# Nashville Number System

#### muusicman

##### Tele-Meister
I’m trying to learn the Nashville Number System. I currently don’t have a guitar in front of me. I’m getting ready to get them all properly setup. At this point I just play by ear. I know some chords from when I played years ago but that’s really as far as I got. Usually when I would play I would listen to a song over and over while finding the notes on the guitar and then do it all over again until I hopefully had it memorized. I know that’s a wonky way to do it but that was my method. I’m more confused now than I was before I started watching videos on the system. Please pray for me!

#### corliss1

##### Poster Extraordinaire
Gold Supporter
Literally all it means is "we're doing the song with these chords"

You are given the numbers and a key. So if the numbers are I IV V and the key is C, those chords are C, F, and G. That's it, that's all it means. THEN you can just change the key without rewriting the chart. C is too high for your singer? Fine, let's do it in Bb - now it's Bb, Eb, F.

#### muusicman

##### Tele-Meister
Literally all it means is "we're doing the song with these chords"

You are given the numbers and a key. So if the numbers are I IV V and the key is C, those chords are C, F, and G. That's it, that's all it means. THEN you can just change the key without rewriting the chart. C is too high for your singer? Fine, let's do it in Bb - now it's Bb, Eb, F.
I do semi understand that oddly enough. Problem is, when I first picked up a guitar years ago I never learned scales. I’m the early 00’s I actually took a guitar course at a local community college. I quit halfway through because he was teaching theory and I leaned by ear. He didn’t like me doing that.

#### AAT65

##### Poster Extraordinaire
Literally all it means is "we're doing the song with these chords"

You are given the numbers and a key. So if the numbers are I IV V and the key is C, those chords are C, F, and G. That's it, that's all it means. THEN you can just change the key without rewriting the chart. C is too high for your singer? Fine, let's do it in Bb - now it's Bb, Eb, F.
...except I believe to be really "Nashville" you use Roman numerals 1, 4, 5) and assume the chords are diatonic to the major scale (1, 4, 5 are major: 2, 3, 6 are minor: 7 is "the funny one"*).

On a guitar it's relatively easy to learn the main patterns as relative movements from the root: 4 is up one string, 5 is either down one string or up one string + 2 frets, 6 is down 3 frets or down one string and up 2 frets.

* yes I know what it's really called, but who wants to start a debate on "half diminished" vs "m7b5"??

#### muusicman

##### Tele-Meister
...except I believe to be really "Nashville" you use Roman numerals 1, 4, 5) and assume the chords are diatonic to the major scale (1, 4, 5 are major: 2, 3, 6 are minor: 7 is "the funny one"*).

On a guitar it's relatively easy to learn the main patterns as relative movements from the root: 4 is up one string, 5 is either down one string or up one string + 2 frets, 6 is down 3 frets or down one string and up 2 frets.

* yes I know what it's really called, but who wants to start a debate on "half diminished" vs "m7b5"??
Yep. Definitely confused now lol

#### historicus146

##### Tele-Afflicted
Isnt there reference to key by holding up fingers for how many #s?
ie holding up one finger means you are in the key of G, one sharp......right?

#### bottlenecker

##### Poster Extraordinaire
Yep. Definitely confused now lol
Go learn the major and minor scales first. The numbers refer to which tone of the scale a chord is based on. If you don't know any scale, the numbers will be useless to you.

#### teletail

##### Friend of Leo's
If you don’t know the notes on your guitar, your major scales, and chords, the Nashville system will be of limited use.

#### AAT65

##### Poster Extraordinaire
Yep. Definitely confused now lol
Sorry didn't mean to confuse!! How can I help de-confuse things??

#### RodeoTex

##### Doctor of Teleocity
I got some chord book with a rotating transparent wheel on the front cover and all the stuff printed. That helped.
Amazon.

#### OmegaWoods

##### Tele-Afflicted
Go watch Chris Sherland's video on YT about harmonizing scales and see if it helps.

His theory explanations are clear and related to the fretboard directly. I don't know of a better basic guitar theory teacher.

