Great Rhythm Concepts and The Nashville Number System

Beginner Guitar Chords & Lessons Video - Modern Rhythm Techniques & The Nashville Number System! Fear Not!!... This video and short article will TAKE THE CONFUSION out of the Nashville Number System and you will understand music in a whole new light!

The Nashville Number System is a very easy method of writing music arrangements that was developed by Nashville musicians based on the degrees of the scale (do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti ..)

In short, the words (or sounds) are now the Numbers...

This system uses Roman Numerals ( I II III etc. ) or Arabic Numbers (1 2 3 etc..) instead of letters (A,B,C)

This is because people do not always play the same song in the same key. Also, some will use a capo, while others will not.

This system prevents the musician from having to rewrite chord charts to reflect their own key preference.

When and If the song key is changed, the numbers will always be the same!!

Just a quick note at the top of the chart and you're ready to roll.

Whatever the Root KEY is, Thats' The 1! All numbers are relative to the key you decide to play the song in.

For example, the "3rd" note of a C scale is an E note; using the root (C) as the number one, and counting upwards ie. C = 1, D = 2, and E = 3, etc.

With the Nashville Number System, we base Numbers by Key to find what they are.

The numbers are the notes in the Major scale in order. For example, in C we have:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

1    2    3    4    5   6    7    1

So a 1-6-2-5-1 Progression in the "Key of C" is: C  Am  Dm  G7  C

Here are some basics; The first thing to remember is the "Sound" of the numbers (or chords).

In a major key the "natural qualities" of the chords are:

1 - Major

2 - Minor

3 - Minor

4 - Major

5 - Major

6 - Minor

7 - Minor Diminished

You can see how this works if you have access to a piano. Using only the white keys ( the key of C ), start with a C Major triad with C-E-G. Using the same fingering, just move the chord up 1 white key at a time and you'll hear the minor/major, etc..

The next thing to know is that you can alter the chords.

The 2 is naturally a minor. But we can make it major by writing 2M or IIM, or 2Ma IIMa, etc..

There is no exact standardization of the way the chords are written in the number system.

If a song in "A" goes to a G Major it will be a 7b, (seven-flat with G being the dominant 7 of A)

(This *could also be a 6# sharp but you'll usually never see this.

So, you will also see Numbers with a "b" after them (meaning flat)...

They can be in Roman Numerals ( I II III etc. ) or Arabic Numbers (1 2 3 etc..)

If a chord is NOT written with an alteration, assume it to be the natural quality.

Take this progression; 1 2 3 4 1 - In C, it would be, C Major, D Minor, E minor, F Major, C Major

Again, there are no exact rules for the way the chords are written.

You still need to have good knowledge of "typical & standard" progressions to understand the charts.

Now, the "/" is used to indicate a different bass note from the root of the chord.

A few common non-root bass notes are: 1/3  4/6  5/7 - The Guitar would (typically) play the first number and the bass the second #.

So the 1/3 (1 over 3) would be a G chord with the bass playing a B note...

Think of it as a "mental capo"... You can learn to associate the SOUND of a chord or a progression with a number, or series of numbers. So even if you don't know what key a song is in, if you hear a C Ami F G progression, you know it is a 1 6 4 5 progression. You know the SOUND of that progression.

Reducing a chord chart to a numerical expression, is nothing new. "Figured bass" was used in Bach's time, and the solfeggio method, (the do, re, mi's,) of Italian musical pedagogy performed a function similar to the number system.

What these approaches share is the naming of scale degrees - Do, Re, Mi = one, two, three

I really hope this helps you understand the Number System better and that this short article + Video takes some confusion out of music!