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The Nashville Number System: What Is It?


Guest post by Soundfly Mentor Andre Madatian. This article originally appeared on Soundfly’s Flypaper

If you ask almost any Broadway Street musician in downtown Nashville, they will tell you that the Nashville number system has gotten them through at least a song or two, if not an entire set, on a honky tonk stage at some point in their career. Some don’t even leave the house without their iPad filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of Nashville-style notated charts before heading to work or a weekend run of shows out of town. But there is something quite definitive and unique about the way Nashville creates their charts — almost like a universal language amongst all of the musicians in the local community.

But how are these charts read and understood? And why, if I’m not in Nashville, should I care?

From an outsider’s perspective, the notation can look like hieroglyphics at times, and has even been known to confuse scholarly musicians on first glance! The truth is that this form of notation is useful beyond the city limits of Nashville, in any situation where you might need a last minute player to sub in, or if you want to get hired on more session jobs. If you’re familiar with chord numbers, you’ll immediately recognize that aspect, but what are all these other symbols and how do they change the timbre or flow of what I’m playing in relation to the band, in real time? We’ll cover all of that.

Understanding the System

Let’s take a look at a typical “Nashville-style” chart below.

The first thing that we notice is the title of the song, which in this case is, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen. Generally, to the right of the song title you will see the name of the person who is responsible for creating the chart; in this instance, it’s “C. Marshall.” Let’s listen to the song, and see if you can follow along with the chart innately.

Now that we are a bit more familiar with the song, let’s start to analyze the technical and musical aspects of the chart. To the left of the song title, you will usually see the key and the time signature. Referring to the above example, this particular song is in E major and is in 4/4 time.

Navigating Tonality

Here’s where it gets a little complicated. What makes the Nashville system unique from other conventional notation charts is that the chord symbols always reflect the major key. For example, since we know that “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” is in the key of E major, we see a “1” on the chart which indicates that the musician should play an E major chord.

But let’s say, hypothetically, that “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was in the key of E minor. The chart would then be notated in its relative major key. For example, the top left of the Nashville chart would be written as G major/E minor and the first chord would be notated as a “6-” as opposed to a “1-.” The reason for this is to keep the chart simple and to avoid having to use accidentals all throughout the chart.

Sight-Reading the Song

Moving forward, we notice that the chart is broken down by song sections. The first section is labeled “Intro” and it’s noted that it should be played on an acoustic instrument (likely guitar, but not specified). Other sections include the Verse, the Turn (“band in” indicates where the rhythm section should start playing), a second Verse, a Chorus, a third Verse, a second Chorus, and finally an Outro.

Let’s start by analyzing the chord symbols of the Intro. We see the numbers “1 5 4 5” pretty much throughout the entire song, so this will be a simple tune to read. The numbers reflect the diatonic chord symbols of the indicated key. So for this song, “1 5 4 5” in the key of E major will be E major, B major, A major, and B major.

Now that we know which chords to play, it’s important to understand the rhythmic values of each chord. This is where the uniquenesses of the Nashville number system begin to come out. You’ll notice that there are lines appearing underneath the “1 5” and “4 5” throughout the entire chart. This line indicates where the measures start and end. So usually, if there are only two chords above each line, it means the chords are played as half notes unless otherwise suggested. You may also see dashes or extra lines accompanying the underline, to denote other rhythmic subdivisions, such as the first chord being held for three beats and the second chord for one beat, for example.

With no rhythmic indicators, you’d play the “1” chord for two beats and the “5” chord for two beats, completing one full measure, and the same goes for the “4 5” progression. If you see a chord with no line underneath, that’s an indication that the chord should have a whole note value, or four beats in a 4/4 time signature. In this case, you’ll notice that there is a “>” symbol on most of the “5” chords throughout the whole chart. This sign indicates a “push” or slight syncopation on the chord. So instead of playing the “5” chord on the start of beat three, we will play this chord on the “and” of beat two.

Rhythmic indications are often left vague in the Nashville number system, so many people who write these charts make a point to notate a specific rhythmic pattern for reference. In the above chart, there’s a dotted quarter note for the “4” chord and an eighth note for the “5” chord followed by a half rest under the first Verse.

Aside from a couple rhythmic changes in the last Chorus, this song is quite repetitive in terms of harmonic and rhythmic structure. Something to take note of is the “(acoustic)” indication in the fifth measure of the last Chorus. While performing this song, I would know to cue the rhythm section to stop playing at that measure. However, this chart fails to notate whether or not the rhythm section comes back in. Since I’m already familiar with this song, I know that the band comes back in on measure nine of that section, but that should have been indicated in this chart. The more information provided the better!

