• # Why The Number System Is So Important

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I find it surprising the number of musicians who don’t understand or haven’t mastered the number system.

It is one of the single, most important elements of playing by ear.

On a grander level, it allows musicians to speak on a “universal level.” We can describe what we’re doing in a song without relying solely on letters. It’s not, “D minor to G dominant 7 to C major 7” anymore. Now it’s, “2-5-1” in C!

Better yet, because we’re using numbers to describe a string of chords (aka – “chord progression“), we can take this same progression to ANY key by simply “recalibrating” our numbers to the new key.

In other words, sure, in C major, a 2-5-1 is a chord on D moving to a chord on G, ending with a chord on C.

(Taking this further, we even know what chords are most likely to be played because each tone naturally creates a particular chord. In this case, the 2nd tone of the scale [D] is usually minor, the 5th tone [G] is usually dominant, and the 1st tone [C] is usually major).

To take this to a new key if you understand numbers is pretty simple.

In F major, this same progression is:

G minor 7
C dominant 7
F major 7

In Bb major, it’s:

C minor 7
F dominant 7
Bb major 7

How did I do this?

By simply numbering the major scales of each of these keys.

For example, the C major scale is: C D E F G A B C.

But I don’t stop there. I simply number this scale starting at 1.

C is 1
D is 2
E is 3
F is 4
G is 5
A is 6
B is 7.

That’s it. Pretty simple.

The more difficult part is doing this in all 12 keys and memorizing each tone.

Luckily, you’ve got me!

I’ve created a free video tutorial emphasizing the importance of numbers. It’s the second video in a free series I’m giving away.

While I haven’t talked about “finding the key of a song,” that’s what you’ll be studying first and foremost since that’s the MOST important skill you’ll need as an ear musician.

Then once you finish that video, the next video on the number system will be unlocked.

As a free bonus, I also throw in flash cards to help you study the number system. Lots of people have marveled over this method.

Until next time –

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#### Jermaine Griggs

Founder at HearandPlay.com
Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

#### Latest posts by Jermaine Griggs (see all)

1 Patrick Weathersby

I am greatful Jermaine that you made learning the numbers system easy. For years I struggled with this and I could not quite figure how to do this. Now I have a full understanding on how the numbers system work in relations to chords progressions.

Thank You

2 cyril

How do I get SONG ROBOT? The Price?

3 sunfly

Yes numbers systems helps a great deal and i have found it very useful with triads formed from the 1 chord and its inversions.In root position the 1 chord put in 1st inversion easily changes to a 3 chord and in 2nd inversion easily changes to a 6 chord which i remember as 136.If if you apply the same principle and move to a 2 chord you get 247 and to a 3 chord 351 and to a 4 chord 462 and to a 5 chord 573 and a 6 chord 614 and to a 7 chord 725 check it out and how the numbers rotate in sequence which is often the case so it helps a lot to remember so much more quickly in music.

4 Tony

I’m actually wondering if the numbering system is altered in some ways for pentatonic, blues scale and modes?

5 anthonymalone

I understand the degree of scale and enterval but not as fast like 2 second. I like jazz and gospel. I feel if you can lay jazz you can play gospel

6 anthonymalone

I like to learn jazz progress. I do not understant how a third inversion become a 6 chord. the root is CEG the first inversion EGC and the second inversion is GCEand the third inversion is GCE the six chord in C Maj is ACE.