What is the Nashville Number System?
Developed by Neal Matthews in the late 1950s, the Nashville Number System is a method of transcribing music by denoting the scale degree on which a chord is built.
It’s essentially a trick that musicians use to figure out chord progressions on the fly. And it’s an easy tool to use if you understand how music works.
It’s actually been around for about four hundred years but sometime during the past fifty years (circa 1953-2003) Nashville got the credit.
The Nashville Number System is similar to the widely used “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti” method, however the Nashville Number System uses numerals to represent each of the notes along scale.
For example, in the key of G, the numbers would be:
G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5, E=6, F#=7, G=8.
How do I use it?
A songwriter or producer might specify a key on a song chart and then use numbers to indicate the changes. These numbers won’t change when transposing the song into another key.
Lets take the Verse from The Beatles’ Hey Jude as an example:
In chord format
D A A7 D G D A D
In the Nashville Number System
In the key of D it’s: 1 5 5 1 4 1 5 1.
We can now take those numbers and transpose it to the key of E to get: E B B7 E A E B E.
It’s a fantastic tool to have up your sleeve and I’m sure you’ll find it incredibly useful.
Click the link below to download a Nashville Chord Number System poster: