Modulating, Transposing & the Nashville Number System

In lieu of a thoroughly planned out Podcast or interview, it was still interesting to sit with you while changing strings and cleaning up your Moore Bettah for your trip to Uncle George’s workshop. :_ukulele:
Although I will not be able to attend this year, it was as if I was vicariously preparing to head out as well. Have fun jamming with Daniel Ho, and Uncle Kimo.

Your upcoming workshop on “Modulating and Transposing” sounds fantastic. I’ll continue working on the I, IV, V of each of the major keys, as well as learning the accompanying chords in each family. I hope to get familiar enough to be able to play a familar song that I have learned in another key by knowing each chord family well enough to not have to think about it and can play more comfortably without the paper or tablet. I notice that you don’t really ever mention the “Nashville Number System”. Is that because you learned it by another name, or that you were taught through different methods? You still use the same chords…
( M, m, m, M, M, m, diminished )
( I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii ) I guess it really doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you understand what chords to use and which ones go together as a family.

Question (to whom it may concern) about the Nashville Number System: Isn’t it really just a fancy name for using Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals to notate a chord progression? If so, what’s the big deal to justify calling it a distinct “system”?

Brian, that’s a great question, and I’m certainly not experienced enough to know the answer. I am a novice and by no means qualified to even offer an opinion. But I certainly look forward to hearing what anyone else has to say about the matter.

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I learned the “Nashville Number System” by that name from a dude at a bluegrass camp back in 2008 and have pretty much never heard it called that again. The name could very well be a prestige thing if you live in that musical world.

@brian423 is correct, in my understanding, that it uses 1, 2, 3… instead of I, ii, iii… But otherwise it’s that same idea.

For this reason, I find Roman numerals more intuitive for teaching because you can easily denote major/minor with uppercase/lowercase. I think most folks in the ʻukulele world have shifted this way because it’s harder to confuse with individual scale tones that always use Arabic numbers.


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Bluegrass Camp! When and where was that? Was that mostly ‘ukulele, or were you surrounded by banjo, guitar and fiddle players too? I’ve not heard you mention that before.

It was a fiddle camp in California. There was very casual ʻukulele. I mostly took mandolin, singing, and guitar classes.