The Nashville Number System

Ever wonder how the Nashville dudes do it? They get into a studio and the session leader hands out a bunch of charts with some numbers and other scribble on it. There is no key signature or even time signature often times. The trick here is to know the Number System they use. After you understand it creating that “Nashville Sound” becomes a lot easier.

Here is a quick rundown on how it works. Each number correlates to a note in the key you are playing in. So if the session leader says that the vocalist on a particular track wants to cut it in the key of G the number 1 = G, the root of the key. 2= A, 3= B and so forth. The advantage here is during a session if a particular key is not working for the vocalist you can change the key instantly without having to transpose your chart by sight or have someone rewrite a dozen or so charts. This saves a lot of time and aggravation.

I have been on a few sessions in Nashville back in the 90s and it is amazing how quick the pickers can transpose, notate or make changes to a track. And what’s more is that in a take or two it sounds like they have been playing together for year! Only in Nashville..!!!!

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