The Nashville numbering system is a form of music notation where
the chords are represented by numbers instead of letters. The
number shows how a chord relates to the notes of a major scale
of a particular key.
Here is a C major scale, and each note gets a number.
C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
In the Nashville numbering system you might see something like
That translates to these chords.
You will use chord modifiers, like m, 7, sus2 etc to tell what
type of chord will be played. So if you see something like this.....
.....it translates to this....
Here is a G major scale
G A B C D E F#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
So in the Key of G.....
The numbering system allows guitar players to understand how
the chords relate to each other, yet not writing specific chords.
This is helpful, especially when the key of a song may need to
be changed to accommodate a vocalist in the studio on the spur
of the moment. Or for using a capo.
If there is a root of a chord that is different from a note in
the major scale, the b (flat) or # (sharp) symbol is used before
the number.... b2m or b3 etc.
So if you see something like this for the key of C.....
.... it would translate to.....
E would be 3, so Eb is b3. B would be 7, so Bb would be b7.
This system is really a lot like the numbering system used for
traditional music theory. In music theory, you use Roman numerals
(I, II, III, IV)...to serve the same purpose. So instead of seeing......
....you would see this.
Now the people that read your Nashville numbering charts will
need to know music theory in order to understand what chords to
Be sure to check out the lessons in the Theory
Section here at Cyberfret.com.
Here are a few books that you may also want to check out.