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These numbers DON'T LIE!

Rick Fielding 02 Jun 01 - 12:32 PM
catspaw49 02 Jun 01 - 12:39 PM
Rick Fielding 02 Jun 01 - 12:46 PM
MAG (inactive) 02 Jun 01 - 01:19 PM
wysiwyg 02 Jun 01 - 01:21 PM
Murray MacLeod 02 Jun 01 - 01:35 PM
catspaw49 02 Jun 01 - 01:41 PM
Ebbie 02 Jun 01 - 02:50 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 02 Jun 01 - 03:12 PM
Rick Fielding 02 Jun 01 - 07:56 PM
Benjamin 03 Jun 01 - 03:06 AM
Rick Fielding 03 Jun 01 - 01:26 PM
Jeremiah McCaw 03 Jun 01 - 02:26 PM
Mark Clark 03 Jun 01 - 04:06 PM
Kim C 04 Jun 01 - 03:31 PM
Rick Fielding 04 Jun 01 - 04:08 PM
Benjamin 04 Jun 01 - 04:23 PM
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Subject: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 12:32 PM

This has come up a couple of times in recent threads, and there's been a bit of confusion about how it works, so I thought I'd run it again, and invite comments. I KNOW there've been several other threads over the years dealing with it,(I probably started some of them) but current folks seem to appreciate current opinions so here goes.

I first saw this system used when I was performing in Nashville in the late seventies. The studio guys (and I do mean 'Guys') would scribble the 'numbers' down on the inside of matchbooks (so much cooler than a hunk of sheet music on a stand in front of them), lick the matchbook (ugh) and stick it on the mike stand (or their knee), and then play the new song as if they'd known it for years. Note: It doesn't indicate 'melody', merely the chord structure for them to improvise over.

Make the number '1' the key you're in. eg: Key of C = #1.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7 = C,D,E,F,G,A,B.

A minor chord is indicated by a 'minus' sign. A diminished chord is indicated by a small 'circle'. Sharps and flats use the music notation symbols. Augmenteds have a small '+' sign. Regular numbers of bars have no symbol, but 'repeat signs' are used when needed. A 'split' bar has a '/' between chords.

Sevenths, sixth's etc. are not designated because it's assumed the musician knows where they'd be appropriate.

******************

Please note (cause this often comes up) I don't think that this is a "Foolproof" system, and there are many musical situations it DOESN'T cover. What it DOES do, is allow you to write an almost instant chart for pretty simple or complex songs, allowing others (who've learned the numbers) to play with you. I learned it in about 10 minutes.....but it took several months before I was comfortable with it in keys other than C,D,G,A, and E.

It's damn good theory training though, cause you have to learn your sharps and flats (and their numbers) to play in the 'harder' keys. Here's a simple example of the number system in action. I'll use Paxton's "Can't help but Wonder Where I'm Bound", 'cause most folks know it. Let's do it in the key of "D" (Therefore D is number 1)

1 4/2- 5 1/5 1 4/2- 5 1

2-/5 1/6- 2-/5 1

The chord equivalent is:

D////G//Em//A7////D//A7//D////G//Em//A7////D////

Em//A7//D//Bm//Em//A7//D////

**************************

Hope it's of some use. Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 12:39 PM

Yeah, you've done it before, but that's the best you've done it and should be concise and straight enough to answer the next round of questions on the subject. Well done! Heather being gone must have you bored stiff huh?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 12:46 PM

Actually Spaw, You've hit the nail on the head (as opposed to hitting one INTO your head). I'm finding it a bit easier to explain things like this in SIMPLER ways. I've talked to a least two dozen Mudcatters over the phone about stuff like this and it's so much easier to do it that way. Probably has something to do with 'time of day' as well. When I'm writing music stuff at 3 am. I tend to get discombobulated (and it comes out that way). At noon I can usually understand MYSELF, and that's a good sign.

Rick


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 01:19 PM

This looks like one step ahead of chord charts I use in our contra band, where the chords are written out. Easier to read than the lead sheet w/ chords scrawled above the melody line. THAT doesn't help (me) when the piano player decides to improvise ...


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: wysiwyg
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 01:21 PM

Oh Rick, you poor dear. You missed the invention of the Post-It note!