Lastly, we see that the Outro is repeated. The creator of the chart used both a double dotted bar line and a written note to prepare the performer, since musicians may not always be unified in their ability to to sight read.

Although there are a few variations of the Nashville number system, the above example is a current depiction of what you may see when asked to sub for a gig in downtown Nashville. Some charts are more detailed than others but having a simple chart can be a great source of reference, especially in an environment like Broadway Street, where musicians are served up requests constantly throughout the gig. It’s important to understand these charts, not only for playing the Nashville circuit, but also if you want to create handy reference guides for session players, or to make it easy for anyone to play your music accurately.

If you’re still a bit confused and want to go through how this system works with me, get in touch here and I can help you out personally — that’s what Soundfly’s Headliners Club is all about! If you’re interested in working with me on your next music project, fill out this form to tell us about your goals and be sure to mention my name in your response!

Otherwise, get out there and start chartin’!

Advance your skills and open up more opportunities in music. Explore Soundfly’s growing array of Mainstage courses that feature personal support and 1-on-1 mentorship from experienced professionals in the field, such as Orchestration for StringsUnlocking the Emotional Power of Chordsand The New Songwriter’s Workshop.

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How To Save Time And Make The Most Of Booking A Rehearsal Studio


Time and time again, musicians book rehearsal rooms only to realize that not everyone can make it on the day, or the studio is booked, closed or way below standard. After all, some of us still have a 9-5 job and daily commitments – like family, school runs, and we don’t have money to burn after the last run of sell out pub gigs. Far too often our busy lives can leave us feeling drained of those once-upon-a-time inspirational genius and creativity.

I don’t want to make this read like a country-blues song, but wait! There must be a better way to gather the band mates, book a rehearsal studio and record our new set…

UK-based Pirate Studios has come to the aid of thousands of musicians with an innovative approach to rehearsal studios. The concept was developed by musicians for musicians, and hits the nail on the head for every musician’s needs. Recently, Pirate Studios launched their operation in the US with a new location in Brooklyn NYC, close to the creative hub of Greenpoint. The studios come with top quality equipment from Fender, Marshall, Mapex, Pioneer and Yamaha provided in every room for free as standard. DJs are catered for too with a club standard, Pioneer-equipped practice studio.

Here are few handy tips to save time and make the most of booking a rehearsal studio

Schedule your next rehearsal: Set a schedule or plan for your next band rehearsal. Coordinate with all band members by using a shared Google calendar or something of that ilk. Pirate Studios rehearsal rooms are open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week – giving even the most demanding band mates no excuse not to open up their schedule and commit to a session. At Pirate Studios, bands can book online and receive an email confirmation with the studio entry codes and all the information they need. You can even share the entry codes amongst the band during the booking process, reducing the need for those tiresome post-booking texts.

Kit focus: If someone in the band has a lot to set up, have them arrive first and then others can come later to start work.

Kit check: Check, and check again. There is nothing worse than turning up at a rehearsal without your mic, drum sticks or audio cables. In a worst case scenario, Pirate Studios have you covered; there are spares in every studio building and if you need technical help, a call to the 24hr customer care team will provide with help over the phone leaving time to regroup and commence work.

Record your rehearsals: Capturing audio from your rehearsal is vital. Can you imagine playing a full set to perfection, filled moments of “inspirational genius” only to realize you can’t remember how or where the moment of “genius” happened? OpenLive is the new audio recording concept designed to combat this issue. It’s cloud-based and automated, and customers booking a Pirate Studio benefit by having the session automatically recorded and emailed to their inbox ready to share with fans or absent band mates.

Plan Breaks: Take a few minutes each hour for a short break. This is also an ideal opportunity to meet other bands in the community and share contacts for gig openings. Pirate Studios have designated kitchen and refreshment areas at all studio locations.

The Pirate Studios model is all about self-service. There are no employees on site and no tutorials for the gear provided – leaving the power of practice in the musician’s hands. And while some basic knowledge of the equipment is advised, customer service is available 24/7 to supply spare gear or simply to explain how to turn on the AC. Yes – the studios are fully temperature controllable!

With a growing list of 40,000 bands, producers, and DJs creating and rehearsing in over 200 spaces across the UK, Pirate Studios has dropped anchor in Brooklyn. Pirate will continue to pioneer into 2019, launching more locations in the UK, a grand opening in Berlin, and necessary expansion in NYC. Beyond that horizon, expect openings in every music capital across America.

Book one of their stunning new studios from $8/hour (which is fantastic value for NYC!).

