# Nashville number system question

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by rxtech, Jul 7, 2019.

1. ### rxtechTele-Holic

Age:
53
Posts:
528
Joined:
Nov 8, 2004
Location:
central california
I have printed off two separate charts regarding the Nashville number system. One of them has the number two, three, and six chords as a minor chord while another chart does not. For instance, if I were playing in the key of G, one chart shows the two, three, and six cord as A, B, and E respectively, while another chart shows them listed as a minor, B minor, and E minor. Just trying to understand which chart I should use.

2. ### BergyTele-Holic

Age:
36
Posts:
779
Joined:
Dec 12, 2018
Location:
Denver
I'd default to the diatonic chords, A minor, B minor and E minor. They are all considered diatonic to the key of G, because they are spelled out only using pitches that are contained within the G major scale.

The G major scale is the following collection of pitches: G, A, B, C, D, E and F#. If you spell an A tertial triad (tonic, third and fifth) using only those pitches you'll get a A minor chord (A, C and E). If you spell a B tertial triad using only those pitches you'll get a B minor triad (B, D and F#). If you spell out an E tertial triad using only those pitches, you'll get an E minor triad (E, G and B).

nojazzhere, telepraise and mrmousey like this.
3. ### GeoFriend of Leo's

Age:
71
Posts:
4,884
Joined:
Mar 17, 2003
Location:
Hendersonville, TN
Well probably the second is better for someone that doesn't have knowledge for the chords in that key or is not as familiar with that system.
The first one assumes the reader knows that in natural Key G (major) 2, 3 and 6 are always minor chords.

Apparently this system is still fairly popular. It was used lot in Nashville area in the '70s but not much
here, myself at all since. I still tend to think in those terms somewhat generally but it is more
of just what key the song is in. Both are pretty much approaching the same thing from a
different perspective.

Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
4. ### DennyfTele-Afflicted

Posts:
1,457
Joined:
Feb 9, 2011
Location:
Mt. Holly, NC USA
In the version that indicates the minors, how are they indicated? One common way is using a minus sign, e.g. 2-, 3-, 6-. I like that 'cuz it removes any ambiguity .

5. ### rxtechTele-Holic

Age:
53
Posts:
528
Joined:
Nov 8, 2004
Location:
central california
Neither one used the - symbol, but I did see it used on another chart or two.

6. ### BulldoggioTele-MeisterSilver Supporter

Posts:
165
Joined:
Nov 5, 2015
Location:
Mid South
in common use, all chords are assumed to be major unless designated otherwise. A slash is the usual designation for a minor chord.

7. ### rxtechTele-Holic

Age:
53
Posts:
528
Joined:
Nov 8, 2004
Location:
central california
Thanks!

Geo likes this.

Posts:
36,651
Joined:
Mar 17, 2003
Location:
Lubbock, TX
Precision.
...what a concept....
I like the use of Roman numerals even though I am not formally trained. I agree that if the key is major then that any hired musician would accept that the two, three and six cords are minor. If one understands that numbering of the intervals..and therefore the chords...from 1 thru 7...then using the Roman numerals, which can differentiate with capitals, is simple and easily understood, ime.
For a major scale, the chords would be I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii—
That said, I would understand 2-, 3-, etc.... or, if no explanation were given and all of those capital letters were printed there, I would have a decision to make. Do I trust the person writing the charts to know the two chord is a minor or is this a very strangely composed song here?!? I would play Am, Bm, Em.

Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
Wildcard_35 likes this.
9. ### rxtechTele-Holic

Age:
53
Posts:
528
Joined:
Nov 8, 2004
Location:
central california
Thanks, that makes sense!

10. ### gtrplrTele-Holic

Age:
67
Posts:
522
Joined:
May 22, 2008
Location:
Nashville, TN
A chart is written to the song. If the song uses a minor chord it is designated as such. If it is not indicated by the “slash” or “minus sign” following the number, it is a major chord.

I subbed at Nashville Cowboy Church this morning, as I do quite often. Charts are mandatory for this kind of work. With only 75 minutes to rehearse four people doing 9 songs, it simply wouldn’t be possible without them.

