The system that will UPGRADE your music understanding
The Nashville Numbers: Why is it any good?
Harmony, aka 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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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:
- It’s graphic: Chord changes can be communicated mid-song by holding up the corresponding number of fingers.
- 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.
- It’s flexible: It can be enhanced to include more information, such as chord color, denote a bass note in an inverted chord, depic the chord length, and even its articulation (let ring, accentuate, play it shortly, etc.)
- It’s guiding: 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 Numeral 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, and that saves
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