You can also earn credits when you tell your friends about Pirate Studios. You’ll receive $bucks in your booking account for every new Pirate you introduce to the growing family of musicians.

Pirate Studios

Address: 19 Division Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11222, USA

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +1 844-274-7283

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The Convergence Of Acoustic And Electronic Drums


We see a bunch of electronic instruments when looking a modern rock or pop group, including guitars, basses, and keyboards. What about drums? Acoustic sets are still the most popular for live performances, but you might be surprised at how many electronic components might be in use. This can range from using standalone pads to acoustic drums that actually use electronically triggered heads.

I’m going to dig into these a little bit and show you that the elements of electronic drums are actually quite established in the mainstream. They’re even used in situations electronic drums may seem a little unconventional.

What are these electronic elements?

Sample pads

This is one of the most common ways that drummers electrify their acoustic drum sets. Drummers simply place a percussion or sample pad next to their drum kit. Popular items are Roland Octapad, Roland SPD-SX, or the Yamaha Multipad. This makes for instant electronic drum sample options that you can hook directly to a PA system.

Drum triggers

These are a lot more common than you might expect. Metal drummers have been using them for years on their double bass drum heads. These items attach to your drum heads and trigger a MIDI signal via a cable whenever you hit your bass head. MIDI is capable of very precise timing and velocity so they can be very effective.

You have a bunch of different sound source options when triggering these. For example, you can hook the drum trigger to a percussion pad, an interface for music software on your laptop, or an external drum trigger module.

You can even get dual triggers that make the playing surface of the rims of your drums electronic. Hitting the rim of your snare could produce a clap or other sound effect.

Electronic drumheads for acoustic rims

This can be a confusing one for non-drummers. This is where you completely replace your acoustic drum heads with electronic ones. This keeps the aesthetic and presence of your drum set for live performances, while actually turning it electronic. You might be surprised at this, some of these sound very close to the real thing.

Layering acoustic and electronic sounds

You can mic up a triggered acoustic drum head. This means that you can layer both sounds together. Altering the electronic sound to match the pitch of the acoustic sound can really make your kit sound punchy for live situations.

Switching or Automating sounds

If you’re playing to a live set, you could actually change the sounds of your triggers both depending on the song or what part of the song you’re playing in.

However, some may consider taking this too far. You can automate the response and samples of your triggered drums based on the time in your track. For example, when playing a dance track, you could swell the pitch of your snare drum to match the drop in the song. It might sound cool, but keep in mind that you’re no longer fully controlling the sound live!

What are the benefits of these developments

Many of the points I’ve mentioned above are now new, but they’re continuous adoption and development in the drumming industry are starting to make them a lot more noticeable.

Using these elements can give drummers much more live sonic capabilities that more accurately replicates studio versions of songs, such as using claps, sound effects, and even melodic samples.

Amplifying drums are notoriously difficult to get right for gigs. This is much more prevalent for smaller gigging situations. Some drummers are opting to use triggers on their bass drums, even for genres where electronic elements are unconventional.

The kick drum is one of the most important sonic elements for dance and pop. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to a gig where you can hardly hear the kick drum. Triggering the bass head can instantly provide that punchy sound.

Using these hybrid set-ups, you can get past one of the biggest hurdles of electronic drums: the cymbal sounds. One of the biggest dead giveaways of an electronic drum set in live situations is the sound of the electronic cymbals. When using a hybrid drum set, you can still use your acoustic cymbals to provide a better sound and freedom of expression.

Are we leaving pure acoustic drums behind?

The main drawback to any of these setups is that we’re moving away from purist acoustic drum sets. Some people hail electronic drums as the work of the devil. Though, I feel that their mind is stuck back in the sound of terrible, clunky electronic drum sets of the 1980’s.

It’s important to realize that standard acoustic drum sets used to be called hybrid drums. The set-up of a snare, toms, kick, hi-hat, ride, crash were all arbitrary decisions inspired by marching bands and orchestras that made their way to the mainstream. As drummers, we can get too stuck in the idea of the standard drum set, but the very nature of drums is configurable.

Acoustic and electronic guitars co-exist nicely in the musical world. So I think it’s the same case for drums.


Some of the points in this article may have seemed obvious to drummers experienced with electronic drums. However, I feel it’s still a very misunderstood area for musicians.

There have been fantastic developments in the electronic drumming industry, which I really believe can complement drums in new and impressive ways.

Mike O’Connor is an Irish drummer, with a passion for music production and hybrid drumming. He writes for the site electronic drum advisor, which provides reviews, guides and tips for electronic drumming.

