Mnemonics (in music)

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What are Mnemonics?

The term mnemonics, pronounced "nem-on-iks", is derived from the Greek language meaning "in memory". Mnemonics is a system of memory codes which, after memorising, enables people to recall specific pieces of information. The codes are often in fact letters, though they can be visual or verbal mnemonics. It is these letters that are used to allow our memory to remember a term. In theory, when using mnemonics, we are in actual fact training our memories to associate a letter (at the beginning of a word) with a particular phrase, sentence or formula.

Mnemonics(in music)

Mnemonics are widely used throughout the English language, particularly in music. It is the starting point for people learning music notation and music theory. Mnemonics in music enable us to recall specific note names and chord names,when reading music. They are used to help us read the Clefs. Examples of these type of mnemonics are the phrases "Every Good Boy Deserves Food" and "Green Buses Drive Fast Always". The first phrase represents the notes "E, G, B, D, F" on the stave lines of a treble clef, and the second phrase represents the notes "G, B, D, F, A" on the stave of a base clef. Other mnemonics for the treble and base clef are "FACE", as in the word "face", for treble clef and "Aces Carry Every Game" for the base clef. These represent the spaces in between the lines of a stave. Mnemonics can also be used in the memorising of notes within instrument playing. As there are various different types of instruments in the world, which vary in how they are played (e.g. wind instruments, string instruments), mnemonics in music prove to be most useful.

For example:

  • Guitar - Eat All Day Get Big Easy. This is the order of the six strings going from thickest to thinnest.
  • Violin - Granny Drives After Eating. This, again, is the order of four strings going from thickest to thinnest.
  • Flute - Don't Eat Fruit Gums At Break. This represents the notes starting at the lower end of the flute, moving upwards towards the mouth.
  • Piano - There are different musical modes on the piano representing the different scales.
 The following examples all relate to the key of C Major. For example, D Dorian has the same notes as C Major:
  * I - Ionian. This begins on the note C.
  * Don't - Dorian. This begins on the note D.
  * Play - Phrygian. This begins on E
  * Loud - Lydian. This begins on F.
  * Music - Mixolydian. This mode begins on G.
  * After - Aeolian. This one begins on A.
  * Lunch - Locrian. This begins on B.

There are also mnemonics to help us identify the key signatures in music (i.e., whether the key is sharp or flat). The sharp keys are recognised by the symbol "#" and the flat keys are recognised by the symbol "b". There is also a "Circle Of Fifths" to help us to understand the concept of the sharp and flat keys in music.

Besides in music, mnemonics are useful for common knowledge. In maths, when studying the topic of trigonometry, you learn the mnemonics "Tarzan Of the Apes" for Tan, you think of "Christmas At Home" for Cosine, and "Summer On Holiday" for Sine. When we think about the nine planets in our solar system, we think of the phrase "My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas". This mnemonic represents the order of the planets from the sun. And, finally, when we learn the colours of the rainbow, we are taught the phrase "Roy Of York Gave Battle In Vain", where each word begins with the same letter as the colour it represents [for example: Roy represents red]. This shows us that mnemonics are very useful, for educational reasons or just for our common knowledge.

The Perception of Mnemonics in Music

Musical training has been known to aid memory function in many different ways. This is the role that mnemonics have in everyday life, especially in music. Forming mnemonics is compared to forming neural connections that come from different angles in the brain to a single memory and help to create different pathways for the recall of that single memory. The mnemonics gather information and ignite the information that will guide us to the memory we are looking for. The mnemonics help us to locate the memory because of the unique way our brains link information. Mnemonics in music are examples of this in the many ways they are useful (as above- the note and chord names).


  • We also used information from the book "The AB Guide To Music Theory" by Eric Taylor in our aid to study mnemonics.
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