Nashville chord numbers provide a key-agnostic way of describing chord symbols using numbers to represent degrees of the scale, rather than traditional letter-based note names.
According to Wikipedia, the Nashville numbering system was invented by Neal Matthews, Jr. in the 1950s for The Jordanaires, the singing group most famous for providing the backing vocals on most of Elvis Presley’s albums. Despite its longevity, the system hasn’t necessarily gained much currency outside of Nashville, but for musicians on the scene in Music City, USA, being able to read Nashville numbers is a valuable skill.
If you’re a demon player who can transpose any song at sight, you can carry a single chart in your gig bag, and play the changes in whatever key the singer requires, translating the numbers on the page into the appropriate chords for the corresponding degree of the scale of the current key.
In order to bring this convention to Sibelius users, plug-in guru Bob Zawalich has written Nashville Chord Numbers, a plug-in that can convert to and from Nashville numbers in your score. So you can take a simple chord progression like this:
and turn it into this:
at the click of a button (and it can turn it back again, too).
So give it a try and see what you think. Do you use Nashville chord numbers? If so, leave your experiences in the comments.