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#388672 - 08/14/02 03:46 PM Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,273
Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content


Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,273
Indianapolis, IN USA
Nashville's Number Chart System
Written By Mike Dunbar

Part one: Scale and Key

Nashville's number chart system is a shorthand method of writing musical arrangements that was developed by Nashville studio musicians. It is a powerful tool in the written communication of music. Reducing a chord chart to a numerical expression, however, was nothing new. "Figured bass" was used in Bach's time, and the solfeggio method, (the do, re, mi's,) of Italian musical pedagogy performed a function similar to the number system. What these approaches share is the naming of scale degrees. Do, Re, Mi; one, two, three; tonic, super-tonic, mediant; and l, ll, lll all name the degrees of the diatonic scale. Therefore we begin with a definition of this scale.

Diatonic means "through the tones." A vibrating string or horn naturally gives us a set of tones or notes we can use in melodies. A diatonic scale arranges these notes in ascending or descending order. A type of diatonic scale is called the major scale.

The major scale is the cornerstone of Western music. (It's the cornerstone of Country and Western too!) Simply put, it's the old standby:

Do Re Mi_Fa Sol La Ti_Do
½ ½

This scale is made up of two kinds of steps, half steps and whole steps. The half step is the smallest distance between two notes, as from one fret to another on a guitar, or from one key to the very next on a keyboard. The Italians used the "ee" sound to mark it. Mi to Fa and Ti to Do are half steps. Whole steps are the distance of two half steps, two frets, or two keys on a keyboard. Do to Re, Re to Mi, Fa to Sol, Sol to La, and La to Ti are whole-steps.

Enter numbers. Do become 1, Re becomes 2, Mi becomes 3, Fa becomes 4, Sol becomes 5, La becomes 6, and Ti becomes 7.The major scale is now expressed as:

1 2 3_4 5 6 7_1
h h

Here the half steps occur between 3 and 4, and 7 and 1. This arrangement of whole and half steps will be the same no matter what key you are in, bringing us to the subject of keys. To become fluent with the Nashville number system you must know the musical keys.

Key means scale. If you are using a C major scale, then you are in the key of C major. If you are in the key of F then you are using an F scale. The seven letter names ABCDEFG give you a natural C major scale. CDEFGAB is 1234567 with half steps from E to F and B to C. It stands to reason, then, that if you started with G the half steps would be in the wrong place. GABCDEF has half steps between B and C (that's between 3 and 4, OK so far!) It also has half steps between E and F (between 6 and 7, bummer!) To fix it you put a sharp on F. GABCDEF# has the right half steps. We have achieved Major Scale. This is why we use a number of sharps or flats at the beginning of a piece of music to signify the key. We need them to build a major scale on the desired note. Without them the half steps fall in the wrong place and the music sounds foreign.

The keys are as follows:

CDEFGABC
GABCDEF#G FGABbCDEF
DEF#GABC#D BbCDEbFGBb
ABC#DEF#G#A EbFGAbBbCDEb
EF#G#ABC#D#E AbBbCDbEbFGAb
BC#D#EF#G#A#B DbEbFGbAbBbCDb
F#G#A#BC#D#E#F# GbAbBbCbDbEbFGb
C#D#E#F#G#A#B#C# CbDbEbFbGbAbBbCb


Just remember that each one of these scales or keys is forming the relationship of: whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, or, in other words: 12345671.

Sometimes you might use notes or chords that are not found in the key. If, for example, you had a Bb in the key of C, it would be a b7. If you had a G# in the key of C, it would be a #5. A b3 in the key of G would be Bb. A b2 in the key of D would be Eb.

A good strategy to develop an ear for the system is to convert simple melodies to numbers. "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" would be: 1 1 5 5 6 6 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1. Try doing this with " Happy Birthday." I'll give you a hint…1 is usually the last note of the song, (look at "Twinkle, Twinkle….") several simple songs would prepare you for the next part in this series, Chords.

If you feel lost, sing "Twinkle, Twinkle…" with numbers, then sing the do re mi's with numbers, over and over until you can do them quickly, and suddenly you'll get it. Don't give up.

This series is designed to give songwriters and musicians a basic understanding of the number system, for a more detailed knowledge of the system I highly recommend "the Nashville Number System" by Chas Williams.

