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The Nashville Numbers System

The pro’s secret that will LEVEL UP your music understanding


The Nashville Numbers System: what makes it the pro’s choice?

Chords, the elephant in the room for most songwriters and musicians. Why is it so hard for most to comprehend it? Is there any way to narrow it down to less complicated rules than those in classical and, God forbid, jazz harmony manuals and handbooks? Luckily there is, it is a method called the Nashville Numbers System, and if you want to upgrade your music understanding through it, you are in the right place!

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But hold on, we are raising our bet, and you can find a FREE Google Docs template for you to write your favorite songs in it right away. Keep all your scores consistent by using this template and save time and stress! Too technical for you to handle? Put it on our hands. Find all info about our Chord Chart Transcription Services for scores that use Nashville Numbers. 

Is this helping you? Check out our latest posts on How To Write Amazing Songs and How To Find The Perfect Music Practice Routine for further music tips!



How does this work?

The Nashville Numbers System is a method to notate the harmony of a song. In other words, a way to represent its chords. Now you may be wondering, why would you need a system to symbolize chords if you can write them by their own name? How could that be better? 

Its secret is fairly simple, it represents each chord with the number that corresponds to its degree in the scale. In that sense, any song in the key of C would look like that:


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


The benefits of using this system are:

  1. It’s graphic: Chord changes can be communicated mid-song by holding up the corresponding number of fingers.
  2. It works in every key: You can change the key of songs when recording in the studio or playing live, since the chart will fit every possible one.
  3. It’s flexible: It can be enhanced to include more information, such as chord color, denote a bass note in an inverted chord, depict the chord length, and even its articulation (let ring, accentuate, play it shortly, etc.)
  4. It’s clear: Learn the chords of your favorite songs through their function and avoid getting lost ever again.



Check out these examples (the first is in C major and the second in D major):


Its origins and its creators

In order to understand its origins, we need to go back to our fellow musicians from the 1700s! The Nashville Numbers System is based on very old chord symbolization methods. Baroque musicians already developed a system called figurate bass that used numbers attached to the bass note to describe the chord that should be built on top of it. 



Later, in the 1800s, Roman Numerals became the default tool to analyze harmony. That is the closest classical relative to the Nashville Numbers System. In fact, the latter is based on the same principle but substitutes the Roman for the Arabic numerals. 

Nashville is well considered the capital of music recording, and that doesn’t come without thousands of songs recorded on a daily basis. How do session musicians learn all of them? Now you know. They use the Nashville Numbers System. That saves them precious time and effort that can be focused back on rehearsing and performing at their best.


Get your FREE template

Go ahead and download this template to craft your definitive charts for free. You’ll never have to write another chart when a singer or an instrumentalist requires the band to change the key. Start using this amazing tool that has leaked into every major professional studio. From Nashville to the world, we are offering a FREE template of the ultimate chord notation system!


2 Responses

  1. First let me compliment you on an amazing page…very well done. I’ve been playing and producing in Nashville for more than 50 years and this is the best presentation of the NNS I’ve seen…with one exception.
    On the first example you have C F A- G this is correct.
    Below you have 1 4 6 5 this is incorrect.
    It should read 1 4 6- 5 this is correct.
    In Nashville, if you write a 6, it will be played as a Major chord. The 2-3- 6- 7 dim is a widespread misconception. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Nick, thank you for your kind words and your constructive feedback! We’ll make sure to fix this. Congratulations on a 50+ years career. Kudos! PS: The edits have been applied, feel free to let us know if everything looks correct now.

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