Tips for Beginners and The Nashville Numbering System explained.

I have been playing Guitar since I was 10, that's over 36 years. Several years ago I had a stroke that affected my left side, I could not even hold my guitar with my left hand, let alone play. Everyday for 6 months as I laid in bed or sat on the couch, if I was still, I had my guitar. I did not play publicly for 9 months, but during that time, I was constantly reteaching my fingers what to do. I had to learn the chords all over again, I played scales over and over, both open and closed. The doctors said it was great therapy for stroke recovery, and it was. The point is, I had to go back to the basics, I had to start with the simple chords before I could go on to the complex chords. My first bit of advice, is start with the basics, learn the G, C and D chords. Then move on to the F chord using just three fingers on the first four strings, then add the full barre chord F using all six strings and four fingers to your repertoire. Work on learning scales, start out with the simple diatonic - the do re me scale, then learn the pentatonic scales, both major and minor. Get a good metronome or a drum machine to learn to play in rhythm - also referred to as meter.

Learn the Nashville Numbering System. The Nashville Number System is a shorthand method of writing musical arrangements that was developed by It was developed by Neal Matthews, Jr. in the late '50s as a simplified system for The Jordanaires to use in the studio and further developed by Charlie McCoy. It is based on the degrees of the scale (do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti ..). It is a powerful tool in the written communication of music. Using the Nashville Numbering System, or NNS, you can chart out a song and play it in any key and use the chart without having to transpose.

Here is a brief explanation, lets take the key of C, the diatonic scale for the key of C is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. In this example, C is what we would call the root, or the 1 (you can also use Roman Numerals). The three main chord that you use in the key of C are C, which we already know is the 1, F and G. If you count up from C to F, C-1, D-2, E-3, we arrive at F, the 4. One step up and G is the 5.

Take the song Amazing Grace, it is written in Ab but we will use the key of C for demonstration purposes.

We are going to write out a basic chord chart for the song Amazing Grace, we are going to use just three chords, the C, F and G. We are going to write the chord for each measure even if it is the same as the chord before it. In addition, if there are any chord changes within a measure, we will write that too. The chords are above the words and the | indicates the measures.

C                  C                     F                   C
Amazing |Grace how | sweet the | sound

C                C                      G       G
That | saved a | wretch like | me. |

C                   C               F                 C
I | once was | lost but | now I'm | found

C                    G           C     C
Twas | blind, but | now I | see |. |

Now here is the chart for Amazing Grace using just the Chord Names with no lyrics

C    C    F    C
C    C    G    G
C    C    F    C
C    G    C    C

But, there is a problem with this, Amazing Grace is in the key of Ab not C, so now we have to transpose it to Ab

Ab Ab Db Ab
Ab Ab Eb Eb
Ab Ab Db Ab
Ab Eb Ab Ab

But we still have a problem as a guitarist, guitar players are most likely going to use a capo and play in G with the capo on the first fret so now we have to transpose this yet again to the key of G

G    G     C    G
G   G     D    D
G   G     C     G
G   D     G    G

But, what if you were playing with a pianist and you were going to play the song in D, no big problem for the guitar player we already have a chart in the key of C, its what we started out with, we just put our capo on the first fret and use our chart for the key of C, but now the pianist is going to have to make a new chord chart in the key of D. But, if you are using the Nashville Numbering System, you only have to make 1 chart and all of your band members can use it. Here is Amazing Grace using the Nashville Numbering System.

1   1   4   1
1   1   5   5
1   1   4   1
1   5   1   1

Now, all we have to know is what key to play in because  chord progression of 1 -4 is the same no matter what key,  In the key of C a 1-4 progression is C to F, (C being the 1, D being the 2, E being the 3 and F being the 4)  in the key of G it is G to C (G becomes the 1 because it is the root, A the 2, B the 3 and C the 4)

So theoretically,  If a guitar player were to learn all the chords in the key of G and the key of C, then you could use a capo and a Nashville Numbering Chart and play any song in any key. Of course you will want to learn the minor and seventh chords as well. In the Nashville Numbering System and actually in most progressions, the 1, 4 5 and 7 chords are usually major chords, the 2, 3, and 6 are usually minor chords but this will be noted in the chord chart, but more on that later.

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