• An Introductory Lesson On The Nashville Number System

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    You arrived at this page because you’re interested in learning about the Nashville number system.

    There are so many ways to represent notes musical notes and we may highlight a few of them before the end of this lesson. But our focus is on the Nashville number system, which has helped a lot of musicians master the notes of the scale in all the keys.

    If you invest the next 8-11 minutes, you’ll have a basic knowledge of the Nashville number system.

    The Nashville Number System – Explained

    The Nashville number system is a method of music notation based on numbers that was developed in the late 50s by Bill Matthews.

    Although before the advent of the Nashville number system, Roman numbers (I, II, III, IV, V, etc.) have been used to notateĀ  music. However, the Nashville number system isĀ  simpler and anyone with little knowledge of music theory can use it.

    “Here’s How It Works”

    The tones of the scale are represented using numbers. For example, the tones of the C major scale:

    …can be represented as follows:

    C is represented as 1

    D is represented as 2

    E is represented as 3

    F is represented as 4

    G is represented as 5

    A is represented as 6

    B is represented as 7

    One of the basic requirements of the Nashville number system is a knowledge of the major scale in all twelve major keys.

    Using the knowledge of the Nashville number system, a piece of music can be transposed from one key to the other.

    For example, a progression from the A minor ninth chord:

    …to the D minor ninth chord:

    …in the key of C major:

    …can be described as a 6-2 chord progression because A is the sixth tone of the C major scale, while D is the second tone of the C major scale.

    The knowledge of the Nashville number of the progression (6-2 chord progression) makes it easier for it to be applied in any other key.

    In the key of Ab major:

    …the 6-2 progression would imply a chord progression between the chord of the sixth tone (F) and the chord of the second tone (Bb) and that would imply a progression from the F minor ninth chord:

    …to the Bb minor ninth chord:

    Using the Nashville number system, the outline of a chord progression can be understood by any musician irrespective of style or skill level.

    Final Words

    Now that you’ve learned about the Nashville number system, feel free to use it as a means of notating your musical ideas, especially chord progressions.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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