The Nashville Numbering System

The Nashville system uses numbers insead of the note names to define notes and chords in a song. It is based on the fact that any major scale has seven different notes before the scale repeats. So the numbers used represent the notes of the scale, in order.

(My preference, when writing note names, is to use lower case for the notes, and upper case for the chords. I suppose you could do the same with numbers if you want, and use Roman numerals for one or the other. How fine you want to cut it is up to you.)

For the key of C, these would be: 1=c, 2=d, 3=e, 4=f, 5=g,6=a, 7=b, and back to the 1, =c.

For the key of G, we change the meaning of the numbers, to 1=g, 2=a, 3=b, 4=c, 5=d, 6=e, 7=f#, and back to the1,=g.

That's about all there is to it, really; people have come up with a gazillion different ways to use this concept in writing down arrangements in chord chart format, but basically you just start thinking in terms of the numbers, no matter which key you are in.

The big advantage to all this is it makes it much easier to keep up with when transposing to other keys, and makes communication with other musicians much easier. You're in the key of G, and you hold up five fingers, and that means you're going to the D chord.

The tricky part is training your ear to recognize the changes in terms of the numbers. Once you do that, you're pretty much free.

If you want some further information on the Nashville system, there are a ton of sources out there you can access. Try one of these:Dr Duckor Nashville System