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Nashville Numbering System

Key 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
A A B C# D E F# G
B B C# D# E F# G# A
C C D E F G A Bb
D D E F# G A B C
E E F# G# A B C# D
F F G A Bb C D Eb

A simple way to communicate chord changes

The Nashville Numbering System was developed by Nashville studio musicians to create a shorthand for chords changes, regardless of the instrument tuning or the placement of capos etc.

"It's a 1-4-1-5 in Bb with a 2 in the chorus, and the mystery chord is a 3 minor."

The numbers represent the relationship between the Key (1) & the chord. Count up from the root. For example, in the key of C the scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Counting up from the root, the 4 chord is F and the 5 chord is G.

The chord numbers do not change when you change capo position, or the singer decides to move up a half-step, or someone has a 12-string guitar tuned down a step. By using numbers instead of letters, everyone can easily communicate chord changes.

Common Bluegrass Chord Changes

Bluegrass music most often uses the 1, 4 & 5 Major chords, with sometimes an added 2 or bluesy 7. Perhaps the most common chord sequence is 1-4-5 or 1-4-1-5. Songs with minor chords typically use the 6m or 2m, e.g. 1-6m-4-5 or 1-2m-5-1. If the tune is in a major key, then chord references are (usually) to major chords, unless the person specifically says "minor". Use your ear.

You'll often hear someone say "circle of fifths", which is a reference to a cycle of 1-6-2-5, or possibly 1-3-6-2-5.

Miss Manners - Bluegrass Jam Etiquette

Policy For Video or Audio Recordings

Young Musician's Bursary

Each year the Victoria Bluegrass Association awards one week of tuition to a young aspiring musician to attend the Nimblefingers Bluegrass Workshop at Sorrento Centre in late August. To qualify for the Young Musicianís Bursary, you need to meet all the following criteria:

  • You are a member of the Victoria Bluegrass Association

  • Your age was 25 years or younger as of Dec 31st last year

  • You have not attended the workshop previously

  • You wish to take instruction in a traditional bluegrass instrument

  • You are available to attend next year's workshop

Please email your application to indicating who you are, and why you think you should be selected. Deadline for application is February 28.