Wildcard_35 likes this.
11. ### strat a variousFriend of Leo's

Posts:
3,273
Joined:
May 9, 2008
Location:
Texas
The actual "Nashville" number system is pretty complicated until you get used to it. It amounts to a lot more than numbering thechords of the Major Diatonic Chord Scale, which is what many players associate with that short-hand system. I never got used to it, even though I'm well familiar with the Major and Minor Diatonic Chord Scales and how to harmonize scales as chords. A real studio player from Nashville, or who has worked in those studios frequently, should weigh in with a thorough explanation ... it's fascinating.

12. ### Teleguy61Friend of Leo's

Posts:
3,161
Joined:
May 17, 2010
Location:
Eastern Massachusetts
If you're on a gig, and the guy who knows the tune is calling out numbers for the changes, generally you assume the II, III, and VI are minors, unless the guy calling the changes says "III major" etc.
If the IV chord is a minor, the call is "IV minor".
It is generally assumed the chords being called are the major diatonic chord scale.
That's how it has worked on gigs I have done.

Posts:
36,651
Joined:
Mar 17, 2003
Location:
Lubbock, TX
14. ### twangjeffTele-Afflicted

Posts:
1,306
Joined:
Feb 2, 2010
Location:
Houston, TX
I just had this conversation with someone... there is no substitute for actually learning the material. With numbers, there is no way to notate the signature licks in a song, melody, etc. You could hand the same number chart to 5 different people and they will play 5 different things.

I would say that if you are using a number chart, then upper and lower case Roman numerals with chord qualities after would be best. IE- I, ii-7, iii-, IV, V7, etc. etc.

nojazzhere likes this.
15. ### rxtechTele-Holic

Age:
53
Posts:
528
Joined:
Nov 8, 2004
Location:
central california
Thanks!

Teleguy61 likes this.

Posts:
54,160
Joined:
Sep 1, 2009
Location:
Kelowna, BC, Canuckistan
I thought the main innovation of Nashville Numbering over the usual chord notation was not using them tricky Roman numerals!

17. ### twangjeffTele-Afflicted

Posts:
1,306
Joined:
Feb 2, 2010
Location:
Houston, TX
I think the main innovation of the Nashville Number system is to make people who can't read music feel as though they can. True story, several years ago, I got a great gig playing in the orchestra for a musical. The guitarist that they hired said that he could read music, they gave him his copy of the guitar book and he asked the MD where the numbers were! They called me and I came in and basically read 90% of the show with one rehearsal. Thursday-Sunday, 6 shows, \$400 a pop, not bad scratch.

Of course that is the benefit of writing music, in musical notation, anybody who reads that language can step in and give you exactly what you want them to play. If you hand that guitar book to 5 different guitar players, they will play the same thing. With a number chart, if you hand it to five different players, you will get five different results.

nojazzhere likes this.
18. ### DNestlerTele-Meister

Posts:
401
Joined:
Dec 26, 2008
Location:
Hauts de France
A C, an Eb, and a G walk in to a bar and order a drink. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve minors."

-ba-dump. tss.

wtk0315 likes this.
19. ### codamediaPoster Extraordinaire

Posts:
5,215
Joined:
Apr 4, 2009
Location:
You are trying to compare a number chart with full notation but that is not accurate. A number chart is a replacement for a simple chord chart.... nothing more. It's a rough roadmap of where the song is going. I would argue that if you hand 5 musicians a chord chart (or lead sheet) you will get 5 different results as well.

The number system is extremely efficient in the studio when the music is not as strictly written. The signature lines are not yet created (for the most part)... and the solo's are 90% ad lib. The feel is dictated by the session leader, the signature lines are created on the fly by the players, solo's are ad lib, and when the producer or artist changes his mind about the key... no problem - the chart is still relevant and accurate.

In a live situation they are really handy because they don't have to be transposed. There is a general assumption that you already know how the song goes. If you don't, the band will generally pull you through it... all you need to do is keep up with the changes.

If you accept the number chart for what it is (a chord chart / road map) and not a hillbilly replacement to full notation you may open your mind to it's benefits.

Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
King Creole, Teleguy61 and Frontier9 like this.
20. ### twangjeffTele-Afflicted

Posts:
1,306
Joined:
Feb 2, 2010
Location:
Houston, TX
1

Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.