The musicians in Nashville use the Nashville Number System almost
exclusively for conveying a song's structure and arrangement in the recording
studio. If you're going to demo your songs in
Music City you pretty much have to have the songs charted in this format.
If you take your chord charts to a session, someone will wind up using your valuable studio time to
rewrite your chart using Nashville Numbers. That’s why it’s better to have them in advance.
One of the main
reasons is that number charts can be played in any key. If a song is
intended to be sung in C, but during tracking the demo singer decides he/she’s
more comfortable in B, the key can be switched without having to generate a new chart. If chord charts were being used in this scenario either a new chart would have to be made, or the players would have to transpose on the fly. Number charts eliminate this problem entirely.
Another reason is that demo musicians don’t have to be able to read music (ie.,
notes, spaces, rests, varying eighth-note combinations, etc.), or fully
understand traditional musical terminology, to read number charts. That
increases the talent pool available for studio work as there are many great
musicians who don’t read music. Unfortunately, in some major cities those
non-reading players are locked out from many sessions.
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At Write THIS Music, we view the chart making session as a crucial pre-production step in the demo process. This is when the minute details of the song’s arrangement are
worked out. Much valuable studio time gets wasted in Nashville recording
sessions sorting out chart discrepancies and mistakes on number charts. This
can be prevented if the chart maker listens to the songs with much care so the intended details of the song won’t
All too often arrangement details aren't thought out in advance (OR they
are thought out but the details are not noted on the charts. As a result, most Nashville session
players are pretty good arrangers. Why? Because of all the practice
they've gotten helping writers arrange their songs during demo sessions!
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These are all common arrangement issues. However, this level of detail can't be addressed when a chart is hacked out 10 minutes before the session.
That said, it’s a rare day that nothing gets changed
on the chart
at the time the demo is recorded, and that’s actually a very good
thing. The musicians will often make suggestions or offer ideas that the
not have thought of, and sometimes its these last moment tweaks that turn a demo
into something that's really special. But detailed ‘finessing’ at this level simply isn't possible if a chart hasn't
been thought through or if it has numerous mistakes. Song arranging and chart
should be done before the session, not during it…that is unless
you want to pay four skilled musicians union scale to arrange your song.
Having charts done properly, and in advance, will improve everything and lower overall costs. We can significantly help you out during this phase. We promise that your demo will come out closer to what you had in mind than it would have had you ignored this step. Taking the time to create clear, neat, detailed charts will allow the resulting demo to achieve a level of quality you never would have thought was possible.
One of our specialties is demo pre-production and chart making. We know how to bring out and maximize the unique aspects of your song, but we need your help because you are the writer and you have final say over everything. We will either sit with you or communicate closely by phone or email, questioning and verifying any potential issues. The work we do with you in preparing your charts can make all the difference in the world in how your demo turns out. Issues we'll discuss with you include (but are not limited to):
Don't worry. If you're not familiar with some of the concepts or terms listed above we'll explain what they're about and what impact we believe they'll have on your song.
For songs that are already arranged, charts are $15 each. Charts that involve significant arranging, or are complex enough to take more than 1 hour, are priced at our standard studio rate ($35/hour). In other words, if we finish your chart in roughly an hour or less, which is almost always the case if you’ve done your arranging ahead of time, the price is just $15. Otherwise, it's $35/hour.
The best way to understand the Nashville
Number System is by looking at some charts of songs you're familiar with.
Some prefer charts to be typed (as in our examples), while others prefer their
charts to be written out by hand. Both methods have their advantages and
disadvantages and we can do either. Click the titles below to see examples:
I'm Already There Fix You Jesus is Just Alright Jingle Bells
The tone number from a given key’s major scale that a particular chord is
rooted in is the number noted on the chart. It is then qualified as such if it’s anything other than a major chord (minor, b7th, 9th, sus, etc.) This “number to tone relationship” is similar to solfège
but numbers (1, 2, 3) are used instead of syllables (Do Re Me…) Using chord
charts, the first 8 bars of Jingle Bells would be noted in the key of C using
a chord charts as:
C / C / C F / C /
F / C / Dm / G /
The corresponding number chart is noted
below. One number is used per measure unless there is more than one chord
in the measure. When there are 2 chords or more in a measure, as is the case
(in some arrangements) for
bar 3 of "Jingle Bells", it is defined as a
"split bar". Split bars are either underlined, enclosed in a
handwritten box, or separated by a vertical line when charts are made using
pencil and paper. When charts are being typed with a word processor a slash
(/) is typically used to indicate a split bar and an asterisk (*) is used to
indicate a 'diamond' (or whole note) as indicated below (not that the
4th bar of Jingle Bells is a whole note...just an example).
1 1 1/4 1
4 1 2- 5
Notice that the 7th bar in Jingle Bells is noted as 2-. Traditional chord charts would note this as 'ii' since the 2nd chord in the key of C is a Dm. But in Nashville number charts a 2 in the key of C means a D major chord unless qualified with a dash (-) or (m) to denote that it's minor. This is a huge benefit in country and contemporary music where many chords are used that break from what's traditionally thought of as 'allowable' in a given key. To notate a D major chord in the key of C one doesn't have to think "What's the second chord in the Key of C?" and then un-flat the 3rd (if you will) in that chord to make it a D major. That would make it a 2 step process. In Number Charts one only has to know the scale notes (or have an "ear sense" of the scale tones, if you will) of the key they're playing in. The assumption is that all chords are major unless otherwise noted with a (-) or (m). It's actually less confusing. It takes a little getting used to for those accustomed to traditional chord charts but most quickly adapt.
There’s quite a bit more to it than this obviously, but this is the basic method behind the madness.
Yes. You can meet with us personally or you can 1) simply emal us your mp3, 2) send your work tape by mail, 3) provide a link to your mp3, or 4) you can also call us and play your song over the phone. We'll make your chart right then. You'll receive your number chart via email attachment.