Basically, I want to have all the notes in every usable key memorized so that I can instantly just call them to my memory and play them. By usable I mean any key that has 7 or less flats/7 or less sharps. For instance, if I just think "E♭ minor", I'll instantly be able to conjure up the major 6th, minor 4th, etc. I'd be memorizing the modes as well. Is there some website that I can use to practice this for myself?

  • 1
    What do you need a website for? Pick 3 keys and work on them this week; pick three more next week; keep at it for awhile....
    – user39614
    Aug 27, 2019 at 5:55
  • @DavidBowling I guess I can pair it with my practice of the fretboard interval memorization. I'll start with C and C minor, practicing the diatonic notes and interval locations for each string. Aug 27, 2019 at 6:15
  • On guitar, it's more about patterns and their positions. For me at least, that's more important than actually being able to name every singe note as you play it. And a pattern for, say, something in C will be the same pattern moved up 3 frets for Eb.
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:20
  • 2
    What's a 'minor fourth' - in any key? And, are you after intervals, note names, or note positions?
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2019 at 11:50
  • 1
    What defines a "usable key"?
    – user50691
    May 12, 2021 at 1:04

8 Answers 8


Scales! By learning the scales of each key, you'll know the diatonic notes from each key. At the same time, by starting on different notes from each of those scales, the modes will gradually be revealed.

Arpeggios! By learning the arpeggios of each key, you'll understand what a m3, M3, P5 etc. is in those keys.

Then start transposing one line tunes into different keys, and you'll become conversant with facts like C>E in one key is the equivalent of F♯>A♯ in another.

  • I already understand how scales are formed and I can find the diatonic notes in each key, the problem is that it takes too long, I need to get faster at it. Aug 27, 2019 at 6:03
  • 2
    In that case, you need to become a quicker learner, and/or dedicate more time to playing! There is no quick fix for this - as thousands of us realise. The more we play in different keys, the better our knowledge of those keys becomes. There is no quick fix! Maybe there are apps for that kind of thing, but an app isn't knowledge. Mere mortals have to practise - I think even Mozart et al did that! (No apps in their day..!)
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2019 at 6:12
  • I still remember the last thing that my first guitar teacher told me at our last lesson: "If you remember anything that I taught you, make sure that you practice everything in every key." It is surprising how long it took for that lesson to really sink in (for me, at least: that was in 1985!)....
    – user39614
    Aug 27, 2019 at 6:23
  • @DavidBowling - that was a wise thing to say! And something I've advocated since well before '85! Actually, on guitar, it's often an easy task - move everything up to the next fret, etc. On piano, a completely different ball game. But on guitar, is there a lot (or any) point in knowing what the name of each note is as it's played? On piano, it's very obvious, although often academic, but on guitar, I find I play most notes automatically - through knowing scales (!) so their name don't really matter at that moment.
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2019 at 6:42
  • 1
    @Tim That's exactly how I use it too. Classical pianists who are accompanists have to transpose often when working with singers, to accommodate the different ranges that they have. For an interesting and amusing discussion of this by the great Gerald Moore, see this excerpt from his The Unashamed Accompanist: youtu.be/ia7iOdRe9nk?t=3047. Which record, if I may say so, is well worth a listen in its entirety.
    – BobRodes
    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:59

learn the circle of fifths rules and you can work them out in your head. Its then easy to memorise the more you do it. Its even better than counting sheep to get to sleep. So, Start at C (C D E F G A B), move to the fifth G and sharp the fourth giving G A B C D E F# .
repeat, taking D and sharping C gives you D major. Repeat ad somnolum.

  • "better than counting sheep"! yes, that's what I do to get to sleep: memorizing scales, chords, and entire music pieces e.g. the inventions or violon concertos by Bach ;) Aug 28, 2019 at 13:05
  • 1
    you are clearly light years ahead of me in talent, but I thank you for the affirmation of my humble suggestion Aug 28, 2019 at 14:10

Basically, I want to have all the notes in every usable key memorized so that I can instantly just call them to my memory and play them.

To me, recalling 'the notes' - (plural) - sounds slow, because it sounds like you need to remember and think about more than one thing before you've even touched the instrument.

Personally, if I want to play in E minor, I recall, as a single entity, the intervallic shape of the minor scale - and mentally 'map' that pattern on to the instrument I'm playing, so that I 'see', in my mind's eye, the intervals of the scale on the physical layout of the instrument.

