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#ThursdayWorshipThoughts 04.05.18

Putting It All Together (NNS)


For the past several weeks we have talked about becoming a musical ninja. We outlined the different parameters for musical beat, discovered how to know what notes and chords are in each key, how those chords within a key can be represented by numbers, and even what notes make up each individual chord.

We learned a lot!

With great knowledge comes great responsibility. So… what now? What do we do with all of this knowledge? Why does it matter? How is it going to be helpful to us? Most importantly, how will this knowledge transform us into musical ninjas?

We have to put all of this information together in order to understand and utilize the Nashville Numbers System. Let’s start with an easy key: C.

Our twelve possible notes for the key are:

A, A# (or Bb), B, C, C# (or Db), D, D# (or Eb), E, F, F# (or Gb), G, G# (or Ab)

In any given key, you will either use sharps or flats, but not both. The key of C, however, has no sharps or flats at all. That is why it is an easy key. Starting with C as our root note, and using our major scale formula (or in this case, simply using our knowledge that the key of C has no sharps or flats, and that each letter has to be represented in the scale), we can quickly find the notes in our scale:

Root: C, whole: D, whole: E, half: F, whole: G, whole: A, whole: B, half: C.

Now let’s give each of those notes a corresponding number:

C (1), D (2), E (3), F (4), G (5), A (6), B (7), C (8)

And let’s remember that the 1, 4, and 5 are major chord numbers, while the 2, 3, and 6 are minor chord numbers. The seven is diminished and is rarely ever used in typical western music, but we’ll include it in our scale, anyway. Therefore, the chords available to us in the key of C will be:

C (1), Dm (2), Em (3), F (4), G (5), Am (6), Bdim (7), C (8)

Our four magic chords are the 1, 4, 5, and 6 (C, F, G, and Am), and the most likely chord progression would be 1564 (C G Am F).

Let’s write that progression using the Nashville Numbers System. Let’s assume the song is written in 4/4, and each chord lasts for four beats (or one whole note), written in NNS, that chord progression would look like this:

1 4 5 6

Now, if you happened to play that progression and were overcome with an undeniable urge to sing “Blessed Be Your Name”, “Give Us Clean Hands”, “Hallelujah (Your Love Makes Me Sing)”, “Here I Am to Worship”, or “The Heart of Worship” -it’s okay! There is nothing wrong with you (other than the fact that you may have grown up in the late eighties or early nineties). All of those songs (and many, many more) used the 1564 progression in their chorus.

The beautiful thing about the Nashville Numbers System is that it makes changing keys a simple task. 1564 in the key of C is still 1564 in the key of G, except now the chords are G D Em C.

For a printable version of this article, click here.

Artwork provided by my good friend, Brooke Gehman, an authentic and wonderful man of God, devoted follower of Christ, and an amazing husband and father. Brooke is a gifted Worship Leader, an incredible artist, and a Potter by trade (check out his website).

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