The Major System
Remembering Very Long Numbers
The Major Memory System is one of the most powerful memory systems available. It takes a lot of time to master but, once learned, is very powerful.
The technique often forms the basis of some of the extraordinary, almost magical, memory feats performed by stage magicians and memory performers.
The system works by converting number sequences into nouns, nouns into images, and linking images into sequences. These sequences can be very complex and detailed.
How to Use the Major System
The building blocks of the system are the association of the numbers below with the following consonant sounds:
0 – s, z, soft-c – remember as 'z is first letter of zero'
1 – d, t, th – remember as letters with 1 downstroke
2 – n – remember as having 2 downstrokes
3 – m – has three downstrokes
4 – r – imagine a 4 and an R glued together back-to-back
5 – L – imagine the 5 propped up against a book end (L)
6 – j, sh, soft-ch, dg, soft-g – g is 6 rotated 180 degrees.
7 – k, hard-ch, hard-c, hard-g, ng – imagine K as two 7s rotated and glued together
8 – f, v – imagine the bottom loop of the 8 as an eFfluent pipe discharging waste (letter image of F in alphabet system)
9 – p, b – b as 9 rotated 180 degrees.
These associations need to be learned thoroughly before going further with the technique.
Starting to Use the Major System
The system operates on a number of levels, depending on the amount of time you are prepared to devote to learning the system.
The first level, which involves coding single digit numbers into small words, functions almost as a poor relation of the number/rhyme system. It is at higher levels that you can unleash the real power of the system. You should, however, learn to use this first level before moving on.
The trick with converting numbers into words is to use only the consonants that code information within the word, while using vowels to pad the consonants out with meaning. If you do have to use other consonants to make up a word, use only those that do not code for numbers – i.e. h, q, w, x, and y.
At the first level we code each number into a short noun. This is made up of the consonant coding for the number, and vowels that turn the consonant into a word. On a sheet of paper, write the numbers 0 to 9, and apply these rules to create your own memory words. Some examples are shown below:
0 – saw
1 – toe
2 – neigh
3 – ma
4 – ray
5 – law
6 – jaw
7 – key
8 – fee
9 – pie
You can use these words in association much like the other peg technique memory words.
Moving to the Second Level
Similar rules apply to creating a standard word from two numbers. It is best not to try to use a single number word as a root, as this can confuse the image.
Write down the numbers 01 to 99, and apply the rules to create memory words for yourself.
A few examples are shown below:
09 – z, p – zap
17 – t, ch – tech
23 – n, m – name
36 – m, sh – mesh
41 – r,s – rose
52 – l, n – line
64 – ch, r – chair
75 – k, l – keel
89 – f, p – fop
98 – b, f – beef
Taking the Major System Further
Just using double number words may be enough to make this a sufficiently powerful mnemonic for you. Alternatively you may decide to use triple number words, using the same construction rules as double number words.
182 – d, v, n – Devon
304 – m, s, r – miser
400 – r, c, s – races
651 – j, l, d – jellied
801 – f, z, d – fazed
Even though you can construct words from first principles each time, at this level of complexity it may be worth writing them down to make them easier to remember. You can then run through them many times to strengthen the link in your mind between the numbers and the associated words. This will help you to remember the appropriate word faster.
Using Words to Remember Long Numbers
Once you have come up with words and images to link to your numbers, you can start to apply the technique to remember, for example, long numbers. A good way of doing this is to associate Major System words with stops on a journey (see 7.1.5).
The number Pi is 3.14159265359 (to 11 decimal places). Using the major system and the journey system (see example) together, I can remember this as:
- Passing my Ma (3) by the front door of my house.
- Seeing that someone has dared (1,4,1) to sleep under the rose bush in the garden.
- Someone has tied a loop (5,9) of yellow ribbon onto the steering wheel of my car.
- I see a poster with a photo of a steaming pile of sausages and mashed potato, with the title 'glorious nosh' (2,7) at the end of the road.
- A lama (5,3) is grazing on grass outside the garage forecourt.
- Another loop (5,9) of yellow ribbon has been tied around the railway bridge. This is getting strange!
The major memory system works by linking numbers to consonants, and then by linking these into words. By using the images these words create, and linking them together with the journey system, large amounts of information can be accurately memorized.