Once I've practiced a bit on that instrument, I the mapping becomes automatic, and I can play the 'minor shape' on the instrument (from some given root) pretty directly, with no obvious 'process' of recall. Practicing scales and arpeggios, as Tim suggests, is one way to get this happening instantly. It will probably happen more automatically the more you practice, and to some extent, the less you consciously try to think about the notes in each key. Just let your brain be the pattern-matching machine that it is!


This site has a lot of good information about scales, as well as diagrams of where they fall on a piano keyboard. This site is a good reference for notation, intervals, etc.

The way to get faster at it is to keep studying it until it becomes automatic. To get to where you want to be, study what intervals fall where in the different modal scales. Start with the "big two": major (ionian mode) and minor (aeolian mode). You should know the intervals between each scale degree in each of these modes before moving on, including all three variations of the minor scale.

I would also recommend that you know the quality of the triad built on each scale degree. For example, in a major scale, using C as an example, C-E-G is major, D-F-A is minor, E-G-B is minor, and F-A-C is major. And so on: going from the first scale degree, the triads are major, minor, minor, major, major, minor and diminished. In a natural minor scale, they are minor, diminished, major, minor, minor, major and major. In other words, the same order as the major scale triads, moved down two. (You'll find that the quality of triads for each scale degree occurs in the same order in every mode, but with a different starting point.)

This is a good overview of modes in general.

  • A lot of people find intervals don't translate easily on guitar. On piano, obviously, yes, but with guitar, you can go up 4 frets on the same string, or down a fret and onto the next string for the same note. Defies logic for some!
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2019 at 7:23
  • 2
    @Tim I can see that for sure. I expect that's an example of the reason that, where I went to school, all music majors, regardless of instrument, had a required "piano proficiency" course, in which they had to demonstrate the ability to play all 36 major and minor scales on the piano in two octaves at 120 bpm. As it is now, I find that anyone playing any instrument who wants to advance their knowledge of theory can benefit from enough knowledge of piano to be able to pick out chords and scales and so on.
    – BobRodes
    Aug 27, 2019 at 16:55

Wach major scale is built by 2 equal tetrachords (ladder of 4 tones WWH WWH (Wholetone and Halftones, between the 2 tetrachords is also a wholetone. Do-Re-MiFa - So-La-TiDo.

If you take the 2nd tetrachord of a scale (So-La-TiDo) and think the root tone of this one is now the root tone Do-Re-MiFa of a new scale and construct the 2nd tetrachord WWH -scales of the circle of 5ths.


C-D-EF - G-A-BC take the 2nd (upper) tetrachord and start a new scale with G:

G-A-BC - D-E-F#G (notice that F will become the leading tone (Ti) of the major scale of G. (G was So in C and is now Do in G. The root tone Do defines the name of the scale.

Continue with the 2nd tetrachord of G (D-E-F#G) developing the new scale of D (with 2 sharps: F# and C#), go on and you can construct all major scales of the circle of 5ths' right side. (G,D,A,E,B,F#)

To construct the b-flat side of the circle (F,Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb) we go down step the scale of C and take the 2nd tetrachord (the lower one now) and build a new scale where we have to flatten the 4th degree of the new scale for having a Fa (halftone to the new Mi)

CB-A-G - FE-D-C (the lower tetrachord of C becomes the upper tetrachord of F:

FE-D-C - BbA-G-F (we have now a new scale: F with 1 flat:Bb

If you continue we'll get all flat-scales and the you can always be sure that the system is transparent to you.

The minor scales can be deduced from the major scales - as related scales:

The 6th degree of a major scale is the 1st degree of the relative scale:

e.g.: La of C remains la of a minor, note that the root tone of a minor scal is la (la-ti-do-re-mi-fa-so-la). This is the natural minor scale, the whole and half tone steps stay as they are in the relative scale C major but the tetrachord are quite different and it would be more complicate to mind them. (It is much easier by imaging them as the names of the doremi.)

la-tido-re-mifa-so-la (you can see that the tetrachords are not identical regarding the W- and H-tones: so the concept of interchangeable tetrachords would be more confusing than helpful!)

Now what we have developed is the natural minor a (aeolian mode) which is also the melodic minor scale downwards ...)

