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Nov 30, 2021 - 8:03:50 PM
288 posts since 10/30/2007

What is a mnemonic? It’s a pattern of letters or words to help remember something. A couple months ago, I gave a mnemonic – FACEGBDFACEetc. – to aid in remembering how the seven 4-note jazz 7th chords can be remembered in the key of C. With the proper addition of accents (#s or bs), the mnemonic can also work for all the other 14 keys. I realized afterwards that this same mnemonic could be used for also remembering the 3 extended notes for each of the seven chords in whatever key . . . if the 4-note 7th chords plus 3 extended notes were played in a combination of 2 ways:

First, the notes of each of the seven chords and extended notes are played in the string-number order of 4-3-2-1-4-3-2. And secondly, an up-the-neck order is followed in the scale-note order of the key one is playing in. Starting on the 4th string of the root note of the 1st chord in the key chosen, the notes of the 4-note jazz chord are played on the 4-3-2-1 strings and then the 3 extended notes are played slightly higher on the 4-3-2 strings. Continue this pattern up the neck in the scale-note order until you arrive back at the 1 chord of the key you are in.

Open up the PDF file to help you see how all this works. One can practice the format explained in all 15 keys and thereby learn all the notes on the neck. On page 1 we are starting in the key of F (a key many banjo pickers avoid). Taking our mnemonic – FACEGBDFACEetc. – we need to add a “b” to make a Bb for the key of F. So FACEGBbD&repeat is the starting point on the 3rd fret in the practice format shown in the key of F. By moving up the neck, you can make all seven chords with their extended notes. Playing the notes in 4-3-2-1-4-3-2 string order AND the up-the-neck notes in corresponding scale-note order, practice from the 1 chord and extensions through the 6 chord and extensions on page 1.

On page 2 of the PDF file, we finish with the 7 chord (Emin7b5) in the key of F, along with the 1 chord (or 8 chord) with no extensions. Read through the box to learn another mnemonic useful in jazz tunes. This other mnemonic – BEADGCFBEADetc. – is helpful in learning jazz chord movements. That movement is often described with a numerical mnemonic – 1-4-7-3-6-2-5-1. The bottom left of the page shows a circle layout of both mnemonics in the key of F. Finally, the four chords on the left of the circle (the 6-2-5-1 progression, often heard in jazz tunes) are laid out for their closeness on the neck to each other. Get used to NOT playing just chord-positions in the 4-3-2-1 and scale-note format.

On pages 3 and 4, you have an opportunity to figure out how to play and practice the 4-3-2-1-4-3-2 and scale-note orders in any of the 15 keys. The “b” on Bb has been eliminated, leaving the mnemonic shown on the two pages with notes for the key of C. Can you play the practice format shown in the key of C? You need to add the appropriate #s or bs to play in the other 14 keys,. In the key of G , one must add a “#”to the F note in the mnemonic, an additional “#” to the “C” note in the key of D, etc. Without seeing the seven chords worked out on a page, most of us would have trouble playing this practice format off the top of our heads.

See the large, boxed area on page 4. Make copies of pages 3 and 4 so you can fill in the missing items on the two pages for as many keys as you see fit to do. I am suggesting starting with five keys: G, A, Bb, D, and C (you already have F). Fill in the key root note and the “starting fret” for each of these five keys in the boxed area on page 4. Then go back to page 3 and fill in the “__” in the mnemonic for the key you are working in. Also add to the mnemonic line the appropriate #s or bs for that key you have chosen. Start with the 1 chord and put in the fret numbers AND the notes in the blanks above the four-string format . . . then do the same for the other chords through the 6 chord on page one. If you need to, refer to page 4 boxed area for the notes making up the chords for the key you’re in.

Finish up on page 4, filling in ALL the blanks (“__”) for the key, the correct #s or bs, the fret numbers and the notes for the 7 and 1 {8} chords. Then move on to the two new mnemonics (BEADGCFBEetc./1-4-7-3-6-2-5-1) in the circle below left, completing the seven chord in the key you are working one. Finally, write in the fret numbers and note names (example on page 2) in the key chosen to complete the 6-2-5-1 progression. Hopefully, you are still with me at this point AND find all this helpful. Even if you do not play jazz, the practice-format will open up the neck for you and help you learn all the notes and their locations. Good luck!


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