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How To Create A Killer Musician Website: Soundfly, Bandzoogle Course


Guest post by the . This article originally appeared on Soundfly’s Flypaper

New course announcement!

Your website is more than just a place for fans to listen to your music. It’s where you establish your brand as an artist, gather email addresses from people who actually want to hear from you, and sell directly to your fans without going through any middlemen. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create a stellar site of your own, and you don’t need to know how to code or hire a developer.

That’s why we’re so excited to announce the launch of our new free course, How to Create a Killer Musician Website! In this course, we’ll hear from Delaney Gibson, Chief Artist and founder of the creative agency CCXA, about her best practices for putting together an effective, easy-to-update website that catches the eye and captures your leads.

This course is for artists, bands, producers, and performers who are hoping to create a more professional presence online. We’ll talk about why a website can be a good thing to have, what any good website needs to include, how to go about building one, and how to fit it into a more comprehensive marketing strategy for your project.

We created this course in partnership with our friends over at Bandzoogle, one of the great web hosting platforms we talk about in the course. They encounter a ton of musicians who come to them looking for advice on how to get the most from their site, so we decided to try to create the most comprehensive guide ever on the topic.

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You don’t need to use Bandzoogle to enjoy this course, but if you sign up, you’ll have access to a free trial and a special discount on their website-building platform. So go ahead and check out our exciting new course, How to Create a Killer Musician Website, for free! 

Introducing Delaney Gibson

Delaney Gibson is an artist, art director, designer, and songwriter who has worked with dozens of artists to art direct and design their websites over the years. She runs the creative agency CCXA and is one half of electro–pop duo Signy. You can check out their latest single below!

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MPA Group CEO Jane Dyball to step down


The Music Publishers Association Group of companies (MPA, MCPS, PMLL) today announced that CEO, Jane Dyball will step down in the New Year.  Jane joined as CEO of MCPS PMLL and IMPEL in January 2014, later adding MPA to her roster and will have served 5 years as CEO, bringing MPA’s group of companies together under one roof, steering MCPS in its first few years as a standalone business which has paid down more than £16m debt, revamping the MPA service to its members, and developing new licensing schemes at PMLL.   During the remaining months of her tenure, Dyball will see through the review of MCPS’s membership agreement and Strategic Licensing review.

Dyball said: “It’s always hard to know when to leave because there is always more to do, and these companies have a really great future.  However, I have either completed or set in motion everything on the “to do” list that I wrote on my first day and it seemed the right time to move on.  It has been challenging but rewarding and I have loved working with such a great team – both within the Group but also among our members and partners.  I’m really grateful to the Boards and members who I have tried my best to represent for letting me have this opportunity.”

Jackie Alway, MPA chair said: “Jane has been a force for good at the MPA for the last 4 years, driving innovation and positive change.  The MPA Group of companies has been brought together and rendered streamlined and efficient.  The MPA itself is now a dynamic organisation staffed by a talented and hardworking team achieving great things.  We are sharply focussed on defending publishers’ and creators’ rights at policy level, and beyond that Jane has been the architect of a great evolution in the services we provide to members.  On her watch, the MPA has gained student members, a young members group, extended training and education events, policy updates for members and fantastic Summer and Christmas parties.  We are so grateful to Jane for her energy, humour and vision.  We wish her further success in her next ventures and we look forward to the challenge of finding a new leader for our organisation who can build on these well-laid foundations”.

Chris Butler, MCPS chair said:  “It has been a pleasure and an education to work with Jane over the past years which have been transformational for MCPS during a period of systemic industry change. We are extremely grateful for her hard work and undoubted achievements and she will leave the company in fine shape for her successor as it enters the next phase of its development.

Richard King, PMLL chair said: “The formation and emergence of PMLL have coincided with Jane’s tenure as MPA Group CEO. Its success as a licensing body has been enabled by her vision and drive, for which all constituents of the printed music community are hugely grateful.”

The post MPA Group CEO Jane Dyball to step down appeared first on Music Publishers Association.

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MPA to sponsor British Composer Award for Inspiration


The Music Publishers Association is delighted to be sponsoring the British Composer Award for Inspiration at BASCA’s Composer Awards taking place later this year. This is the second year in a row that the MPA is sponsoring the award. Last years recipient was Nigel Osborne MBE.

The British Composer Award for Inspiration is one of two Gift of BASCA Awards that will be presented at the ceremony on 4 December in recognition of a composer’s contribution to contemporary music throughout their career. The recipient of the 2018 Inspiration Award will be announced at the ceremony.

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. The event is in association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage. They celebrate the art of composition and showcase the creative talent of contemporary composers and sound artists.