There are namely 3 kind of minor scales:

  1. harmonic, 2. melodic up, and 3. melodic down (aeolian up and down)

  2. Harmonic scale (minor)

To emphasize the root tone La (A) of the minor scale, the 7th degree (So) in music history has been altered a halftone up to get a leading tone (G#=Se). Now we've got a new scale a-bc-d-ef-g#a with a step of one and a half between the 6th and 7th degree (Fa-Se) that was terribly difficult to sing.

  1. melodic minor upward:

To make this terrible step between the 6th and 7th degree more singable the 6th degree has been augmented too and we get a new 2nd tetrachord E-F#-G#A (mi,fe,sela) which is identical with the 2nd tetrachord in tha parallel major scale (A).

  1. melodic minor downward:

As it is not necessery to augment the 7th degree in the minor scale downwards (it has not the function of a leading tone) the So and also the Fa isn't altered (normaly) in the minor scale downwards. ("normaly" as composers also can use the harmonic scale down in certain situations of counterpoint compositions.) But in folk songs usually we find the aeolic mode.

So far the theory of the scales, how you can develope and learn to understand them. As you see, the development of the minor scales is more complicated and needs a lot of practice. The best is here to have it in the ear and play by ear. But it will be very helpful to write them down as schema, notation, keyboard and guitar patterns.

  • That's not the issue, the issue is being able to instantly recall any degree from any scale. Sep 11, 2019 at 21:53

It's not that hard to memorize all the notes as each of the scales is in alphabetical order (well it wraps after G back to A). But that means that you never skip notes, and you never repeat notes. But see how they are in order starting from the root back to the root:

E♭ Major: E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭, C, D, E♭
A Major: A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯, G♯, A

So as long as you know the alphabet you're good. The only thing you need to remember is which ones have flats/sharps. Refer to the circle of fifths for that.


There is no mystery to this.

Play major and minor scales, along with basic cadences in all twelve major/minor keys.

Use the circle of fifths, up to 6 sharps or flats, to get the various key signatures.

You can play the scales in various broken intervals like broken thirds and fourth. This will help build a "map" of intervals on the fretboard. Adam Neely has a video about practicing this way. You probably don't need to do it as completely as he doesn't in terms of all intervals and all directions, but it's a nice example to work from.

For learning note names you can sing tone names aloud, like "E flat" or by degree, ex. "mediant", or solfege, like "mi re do." Scale practice usually is too fast for singing these names, but you can do it while playing cadences. For each practice repeat you can change the voice you sing from soprano, alto, tenor, to bass. (Move them into your comfortable octave.) That will give you 4 repeats per cadence pattern and you will be learning scale tone names in musical context.

On piano I like to practice all 12 keys moving up/down chromatically, but on guitar I think moving between keys by ascending/descending fourths is better.


I invented a simple way to do that but the last time I posted the method it was flagged as being 'commercial content' despite that it's not anything I'm selling.

Instead of detailing the steps to derive it I'll post what you need to know.

Alternate letters starting at F ... add a space between. F _ G _ A _ B

Alternate letters starting at C ... add a space between. C _ D _ E

Weave them together ...

F C G D A E B ... These are fifths.

Now assign numbers to them ... the number alternate like the letters. 1 _ 2 _ 3 _ 4 and 5 _ 6 _ 7.

4 1 5 2 6 3 7

These are the positions of each note in the key of Cmajor (C=1).

Suppose you slid the numbers one position to the right? (up one fifth)

 F C G D A E B
   4 1 5 2 6 3 7

Now you have the notes in the key of Gmajor ... G is first, E is sixth ... and after B you have F# because the seven note pattern starts again but is sharp ... we're going up fifths.

 F C G D A E B F#
   4 1 5 2 6 3 7

On the other side the F gets a ♭7 because the number pattern repeats as well, but going left is flat.

 F C G D A E B F#
   4 1 5 2 6 3 7

 F C G D A E B F#
♭7 4 1 5 2 6 3 7

The seventh note in Gmajor is F# (and the ♭7 must be F).

Lets move the numbers a few more spots to the right.

Now we're calculating with a fifths slide rule in Bmajor.

 F C G D A E B F#
        ♭7 4 1 5 2 6 3 7

The FCGDAEB letter pattern repeats right but sharpened.

 F C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
        ♭7 4 1 5  2  6  3  7

The letter pattern repeats left but flattened.

