The Nashville Number System

nashville-number-systemHold up.. Nashville? Just stick with me fam… So you know all about time & rhythm, and you’ve built some basics from notes, scales and piano chords.

Remember how we put numbers to the notes in the last lesson? That’s actually pretty important.

The Nashville Number System is an important concept to understand because it will make playing and creating our own songs that much easier. You’ll be able to come up with sicker melodies, harmonies and songs in general if you can understand this system and how music flows. It even helps you write better songs, play the guitar easier and also even sing better.

So how does it work?

Basically what you do is assign a number to each note of the scale you’re playing. If you don’t know about notes and scales read our music theory 102 page.

For us (at this early stage in our learning) we’re going to use the numbers 1-8. You can also assign numbers passed this (9 – 16), but that’s beyond what we’re doing right now.

Let’s use the C Major Scale as an example.

In case you forgot, the C-Major Scale goes a lil something like this:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

So all you have to do is assign the numbers 1-8 to each of these piano notes.

What you end up with is:

C = 1

D = 2

E = 3

F = 4

G = 5

A = 6

B = 7

C = 8 (a.k.a octave)

What this means is that the C note is the 1st tone of the C Major Scale. The D note is the 2nd tone of the C Major Scale, the E note is the 3rd tone of the C Major Scale and so on, and so on.

I have no idea why they call it the Nashville number system, but who cares, really?

Why is this important? Well, when you’re building piano chords, chord progressions and playing songs, knowing the numbers of each note in the scale helps you TREMENDOUSLY.

And if you decide you want to play a particular song, but in a different key (i.e. you want to play the song using the F scale instead of the C scale to give it a more unique sound) then it’s easy to transpose the song into that key. (Transpose is a fancy word that means “translating” a song into a different key/note. Sort of…)

Or if you want to play a C Major 7th chord (the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th tones of the C major scale), knowing the different numbers of the scale will let you easily build and play the chord.

So it’s an important thing to know and you gotta memorize it!

Memorize those scale numbers before moving onto learning the next musical scale. You need to know those by heart so that if I was to ask “What’s the 7th tone of the C Major Scale” you’d be able to say “B” without even blinking an eye.

That’s it for now. Trust me… if you try memorizing the Nashville number system for 20-30 minutes a day, everyday, you can bang out these scales in no time.

The next thing to learn is Chord Progressions Using the Circle of Fifths.

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