Here are 3 important things in music theory to memorize...
1. All the notes of your instrument
2. All the Key Signatures
3. All the Chords and Chord Tones for each key
Question: Why do this?Answer: To gain a more complete understanding of your instrument, and to know where you are at all times and to know why what you are playing may sound good and why it may sound not so good.
Question: Is there an easier way? Can I get around not knowing any music theory and not knowing where any of the notes on my instrument are locatedAnswer: I have found if you do not want to learn any music theory one can still play and in fact get quit good. Tons of great players have done it, and this is what I think ones options are if they want to get really good, but do not want to learn any music theory.
No Music Theory Option 1:
(I highly recommend doing this In addition to also understanding music theory) To simply transcribe tons and tons and tons of songs, solos, rhythm playing, song forms, etcso many that you can use the memory of those solos to dictate what you should play when you hear it in the context of a song. Your memory of all the songs and solos that you've learned and transcribed will trigger a muscle memory with your fingers and mind, and it will be like you are speaking with your instrument. Simply reacting to what you hear like you would if you were carrying on a conversation with someone. You will see all the patterns, and scales, and key signatures more as shapes that you equate to things that you've learned from solos, songs, and other musicians. You will have a working knowledge of the theory, but will not know why any of it works. You just know it does.
This is actually a great way of learning, and this way combined with an understanding of music theory can dramatically improve your playing and improvising in a much quicker way than just theory alone, or just transcribing alone.
Wtih theory you can take one thing that you transcribe and play it in other keys. Know how to change it around and play it over other chords. Basically multiplying everything that you already know.
No Music Theory Option 2:
(I do not recommend doing this) The slowest way of improving... Not transcribing solos and simply to use trial and error or "noodling" around, fishing for the right note, not having a clue why anything you play sounds good or bad.
The Sharp Keys:
C MAJOR C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
G MAJOR G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G
D MAJOR D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D
A MAJOR A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A
E MAJOR E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E
B MAJOR B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B
F# MAJOR F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E#, F#
C# MAJOR C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B#, C#
The Flat Keys
C MAJOR C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
F MAJOR F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F
Bb MAJOR - Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb
Eb MAJOR Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb
Ab MAJOR Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab
Db MAJOR Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db
Gb MAJOR Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb
Cb MAJOR Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb
To Start Memorizing the Chords and Chord Tones Just Use these simple rules:
1) Chords are built in 3rds - Root, 3rd, 5th. Start with your root, skip a note, then you've got your third, skip a note, then you've got your fifth.
2) If you do that in a major key you end up with this pattern, harmonizing over each note of the scale: (examples are in the Key of G major)
I = MAJOR ex. GBD
ii = minor ex. ACE
iii = minor ex. BDF#
IV = MAJOR ex. CEG
V = MAJOR ex. DF#A
vi = minor ex. EGB
vii = diminished ex. F#AC
To memorize anything quickly, simply use NOTE CARDS, and make out a set for your Key Signatures, a set for your Chords per Key, and a set for your chord tones per key.
Carry them around with you and when you are waiting in line or just don't have anything to do. Pull them out and start memorizing them. In a month or so you will see dramatic improvements.