   B♭  F  C  G  D  A  E  B  F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
   ♭1 ♭5 ♭2 ♭6 ♭3 ♭7  4  1  5  2  6  3  7  #4 #1

As you can see B has five sharps ... the first five letters of the FCGDAEB pattern.

E  B  F# C# G# D# A#
4  1  5  2  6  3  7

It's five sharps because the numbers were shifted five spots ... moving the "1" from under C to under B.

Which key has three flats?

Here's three octaves with C = 1 (zero flats or sharps)

   F♭ C♭ G♭ D♭ A♭ E♭ B♭  F  C  G  D  A  E  B  F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
   ♭4 ♭1 ♭5 ♭2 ♭6 ♭3 ♭7  4  1  5  2  6  3  7  #4 #1 #5 #2 #6 #3 #7

Shift the numbers to the left ... one shift gives you F=1 with B♭=4 ... F has one flat, B♭.

       F♭ C♭ G♭ D♭ A♭ E♭ B♭ F  C  G  D  A  E  B  F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
   ♭4 ♭1 ♭5 ♭2 ♭6 ♭3 ♭7  4  1  5  2  6  3  7  #4 #1 #5 #2 #6 #3 #7

Shift the numbers to the left ... next shift gives you B♭=1 with E♭=4 ... B♭ has two flats, B♭, E♭.

       F♭ C♭ G♭ D♭ A♭ E♭ B♭ F  C  G  D  A  E  B  F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
♭4 ♭1 ♭5 ♭2 ♭6 ♭3 ♭7  4  1  5  2  6  3  7  #4 #1 #5 #2 #6 #3 #7

Shift the numbers to the left ... next shift gives you E♭=1 with A♭=4. E♭ has three flats, B♭, E♭, A♭ (A♭ is the 4 in E♭).

             F♭ C♭ G♭ D♭ A♭ E♭ B♭ F  C  G  D  A  E  B  F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
   ♭4 ♭1 ♭5 ♭2 ♭6 ♭3 ♭7  4  1  5  2  6  3  7  #4 #1 #5 #2 #6 #3 #7

Do you play guitar? ... imagine the strings are not tuned in "Standard Tuning" but instead in all-fourths tuning ... E A D G C F ... all-fourths is all-fifths backwards.

On the first fret, F string, is F# ... it's the first sharp of G major (one fifth up from Cmajor).

The next lower string is C, first fret is C#. The key a fifth up from Gmajor is Dmajor and it has two sharps ... F# and C#.

The first fret gives you the accidentals for sharp keys going high string to low string.

F# - Gmajor     (F#)
C# - - Dmajor   (F# + C#)
G# - Amajor     (F# + C# + G#)
D# - - Emajor   (F# + C# + G# + D#)
A# - Bmajor     (F# + C# + G# + D# + A#)
E# - - F#major  (F# + C# + G# + D# + A# + E#)

Again, every two letters, every two strings, increments by a whole note, it's going up two fifths ... G, A, B ... D, E, F#.

Now lets go back to 4152637.

4 1 5 2 6 3 7

These are the notes in Cmajor.

If you built chords for each note you'll find the 415 is major, the next three, 263, are minor and 7th is diminished. (The first three are the most consonant, the next are a less...minor, and the last is the most dissonant chord of the group, diminished.)

Now suppose we want to work with minor keys?

Well why not start here.. with the 1 under the A, the relative minor of C.

Here's C plus a few extra notes.

 W W h W W W h W W h W

The interval combination for a major chord is M3+m3.

M3, major third, is four half-steps ... (W + W).

m3, minor third, is three half-steps ...(W + h) or (h + W).

So we can build minor chords starting at D, E and A.

However ... if you build a minor scale starting at D or E, using the minor scale pattern of WhWWWhW, you'll get a flat in Dminor (B♭, as Dminor is the relative minor of Fmajor, which has a B♭) and a sharp in Eminor (F#, as Eminor is the relative minor of Gmajor, which has an F#.)

So the relative minor is Aminor ... put the "1" under A and I'll leave the rest to you!

      4 1 5 2 6 3 7

There's actually more tricks with this method but they're not as directly relevant to the OP question.

The name of this method is Two Handed Easier Music Theory - "T.H.E. Music Theory" – because when I show it to kids I assign numbers to my fingers, mesh them, and read the finger numbers from top to bottom to get the "41526374" pattern.

2) The "San Francisco" method as it starts with 415, area code for SF.

Please ask for permission before reposting.


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