NASHVILLE TRAX Recording Studio

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                                                                                                        Understanding Number Charts
                                                                                                                                               by Amgwanna Kikbootie

Nashville recording sessions generally prefer charts written using the Nashville Number System.  They prefer this type of chart over letter charts and even standard music notation.

When you have a project produced at Nashville Trax it's our responsibility to write charts but you are welcome to ask for a copy.

They could come in handy if you ever have a live band that wants to play your song and they can "read the numbers".

More likely, a good reason to request a copy is years later you may wish to re-visit the recording, to add a new instrument let's say or maybe take out one instrument and replace it with something else.

Being able to furnish a chart at that time will save the producer time and therefore should save you money.

What do the numbers mean? Let's take a look at a simple chart:

       Intro:         1   4  1  4      1  4  1  4                 Key:  G  4/4 BPM 100

        Verse:     1  4  1  4       1  4  1  4
      Verse:   {:    1  4  1  4       1  4  1  4
         Pre:         4  5  4/6  5/7

         Chorus   4    1     4   1  4  1  5   1

          Turn:       1    4   1   4  : }
        Verse:       1  4  1  4       1  4  1  4
        Chorus   4    1     4   1  4  1  5   1

       Bridge    2-   4    2-  5

       Chorus   4    1    4   1  4  1  5   1

The Time Sig:

So  in 4/4 time each number  is one measure and gets 4 beats.

If two or more numbers are underlined they are all in the same measure. for example 14 means you play the 1 chord for two beats

then the 4 chord 2 beats.  If 3 numbers are underlined there will be small lines called "tick marks" above all the numbers or enough of them to figure out 

the rest.  If the first number has 1 tick mark, the 2nd number has 1 tick mark that leaves two beats for the third number which may or may not have the two ticks. 

The Importance of the Scale

Which chord  the number represents depends on the song's key.  The chords are based on that major scale.

If the song is in the key of G,  a G major scale is G, A, B, C, D, E, F# back to G. 

If we assign the scale numbers G being 1,  A, the second note in the scale is 2, B is 3, C 4, D 5 etc.

What Does The Dash Mean?

If the Key is A major, the numbers are based on the A major scale.  If the key is B major, then the B major scale, C, C major, and so on. 

Deciphering The Chart:

This chart denotes the key as G so the  chords are relative to the G major scale.

The first note of the G major scale is 1 so all 1's are G chords.

The 4th note of the G major scale is a C note so all 4's in the chart are C chords.

The 5 would be D chords because D is the 5th note of the scale. 

A dash signifies the chord is minor. So in the bridge the 2-  is A minor because  the second note in a G major scale is A and because of the dash, minor so play A minor. 

To save paper (its best to get the entire chart for a song on just one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11" paper) repeat signs may be used. 

Often the repeat occurs after the intro, verse and first chorus. sending the chart reader back to the verse to engage in playing the second verse.

In the example above, the repeat occurs after the turnaround.

Let's Read The Numbers!

Based on the above information, the first four numbers of the chorus are:

C  for 4 beats,  G four beats, C four beats, G four beats, C four beats, G four beats, D four beats. G 4 beats.

There's More:


A diamond around a particular number means the chord is played only on the first beat then is allowed to sustain for the next three beats.

There is more to it but that is the basic foundation for a Nashville Numbers chart.

An arrow pointing to the left placed above a number signifies the chord is "pushed" into the previous chord. In 4/4 that typically means that instead of 
the pushed chord being played on the normal downbeat it's played on the "&" of the 4th beat in the previous measure (when counting in eighths: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &), therefore its pushed forward in time a little.

Two numbers underlined  1 4  would mean they share the same measure. If the song is 4/4 then they each get 2 beats.