Nashville Number System Explained

The Number System

To simplify the process of playing any song in any key, the pros use a number system. This system refers to the ROMAN NUMERALS which represent the functions of the various chords used.
Nashville Number System

1. Chords in any given key center are based on scale tones.
2. By numbering scale tones we create chords built with thirds.
3. For each scale tone there is an appropriate chord, according to the key.
4. Chords have different functions which create a sense of tension and release.
5. Those functions are consistent among all keys, so the same relationships exist between chords and melodies when the key is changed.

First, look at the key of C major. The 7 chords for this key, which correspond to the major scale tones are:

I - Cmaj7
II - Dm7
III - Em7
IV - Fmaj7
V - G7
VI - Am7
VII - Bm7(b5)

Chord progression: Cmaj7 Am7 Dm7 G7
Number System: I vi ii V

Apply the same concept to every key. By learning the functions of the chords, and developing a different point of view about learning a song, you can quickly change keys on the fly with many pieces of music.

When you learn a song, plan on playing it in several keys, and apply the numbers approach to your perception of the song itself. You start with notes, then grow to chords. Now you are forming chord progressions.

The best explanation of the Nashville Number System
will help any musician learn to jam on the spot with greater ease. That's what makes the number system so user friendly.With the number system, you change keys simply by assigning the number 1 to the key of the song and then numbering the other notes accordingly. Learn to play by ear and have fun!

The Nashville Numbering System - 2nd Edition - sheet music at The Nashville Numbering System - 2nd Edition An Aid to Playing by Ear. By Neil Matthews, Jr. Stylistic Method. 64 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (704491)
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