The post MPA to sponsor British Composer Award for Inspiration appeared first on Music Publishers Association.

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Is Formal Education Important For Musicians


The issue of whether musicians should pursue formal education or remain self-taught is causing heated debate in recent days. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, therefore, as a musician, do not be pushed by what people are saying. It’s important that you do your due diligence, weigh the pros and cons of going to college then make your decision yourself.

According to some self-taught individuals in the music industry who range from singers to guitarists and producers, being self-taught gives you the opportunity to be adventurous and therefore, more creative. They are not limited by any guidelines unlike those that went to college. In music schools, people are taught the same things which just gets them set on the same ground and mostly tend to release the same kind of music. That sounds boring, doesn’t it? There is hope though, since the making of music does not only depend on one factor and formal education might be more helpful than you thought.

Here are some ways that musicians benefit from getting a formal education.

Helps to Nurture Talent

Having a great voice does not make you a musician. Sad, right? Being a good musician involves creating music that people can relate to and these are not skills that you are born with. Fortunately, music schools are here to solve that problem. They teach you how to balance your voice and give you an idea of how the industry operates

Helps You Understand the Process

The process of making music is very important but complicated. Schools help you understand the musical notes, tempo, melody, rhythm, etc. Learning about all these helps you advance your understanding of the music structure and composition.

Music classes also improve your memory retention. This is why many schools are introducing classes for students even in the lower grades. Statistics show that schools with music classes have a graduation rate of 90.2% compared to 72.9% in those that do not offer them.

Teaches You How to Give Quality

The fans of music expect the musician to produce high-quality music. It takes an expert to produce that kind of music. Schools give you a clear picture of what good means. They also aid you with suggestions on the best producers, directors, and deejays. Producing high-quality content in terms of visuals and audio sends an important message to your fans that you are all about quality. Remember, pleasing your fans should be your number one agenda.

Teaches You Important Communication Skills

You will learn the verbal and non-verbal cues from your fans. Music happens to be a popular and powerful tool for expression, and it can also alter the behavior patterns of your audience. You can tell if your fans love the music not just by seeing them dance but also by looking at other reactions, for example, a fan enjoying a love song will probably dance with their eyes closed.

Learning the jargon used in this industry helps you to effectively communicate with other artists. This might even land you an international collaboration. You will also learn the skills that you need to negotiate for deals. This is probably the most important trick to learn since we are talking about money. Schools give you a chance to interact with established artists who give you estimates charged on either tours, endorsements, etc. This ensures that you are making profits as a musician. Who wants to work without making any returns?

Gives a Backup Plan

Most artists who attend music schools learn how to play one or several instruments. This acts as a backup plan for starters who can use the skills learned to make some extra cash while waiting for their music career to pick. They work as trainers for kids. They also make posters for gigs, a skill learned in the schools. Making posters is proving to be a lucrative business with the increased tours and concerts in the USA.

Helps You Make Informed Decisions

You will be able to understand which contract to sign and the ones to reject. If you plan on joining a record label, what are you entitled to? Which labels will match your kind of music? Are the returns you are getting from the labels worth the hustle? Are you ready to release an album or do you need more time? A person who has attended a good music school will make these kinds of decisions with ease.


As much as you have talent as a musician, getting a degree in music and arts is an added advantage for you. It is true that there are many musicians out there who’ve made it without any formal education, but getting it just gives you that edge. You’ll have nothing to lose but everything to gain!

As a musician, now that you know the advantages of going to music school, is it easier to make a decision on which way to go?

Author’s Bio:

Lucas Cappel is a writer and a professional educator with a deep-rooted interest in the philosophy of knowledge and the human mind. Working as an education advisor at Lucas spends his free time volunteering as a philosophy tutor and writing about the importance of education.

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Book your place now for the MPA Induction Course on 11th & 12th September


The MPA Induction Course, sponsored by Vistex, is one of the most renowned courses in the industry. Happening four times a year the course sees an expert group of panellists put the spotlight on all areas of music publishing; copyright, royalties, sync, societies, legal issues and data.

Since it began, almost everyone in the music publishing industry has attended the Induction Course at some point and as such, this esteemed course is nearly always over-subscribed. The MPA Pub Social, which happens four times a year, normally lands on the second day of the course, where attendees are able to network and socialise in an informal environment.

Our panellists are the most senior executives in our industry and give an all-around introduction to music publishing.

Please CLICK HERE to see the full programme, list of speakers and to download the booking form for the next course which is on 11th & 12th September.

The post Book your place now for the MPA Induction Course on 11th & 12th September appeared first on Music Publishers Association.

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