*G*

I have pages of post-it note songs (chord progressions) now, but oops! I forgot to put titles on most of them!

~S~


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 01:35 PM

Rick, you mean there ARE keys other than C,D,E,G, and A? I heard a rumor once that there was a key of F, but I don't really believe it.

Murray


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 01:41 PM

Murray, Bill D. sings one in the Key of R.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Ebbie
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 02:50 PM

Numbers don't lie- people do. :^)

Eb/D#


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 03:12 PM

This is the first I've heard of it! It looks easy, as long as it's assumed you're in 4/4 time.


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 07:56 PM

Animaterra, they used it for all tempos. If you're giving a chart to someone else you SHOULD indicate the time signature. The trick is to only acknowledge when the chord changes do something IRREGULAR. If you have a song with a lot of bars of the same chord you could do it this way. I'll use Woody's "Pasture's Of Plenty" for an example.

Played in Dm. (meaning it's written in the Key of 'F'.

6-(x8) or 6-(x16) depending whether your giving 2 or 4 beats per bar.

I put a few more chords in it than Woody did, so I'd write it like this.

6-(x4), 1(x8), 6-(x2), 4/5, 6-(x2).

Dm////F////////Dm//Bb/C/Dm//

**************************

Once again, it's NOT foolproof, or even always logical. It's just what the Nashville guys used. I think the most useful thing anyone can actually get from this is to be able to identify chords by number.....forget the timing aspect of it...it can get quite convaluted. But if you're playing "Don't let your deal Go Down" and you can just say to your fellow pickers Key of E, 6,2,5,1....The ones who are capoed to play in C know it's A,D,G,C. The bass player knows it's C#, F#, B, E. and the beginner mandolinist who's capoed on the second fret 'cause he/she can only play in D, knows it's B,E,A,D.

Rick


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Benjamin
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 03:06 AM

In music theory class, we use roman numerals in place of numbers. Major is Upper case (like 'V') and minor lower case ('v'). This also allows to specify 6 and 7 chords if you want to. You also don't have to traspose minor. Other than that, the rest of the symbols are the same. It's a new way of using them though.
I've never really thought in terms of notes when I'm playing music, but in terms of intervals. If I know what the tonic is, I know where the other tones are. I think about where they are in relation to the tonic as apposed to what letter you call them.
Thanks for sharing this Rick. Your right that it isn't flawless (notating music never is) but it's a good system.
BMW


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 01:26 PM

Thanks ben. I suspect the Nashville Studio pickers would have thought Roman Numerals were a Communist plot.

Rick


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 02:26 PM

I can simplify still further:
I only sing in 2 keys; one of the's 'C', and the other ain't!
My accompanist only plays in 2 keys: 'G' and 'G-capoed"!


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Mark Clark
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 04:06 PM

Great explanation, Rick. You've really clarified what's been posted before. I've not been in a situation where the numbers were written down because you can usually hear bluegrass changes coming pretty easily. We used the numbers though every time we needed to explain the progression to a new band member or someone sitting in on a set. We learned to associate a 2 chord, say, with a certain sound and never thought about it's actual name in key we were in at the time. Like you said, it only takes a few minutes to pick up on this very useful notation.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Kim C
Date: 04 Jun 01 - 03:31 PM

Having grown up in Nashville, and been one of those "educated" musicians, I never could figure out what was the big deal about the Nashville Number System. It's basic music theory. I will allow, however, it's very helpful for people who don't read music.


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 04 Jun 01 - 04:08 PM

Kim, that's an excellent point. Many folks are frightened of music theory 'cause they think it's a big mystery. T'ain't no mystery folks. It's easy if you have someone sit and explain it to you. Seems pretty dry in books, but it can even be FUN!! The numbers work great for improvisational pickers.

But it's NOT a substitute,

Rick


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Subject: RE: These numbers DON'T LIE!
From: Benjamin
Date: 04 Jun 01 - 04:23 PM

Put well Rick! I enjoyed all 2 years of music theory and did quite well in class. Theory isn't a mystery, it just has to be taught well.

As for your remark on roman numerals and communists, I thought it was funny, but I might be a little to young to understand it.
Nice try though.


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