In music theory, Nashville notation (sometimes the Nashville number system) is the practice of assigning numbers to the notes in a key to alleviate the tedious task of transposition. In any given key, there are seven notes that reside within the key. These notes are accordingly labeled one through seven, with Roman numerals. The namesake note of the key is labeled one, and the last, diminished note before the octave is labeled seven with a ° symbol to denote its diminished nature. Minor notes are labeled in lowercase Roman numerals. Complex chords may be labeled as #/#, such as V/VII.
In the key of C, I-VII look like this:
- C = I
- Dm = ii
- Em = iii
- F = IV
- G = V
- A = vi
- B = VII°
- F/C = IV/I
Alternatively, the system may also be used without Roman numerals, and Arabic numerals substituted in instead. Minor chords get a dash (-) after their number to denote a minor nature. Complex chords will be labeled #/# still, such as 5/7. For example, in the key of C, 1-7 look like this:
- C = 1
- Dm = 2-
- Em = 3-
- F = 4
- G = 5
- Am = 6-
- B = 7°
- F/C = 4/1
Nashville notation allows musicians to quickly play songs in keys different than the original because they don't have to go through the task of transposing the piece. It also allows musicians to quickly improvise during songs. In addition, it allows the leader of the band to have the band play whatever he feels like, as he can use hand symbols that match up to the numbers to guide the band.
The Revelation Song will be used as an example to show the power of the system.
V ii Worthy is the, Lamb who was slain IV I Holy, Holy, is He V ii Sing a new song, to Him who sits on IV I Heaven's mercy seat
V Holy, Holy, Holy ii Is the Lord God Almighty IV I Who was, and is, and is to come V With all creation I sing ii Praise to the King of Kings IV You are my everything I V ii IV I And I will adore You
Now, in the key of G, the four chords used would be D (V), Am (ii), C (IV), and G (I). In the key of C, the four chords would be G (V), Dm (ii), F (IV), and C (I).