Nashville Number System

P Thought

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I've often mused "why" the Nashville system?
I think the answer is that it's a quick way of getting players all "on the same page" when they're drawn from all over, which I think happens more often in Nashville than in most other places. Those particular guys know all the ins and outs of all their scales, and I'm sure they're fine if a song calls for a controverted 13th or anything like that.
 

BigDaddyLH

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I think the answer is that it's a quick way of getting players all "on the same page" when they're drawn from all over, which I think happens more often in Nashville than in most other places. Those particular guys know all the ins and outs of all their scales, and I'm sure they're fine if a song calls for a controverted 13th or anything like that.

It probably breaks down when faced with too much nonfunctional harmony, but then I don't think they're calling out many Wayne Shorter tunes in Nashville.
 

bottlenecker

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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.

As mentioned earlier, for transposing. I hate it when I get a chart with chord names for C, but then they move it to D, because I'm going to look at that chord name and forget to transpose at some point. With numbers the chart is still good. Especially if you're playing a style where the bandleader calls out half step key changes on the fly.
 

Wildcard_35

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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.

I thought the same thing until I played with bands that don't rehearse together, they just have players who are hired to sit in and it is sometimes necessary to transpose the key up or down. With a three chord blues song, that isn't any big deal, but with something like "Danny Boy" or "You Belong to Me," you need to be able to communicate a lot pretty quickly, so if everyone is down with the Nashville Number System it works.
 

chris m.

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I believe the primary benefit of the Nashville numbering system, or the equivalent in jazz, i.e., I, IV, V7....is that country music hits almost always require singers. If you have a number chart as opposed to a chord chart then it's very easy to change keys quickly as the singer tries to figure out what key is best for him/her.

Part of that is that Nashville relies heavily professional songwriters. When a tune is written by a singer-songwriter, they are naturally going to come up with a chord progression that is in their vocal range. But professional country song writers don't know who is going to end up singing their song for a label. So if they provide the chart in the Nashville numbering system then it is easier and faster to adjust to whatever singer is giving the song a try. And sometimes singer-songwriters get their song on the country charts by letting someone else sing it. So even when there were original chords that were comfortable for the original singer-songwriter the tune still often gets transposed later for another singer.
 

schmee

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Yeah, I get that at jams and impromptu things yelling "1, 4, 5, 2 etc" are easy and most of us do it. I'm just saying, is that easier than yelling "A, D, E, B "? I guess it is if you are using your fingers to show a number, which many of us do.

And if one is a minor... do you yell "minus"? 🤣 So: "A minus" is easier than "A minor"?
 

ndcaster

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Yeah, I get that at jams and impromptu things yelling "1, 4, 5, 2 etc" are easy and most of us do it. I'm just saying, is that easier than yelling "A, D, E, B "? I guess it is if you are using your fingers to show a number, which many of us do.

And if one is a minor... do you yell "minus"? 🤣 So: "A minus" is easier than "A minor"?
use your ears, Luke!
 

schmee

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Well, at any rate, far better players than me found it useful! Carry on.:lol:
carryon.jpg
 
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billy logan

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(White keys only) (I didn't even check what key Lean On Me is in)

IF! you got a keyboard then make your right hand into a 3-tined rake. Thumb, middle finger, pinkie.
Find a 'C" note. Keep r.h. in a 3-tine rake.

Play the "C' note with the r.h. thumb. The middle finger will have to play an "E" note. The pinkie a "G" note.
That's your "I" chord, in this example, a C MAJOR chord.

Lift the 3-tined rake and move the whole shuhbangs one note to the right. D - F - A. Due to the irregular locations of the black and white keys, this is a minor chord, D minor.

Continue this suggested motion two more moves to the right, then back down to the starting C Major chord.

Now you are playing "Lean On Me" in the key of C Major ...... "I" means "ONE" it is a capital "I" so that means it's a major chord.

Some - times in our lives
.. I ...... I .... ii .. iii .. IV

We all have pain
IV .. iii ... ii ... I

We all have sorrr* row
I... ii ...iii ... iii ..... V

btw Like AAT75 said in post #4 - Nashville cats start by assuming 1, 4, and 5 are MAJOR chords while 2, 3, and 6 are minor chords. "7" is scary. "Shout" the Isley Bros.: 1 6 1 6 1 equals in my method I vi I vi I vi I vi.

