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Nashville Numbers

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fender_funk_man, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. fender_funk_man


    Feb 19, 2009
    I recently learned a new way to communicate music in a little more user friendly manner. Its called the nashville number system. It works like this. We use chord tones as bass players a lot and its a real pain in the ass to remember what the 3rd and 5th of each chord is. However the interval between all the chord tones is the same no matter what key/chord your playing in. So rather then think of it as specific notes you would think of it has the chord positions.

    A major chord would be written down like this

    and so forth. Basically by adding flats and sharps to the specific chord tones you can construct any chord you want in any key as long as you remember the the intervals.

    How many other people use this language when they play?
  2. that's 1337
  3. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Um, the Nashville Number System is about the scale degree of the roots, not the individual notes of the chords. So, if the progression is:

    ||:C | F | G7 |G7 :|| ||Am Am/G F Dmin| G | C|

    The nmber chart would be ||: 1 |4 | 5 | 5 :|| || 6 6/5 4 2 | 5 | 1|. There are a lot more details to show some inflections, how to notate speciif common patterns, etc. David Hungate used to publish some of the Nashville charts in his old Bass Player Magazine column, as well as doing a series of columns on the actual system. I think an old Miller Freeman book abous session players also had some details of it.

    What the OP is showing is just basic harmony, and how I learned all my chords-

    Major is 1 3 5
    Minor is 1 b3 5
    Dom 7 is 1 3 5 b7
    Maj 7 is 1 3 5 7
    Min 7 is 1 b3 5 b7
    Dim is 1 b3 bb5 b7
    Aug is 1 3 #5
    9th is 1 3 5 b7 9 (2)
    etc. etc.

  4. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Interval training is how I learned from the old blues guys when I was about 13... made sight reading and riff memorization futile.

    I still convert charts to this.

    Many Jazz guys do this .. they do a combination of the basic chord and the interval

    There is a good ipod podcast on this topic.
  5. zachbass02

    zachbass02 One Hairy....squatch.

    Jan 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN

    ya, that's not nashville number system.
  6. I got to the same place a slightly different route. My first 'formal' training was a Mel Bay book I believe was called "Movable Scales for Electric Bass." Basically (bass-ically) it approached all major and minor scales, as well chord shapes, as just that - shapes and patterns on the fretboard.
    So everything was intervals. And everything I played was abstracted into a sort of algebraic formula w/o worrying my little head about actual note names.

    It was a great starting place, and after learning the fingerboard front & back, going through different instructors, learning to read getting some theory under the belt, it's still pretty much how I play live.
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
  8. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
  9. Mesa


    Mar 20, 2008
    Holly Springs NC
    Not to do the hard work here, but:

    I bought this book, and it is as good a reference to the system as one might need.
    I use Nashville numbering for all my charts, no matter the genre.
  10. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    That's not the Nashville Numbers System at all!
  11. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    I just got this book today, will be reading it tonight.
  12. Mesa


    Mar 20, 2008
    Holly Springs NC
    I hope you enjoy it. There are some basic rules to the system, but there are also many interpretations. This book does a great job of showing you examples of what you can use (or might see written) for certain musical situations.
    It was pretty easy to read and well-written. I haven't put the CD to use yet.

  13. dmrogers

    dmrogers Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    Eastman, GA
    I have this book, only it is the fifth edition, slightly older. Great book with a lot of good info.
    Picked it up at ET's Record Shop. :)
  14. Wouldn't it be:
    Dim is 1 b3 b5
    Dim 7 is 1 b3 b5 bb7
  15. I'd say diamonds and dots above the numbers are the most common symbols I've seen.

    Diamond is a hold. I've seen dots used to describe the rhythm of a line.

    I think the Number system is great for sub gigs and learning on the spot, but it's easy to let it be a substitute for learning real notation.
  16. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Well, if I was correct it would have been... :rollno:

    You're right- I should proofread my posts better...

  17. dulouz


    Dec 7, 2006
    The number system is not exclusive to Nashville. I have always been taught to think of chords as numbers in relation to the key. From jazz to classical music, it seems to be the standard.

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