need to write the key of A major, first you run the sharp key list and see its the 3rd, so 3 sharps. The first 3 sharps are F,C, and G, so apply sharps in that order, and there you go.

    Extra credit: minor keys: I didn’t even bother to learn these since I could easily do the mental math from the relative major, but how could it hurt.

    Minor flat keys: DGCFBbEbAb
    Minor sharp keys: EBF#C#G#D#A#

    Of course all this can be learned and memorized with flash cards, but that’s actual work! ;) But it is good to do. The Tenuto app has key flash cards, note reading stuff, AND bass fingerboard recognition, among many other features. It’s highly recommend if you’re serious about learning theory.
    Gio Orfitinho likes this.
  8. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Yes! I thought about posting exactly the same, but thought no one thinks like that. Similar posts on modes have sunk like a rock.

    To name flat keys, go up the strings (4ths) from F or C. To name the sharp keys, go down the strings from G.
  9. , 600px-Circle_of_fifths_deluxe_4.svg.png

    Paste this on your bass neck. Put your root at 12:00 O'clock. The major notes/chords are out side the circle - one to the left and one to the right of your root - which is at 12:00 O'clock. The minor are inside the circle, below their relative major - diminished is the last minor note listed.

    C scale/key Major are C, F & G. Minor are the Dm, Am, Em and the diminished is the Bm.

    Why all the mess at the bottom of the circle? The clock goes to 6 and there are 7 notes, so they wrap around.

    I'll not tell if you glance at the circle...

    The attached file is a little smaller and will fit on your neck.
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
    DirtDog and Mushroo like this.
  10. Nickweissmusic

    Nickweissmusic Knows all intervals from one Fred, to Juan octave Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I teach lessons and perform live music in and around San Diego CA. Sometimes I even make money doing it!
    Yep, You’re not alone, not sure if that’s a good thing :)
    IamGroot likes this.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Music theory is boring, but music is fun! Instead of saying, "I have to memorize all these scales, what a drag," pick a fun and easy song like "Pop Goes the Weasel" and learn it in every key.

    Another tip is that everyone has a slightly different learning style. For me personally, writing things out in standard notation helps me retain the information. Let's say I play a C major scale, then move the finger pattern up a half step to C#, then up to D, etc. That learning method is easy for me, but doesn't help me retain the information. But if I write out all the scales in standard notation, I'm more likely to remember. Your milage may vary.
  12. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    The modes also move in 4ths.

    Em7 dorian = A7 myxolydian = D Major 7 = G7#4 Lydian
  13. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years

    May 3, 2008
    Every time I see the circle of fifths thrown at someone asking a basic question about theory I wonder if we get what they are asking and if we are trying to help.

    My attempt:
    The layout of our chosen instrument offers the ability to learn a pattern of whole and half steps using 1 to 4(5-6) strings to replicate scales and modes.

    Learning to play a ‘scale’ on one, two, three, four strings is a simple matter of repetition. Vary the exercises by starting on the second, third, etc note of the scales. Further vary by skipping to every other note (thirds) and using one, two, three and four strings to complete the octave. Other intervals like 4ths, two octaves, etc. just keep working it.

    The modal thing is when you start on a different note, like A in the key of C major, and follow the same pattern and they have different harmonic qualities to them(sad, jazzy, ethnic).

    Learning to play with alacrity everywhere on the fingerboard/fretboard enables movement up, down and across the neck whenever and wherever you are. You won’t have to look and your muscle memory will kick in.

    The other thing about practicing ’scales’ is the sound of the intervals, and not just whole and half steps gets into your brain. When you start to play more sophisticated music you’ll recognize the sound of the interval and use them.
    Leo Smith likes this.
  14. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    There are plenty of patterns on bass the neck and in music theory
    that can be used to deduce the correct notes of a key -but that is not the same as memorizing.

    I don't have instant recall of the note names for any degree of any key
    If asked "what's the 6th of E flat major?" I usually mentally picture the shape of an E flat scale
    on the neck and "look up" the 6th in my mental picture.
    If that's what the OP is aiming for I say you may as well learn the notes on the neck
    (Pac Man's sure fire scale practice method is the best approach I have seen)

    But that's what Anthony Wellington calls "hunting and pecking"
    I maybe can quickly figure out the right note -but I don't know The right note.
    I know the that 2+2=4, It was drilled into my memory long ago.
    I haven't internalized the fact the 6th of E flat major is C in the same way.
    Anthony uses flash cards to drill himself daily on this and other music theory facts.
    If you want that depth of knowledge, flash card drills are probably what is needed.
    Malcolm35 likes this.
  15. Do we (you and I) really need to know the name of every note in all the keys, and have total recall of what they are?

    I don't. I do need to be able to function in all keys. To do that I may use scale degree numbers, instead of note names, and use repetitive patterns. This allows me to function in the world I play in.

    No question this is not the same World Anthony Wellington plays in.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2018
  16. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    All the notes in any key follow this: A B C D E F G. Learn the key signature and start on the right note and here you go. :D
    Mushroo likes this.
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Knowing all the note names helps a lot if you are interested in reading or writing music (literacy).

    If you're primarily performance-oriented then I suppose there's no real need to know what the notes are called, so long as your performance sounds good. :)

    My view on skill building is that we must each set our own priorities and decide how to spend our practice time.

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