Nashville’s a funny little town.

Yesterday somebody hired me to record a quick guitar/vocal of one of his songs. Anywhere else in the world (in my mind at least), people want to play and sing their own songs. Nashville is a songwriting city. People write songs for other people to sing.

And because they want to pitch they’re songs to publishing companies, they need a good demo. A lot of the recording work done in Nashville is demo work. Fun stuff, he?

So with all these songs being written, and all these demos being recorded, and all these session musicians being hired, somewhere along the way the Nashville Number system developed.

It’s an informal (but very precise) way to quickly write up chord charts for songs. Combine a well-written, one-page chart with a room full of good musicians, and they’ll be ready to lay down a take in just a few minutes.

The chart tells them what chords to play and how many bars are in each section of the song. And since the chords are written as numbers (hence the name), you can change the key of the song on the fly without anyone skipping a beat.

“Hey, the singer says this song would work better for her in D instead of E.”

The band says, “Okay!”

And we’re off.

If the first line of the songs was supposed to be D A Bm G, now it’s E B C#m A.

But it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. No one’s rewriting anything, because all the chart says is: 1 5 6- 4.

Pick a key, any key. And if you know the system (and a little bit of music theory), you can play the song.

Change the key to G? Okay. G D Em C.

How about F? Ugh. I’m an acoustic guitar player. Playing in F is no fun. But I know if I capo on the 5th fret I can play it in C. Okay great. 1 5 6- 4 turns into C G Am F.

That’s the basic gist of it.

If you put in the effort to learn how to read and write number charts, your life will get a little easier (and a little cooler, perhaps?).

To see it in action, check out the latest weekly video I posted today for my VIP members. In it, I walk you through one of the charts for a song from my upcoming album. Fun stuff!

Get signed up here:

www.homestudiocorner.com/vip

Joe Gilder
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