#### corliss1

##### Poster Extraordinaire
Gold Supporter
Don't make it complicated. For 99% of the stuff you'll be doing you need a major scale. I just remember this pattern:

start-whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

That's how many steps between each note - for example:

s-W-W-F-W-W-W-H
would be
C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

That's it, nothing more.

So let's say you see a chart with this:

I - vi - IV - V7

That would mean you play: C - Am - F - G7

Does that help clear things up?

#### suthol

##### Friend of Leo's
holding up one finger means you are in the key of G, one sharp......right?
I thought it meant "find another key, I don't like that one"

#### kbold

##### Friend of Leo's
Whatever key is specified, the Roman numeral is the degree of that keys major scale.

1) Adding a flat (where applicable) then gives you all the notes (7 diatonic & 5 non-diatonic)
The flat (b) here represents a minor degree of the scale.
(i.e. the m2nd, m3rd, m5th, m6th, and m7th are written as bII, bIII, bV, bVI, bVII)
e.g. progression I - bVII - IV - I
chords in the key of C: C - Bb - F - C
chords in the key of A: A - G - D - A
i.e. the flat does not indicate a flat note: rather that that degree of the scale is flat
Also, the bVII indicates a Mixolidion progression (since the b7th occurs in the Mixolidian mode)

2) If the Roman numeral is lower case, it indicates a minor chord/triad.
e.g. progression i - bVII - v - bVI
chords in the key of E: Em - D - Bm - C
The flat 6th and 7th notes indicate a natural minor scale (Aeolian mode)
Note: The upper/lower case does not specify any chord extensions (e.g. 7th, 9th, 11th, m7, m6 etc, etc)

3) There are 2 pointers to the progressions modal character:
1) which degrees are natural or flat
i.e. determines interval sequence (tone/semitone sequence)
2) which degrees are upper case (major chord) or lower case (minor chord)
i.e. unless there is a modal change in the song, the sequence of minor or major chords is specific to a mode
e.g. intervals/chords for the Aeolian (minor) mode are: i - ii - bIII - iv - v - bVI - bVII
The C Aeolian chords would be: Cm - Dm(7b5) - Eb - Fm - Gm - Ab - Bb

##### Tele Axpert
Isnt there reference to key by holding up fingers for how many #s?
ie holding up one finger means you are in the key of G, one sharp......right?

is that incorporated into "Nashville"? Jazz guys have been doing that forever. 1 finger up is one sharp etc... 1 finger down is one flat etc -- or aren't there flat keys in Nashville?

#### schmee

##### Telefied
Silver Supporter
I've often mused "why" the Nashville system?
Why not just say, or write, the chord or note? it's as easy as using the number and more accurate.

I do find that Bassists like the number system, they dont have to worry about 7th's and 9th's and etc as much.

##### Tele Axpert
I've often mused "why" the Nashville system?
Why not just say, or write, the chord or note? it's as easy as using the number and more accurate.

I do find that Bassists like the number system, they dont have to worry about 7th's and 9th's and etc as much.

If you write out I IV V (or 1 4 5), you are writing the *function* not just the chord. Also, it make transposing easier.

#### P Thought

##### Doctor of Teleocity
...except I believe to be really "Nashville" you use Roman numerals 1, 4, 5) and assume the chords are diatonic to the major scale (1, 4, 5 are major: 2, 3, 6 are minor: 7 is "the funny one"*).
I think AAT65 has this right, but meant to say Arabic numerals.

My casual study of Nashville Numbering (I'm sure my understanding has deficiencies) has at least helped me to understand intervals and scale degrees within songs I learn or write. One time, looking at a key scale and spelling out the chords at each of its intervals, I finally understood what is meant by the term "stacked thirds", and why the majors are majors, the minors are minors, and the funny one is so funny.

Silver Supporter
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