If you don't have a keyboard then you are at the mercy of guitar's weird overlapping of notes, same note different string, the B-string is an oddball, etc.

My question is how do the Nashville cats indicate a key change? But then I'm so lazy I didn't read the link in Deaf Eddie's post #29.

Also, House of the Rising Sun would be what? i III IV flat-VI. OR!?!? refer from the relative MAJOR? vi I II
IV? I'm trying to Nashville-ize this same thing: A minor - C MAJOR - D MAJOR - F MAJOR here, people!!!

*yeah sort of a V with its 6th added in on top there for a moment there. (If key of C) G Major add E a/k/a G6
 
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WireLine

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Key charges are written key change’ to whatever the new key is…the 1-4-2m-5 stuff remains the same.

The beauty of Nashville numbers is key is basically irrelevant.

I will suggest that a good understanding of music theory is essential to maximizing it. Knowing scales that associate with whatever 4 or 6m is really helps, especially when dealing with inversions
 

codamedia

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The beauty of Nashville numbers is key is basically irrelevant.

The greatest revelation I've had in the business occurred when I started relating to music using numbers rather than chord patterns. Every pattern and relationship become immediately apparent and in turn music became much easier to understand.

I will suggest that a good understanding of music theory is essential to maximizing it.

Absolutely, you still need to know the chords and how they relate to each other so the connection to numbers becomes instant... but it's a special moment when the knowledge of the two meet.
 

klasaine

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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.
Makes transposing easier and faster.

This may have been answered somewhere else in the thread but I didn't see it.
Initially NN evolved because the players would be demoing the same song with multiple singers in different keys to see which vocalist "got the gig" so to speak. This could be an all day thing with like 20 different singers. I'm pretty sure it was either (multi inst session player) Charlie McCoy or maybe Harold Bradley who would arrange and notate with regular numbers (not roman numerals) for the rhythm section because transposing is faster that way - time is money. The legendary vocal group the Jordanaires did it too and they were possibly first.
 
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Ronzo

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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?
Unless you’re working in the NYC Metro Area, where that convention is reversed; 1 finger down is 1 sharp, etc.

Possible reason for that might be the number of “society” orchestras with large horn sections, since flat keys would be easier to see from the bandstand if the leader called it. Example: 3 fingers up is Eb, etc.
 

Spooky88

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I’m going to take some heat for this but here goes. Just learn standard music notation. The Nashville number system is for musical morons. Start by learning intervals in major and minor scales. A good start for a beginning rocker is understanding why all the intervals in a minor pentatonic scale are either minor or perfect in degree and why all the intervals in a major pentatonic scale are major or perfect in degree. Em pentatonic and G major pentatonic are the exact same notes but sound completely different when played in “form”. I’m an “ear” player but can sight read well enough to play in theatre musicals and professional performances where rehearsals (if they happen at all) are minimal. If I can do it, anyone can.
 

unfamous

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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 the Nashville system was not "accurate" it would have fallen by the wayside long since. Because some of us want to transpose from time to time.
 

chaosman12

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This is just an observation and probably won't further your understanding:

In algebra, relationships are generalized by substituting letters for numbers.

In the NN system, relationships are generalized by substituting numbers for letters.
 

chris m.

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I would also note that understanding relationships among chords is a huge step in understanding typical chord progressions and why they work. For example, simple straight ahead blues is based on I7- IV7- V7. Jazz incorporates a lot of ii-V7-I progressions. Something like Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay has its special sound because it goes from the I to the III7 in the opening line of each verse.

Country songs tend to use the same old progressions. To studio guys they are as familiar and comfortable as a well-worn baseball cap. They can take one look at a Nashville number chart and picture/hear the song in their head almost immediately. But the chart also serves as a helpful mnemonic as they transpose from one key to another, searching for just the right key for the singer.

Take it up about five levels. A classically trained conductor can look at a chart for a symphony and hear the music in their head across all of the parts. Maybe not at first glance, but after doing their homework they sure can. Pretty dang amazing. See this YouTube video, starting around 5 minutes--

 




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