In Nashville a number system is used in place of conventional charts to facilitate quick transposing of songs. Since each scale step is represented with a number, the need to re-chart the song is eliminated when the singer or producer decides to switch keys.
This system has started to catch hold outside of Nashville, but there’s still some level of confusion as illustrated in the question below.
Q: Although I believe I understand the Nashville Number System, I’m still need some help. In the Key of A, would the numbers and chords be:
1 – A
2 – Bm
3 – C#m
4 – D
5 – E
6 – F#m
7 – G#dim
8 – A
And what if there was a G major in the song, what number would that be and how would that be charted? Help!
A: That would be shown as either a “b7” or a “7b”. Basically, the flatted seventh of the root chord. And, without the “m” or “dim” it would be a major chord.
A minor chord would have a “m” next to it. Diminished chords would have “dim” or the little circle that’s not on the keyboard. Augmented would have aug or +. seven, nine, eleven and thirteen chords would have the number smaller on the right hand upper corner of the number.
So, here is A major, diatonically (note that the “m” and “dim” are used here- different from the chart in the question):
1 – A
2m – Bm
3m – C#m
4 – D
5 – E
6m – F#m
7dim – G#dim
8 wouldn’t be used as it’s just the 1
So, if you saw a “2” it would be a B major (in the key of A), while “2m” would be a B minor.
There are more quirks to the system. If there’s a flatted chord, it is usually notated before the chord. Therefore, (keeping in the key of A) if a G major were to be used in the song, it would be called a flat seven. And notated as “b7” (the small “b” representing the flat symbol).
When there are two chords or more to a bar, they are underlined (and called a split bar). Otherwise it assumed that it’s one number (one chord) per measure. If there’s two chords per bar, it’s assumed they each get two beats, unless under the underline there’s hash marks dividing them otherwise.
Things in the studio and on stage move FAST! So short hand is often used. Someone might say, “the intro is forty-five eleven.”
That means “4. 5. 1. 1.” with each number getting a bar or full measure.
But it is a simple system and great for transposing quickly once you get the hang of it.
Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.