[This message has been edited by Mike Dunbar (edited 08-18-2002).]


Brian Austin Whitney
Founder
Just Plain Folks
jpfolkspro@aol.com
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney


#388673 - 08/15/02 09:56 AM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
One correction: For some reason, the "1/2" and "h" ended up aligned left rather than being directly under the lines between 3 and 4' 6 and 7; or Mi and Fa, Ti and Do. Sorry for this little glitch.


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388674 - 08/16/02 06:23 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Graham Henderson (D) Offline
Graham Henderson (D)  Offline

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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Esperance. West Australia
I gota tell the lyricist lot this is here as i firmly believe a little musical understanding goes a long way.
Toward the alignment thing here guys.
To keep my chords changes in place on my lyric sheets i use periods twix them and that would work here me thinks.I will try in the box.
T equals a Tone and S equals a Semitone.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
.T.T.S.T.T.T.S
Regards.
Graham

------------------
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/grahamhenderson_music.htm

#388675 - 08/16/02 06:33 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
Brilliant, Graham! I would expect no less.


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388676 - 08/18/02 09:49 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Graham Henderson (D) Offline
Graham Henderson (D)  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Esperance. West Australia
Aw Shucks. 'Tweren't nuthin' Mike. But thanks anyway.
I figured that out after posting my first lead sheat on Shayne vaughan's TWS way back when. Works great in e-mails too.
WQhich is reall handy now as because of virus', a lot of people do not like to get, or even accept attachments.
I do the chords and lines of periods in bold and find it also keeps the lyric line from jumbling when reading and me losing my place.
Gotta to remember to put periods in the front on any lines the chord change is somewhere twix start and finish otherwise it will slip.
I am enjoying the read on this Nashville numbers caper but think I will stick to real music and my wonder chart.
Regards.
Graham

------------------
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/grahamhenderson_music.htm

#388677 - 10/25/02 11:33 AM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
There's been some interest in the number system and music theory in general. These posts give an overview of the number system, keys, chord construction, scales, time, and theory in general using the number system as the language.

I'm bumping these and the key memory tricks up to the top.

------------------
Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388678 - 02/03/03 02:39 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bump

------------------
Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388679 - 05/21/03 07:43 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
and another bump

------------------
Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388680 - 05/21/03 10:44 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Graham Henderson (D) Offline
Graham Henderson (D)  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 13,618
Esperance. West Australia
No wonder you Nashville blokes need numbers to work on. Not as if we have more than one page here yet Mike.
Graham.


------------------
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/2/grahamhendersonmusic.htm

#388681 - 05/22/03 09:42 AM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
I like to keep this up high for the new members...and any of the old ones who want to brush up. [Linked Image]

------------------
Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388682 - 11/24/03 09:58 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bump


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388683 - 03/03/05 05:36 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bumpola

------------------
You have to practice improvisation. -Art Tatum

Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388684 - 01/21/06 01:26 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bump

------------------
You have to practice improvisation. -Art Tatum

Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388685 - 02/22/06 11:28 AM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 2,524
Jerry Jakala Offline
Top 100 Poster
Jerry Jakala  Offline
Top 100 Poster

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 2,524
Pinellas Park.FL USA
A friend of mine started playing with a professional country band a few weeks ago and the chart system they use is the Nashville number system.
He has been bragging up the Nashville Number System since day one.A few other folks here are also becoming converts.
Why?Because it works!
Thanks Mike!
Jerry

------------------
Jerry Jakala


http://www.jerryjakala.com
http://cdbaby.com/cd/jakalajerry2

The difference between genius and stupidity is that there is a limit on genius.-Albert Einstein
#388686 - 03/15/06 03:09 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bump

------------------
You have to practice improvisation. -Art Tatum

Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#388687 - 07/20/06 03:01 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
bump

------------------
You have to practice improvisation. -Art Tatum

Mike Dunbar Music


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#467981 - 01/25/07 03:02 PM Re: Nashville Numbers System Part 1: Scale and Key [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,273
Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content


Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,273
Indianapolis, IN USA
Thought we should move this up for folks. = )


Brian Austin Whitney
Founder
Just Plain Folks
jpfolkspro@aol.com
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney



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