Difficulty memorizing all numbers in all scales

Hi there,

I am a new “student” here, almost-completely new to everything about piano and jazz. I posted on the discussion topic of the first lesson, but I’ll give it a try here as well.

I practiced all major scales and know them by heart but I find it really hard to memorize ALL numbers from ALL major scales, as a first “homework” from the first lesson.

If my calculation are correct, that is 12 scales x 6 notes (second, third, forth, fifth, sixth, seventh) so 72 combinations to memorize at first.

I wonder if working hard only on this memorization process is not too hard, not mentioning that one’s could easily forget them.

So my question is : should I really stop there and not go on unless I know by heart all 72 combinations? Or that can come with practice with upcoming exercises?


Hi there,
What I dobto memorise the scales is I break the notes into 2 islands, one with two black keys and one with three black keys. The island with two blak keys has 5 notes the other has 7.

Now if you want to remember Bb scale, all you need to know is 2w 1b and 3w 1b, this gives you the shape of the Bb scale. You read from right to left always starting on the 5 key island

Let’s look at Db, that is a tough one to remember normally, let’s use the two ‘islands’ , the white keys played are left of the black groups.

It is simple to remember, and a cheat sheet is quickly written out.


Bill k

Thanks for your reply Bill and for that technique.

But to be a bit more precise, my problem is not remembering the scales on the piano and how to play them - with some practice, I managed to remember all.

My problem is being able to find any number on any scale by heart. Lesson 1 says:

Test yourself whilst away from the piano. Ask yourself: “what’s the 4th of Ab Major” or “what’s the 6th of D Major”… if it take you longer than a second or 2 to get the answer, then you don’t know your scales numerically!

And that is nearly impossible for me - I can play them, but can’t give any interval on any scale in less than 2seconds - especially without a piano.

Any thought on that?

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Hi Yohan,

Welcome to the PianoGroove community!

Learning scales numerically does take time. It’s certainly not something that happens overnight so try to be patient with it.

As you are completely new to the piano I can appreciate that this is a big task.

Can you read music? If so it would be helpful to memorise the scales using the following download:

Major_Scales_Worksheet.pdf (3.5 MB)

The first step is to be able to play and visualise the scales, and learning them numerically is the next step.

Once we have learnt each scale numerically it allows us to quickly find voicings in any key. We can construct common progressions such as 251s and 1625s, and it also helps with our ability to construct melodies and improvised phrases.

Each major scale contains 7 notes, not 6 notes.

Instead of “72 combinations”, try to look at the task as learning 12 sets of 7 notes.

I would recommend breaking this down further and just focusing on 3 scales at a time.

For example, learn and memorise the C Major Scale, the F Major Scale, and the Bb Major Scale.

Once you can play and visualise those scales perfectly, then move onto the Eb Major Scale, Ab Major Scale, and the Db Major Scale.

Then continue around the circle of fifths:

By breaking the task down into smaller, more manageable chunks, it will stop you from becoming overwhelmed.

It’s also important to remember that scales next to each other on the circle of fifths only have 1 note different. This can help to visualise and memorise keys.

Print this copy of the circle of fifths and stick it to your piano or keyboard:

circle_of_fifths.pdf (2.8 MB)

The circle of fifths is a wonderful aid when learning the basics of jazz harmony.

I hope this helps to give you more direction and any further questions let us know.



Hi Hayden,

That is perfectly clear :ok_hand:. I’ll cut the scales in small chunks to learn them both by playing them on the piano and also being able to numerically know them.

Thanks for your time,
Getting back to my keyboard now :slight_smile:

My pleasure Yohan.

The major scales really are the foundation for learning jazz harmony, and so time spent here is time well spent. You will not regret it later down the line!

I recommend that students split their practice time in half, the first half on theory drills, and the second half working on jazz standards.

Mastering scales, chords, and progressions in all 12 keys takes time and so learning the jazz standard arrangements will give you a quicker sense of progression and improvement and make learning jazz piano more enjoyable for you.

In particular spend some time on these beginner jazz standard lessons:

I recommend that students study multiple jazz standard lessons at the same time. Perhaps start with 2 or 3 tunes and then gradually build out your repertoire.

I’m here to help if you need any further guidance. Cheers!

Thanks, Hayden----sound advice for beginners: break it down and slowly in small chunks.

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