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In his answer to What's the difference between the Nashville Number system and a Roman Numeral System?, Dom states that "Roman Numeral Analysis as stated is used mainly in analysis while the Nashville number system is more for practical purposes." He goes on to say that the NNS makes inversions a bit more intuitive (5/7 for a first-inversion V chord, instead of V6), but that chromatic chords are easier in Roman numerals.

Based on the above information, the NNS would be best suited for completely diatonic music, which is relatively uncommon in popular music (the repertoire for which the NNS was devised). Furthermore, it seems odd that a main selling point is inversions, when figured bass has worked just fine for centuries.

So in what context(s) would one prefer the NNS over Roman numerals?

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  • Isn’t diatonic music more common in Nashville than in other centers of pop music? – Todd Wilcox Jun 5 at 2:19
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NNS was developed before the fact, while RN was developed after the fact.

As in, the purpose of NNS is to provide accompaniment in whatever key, to any songs to be recorded that would suit the singer's key, thus saving time re-writing the harmonies.

RN is far more an academic analysis of already existing music, in order to analyse what has already happened - maybe hundreds of years ago, in order to provide exact notation (explanation) of the music.

As far as inversions go, that's not so important in NNS, but is of paramount importance in RN. the two aren't really comparable from a lot of standpoints, although they appear to do similar jobs.

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    I don't understand what you mean about "before" and "after" "the fact". – Aaron Jun 4 at 19:29
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    That aspect is almost the same. Except RN takes the concept deeper, whereas NNS doesnt, as it doesn't need to, due to its purpose. I've only really given a basic overview as yet. – Tim Jun 4 at 19:31
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    @Aaron - RN is examining what is already existing. NNS is more a roadmap of where to go next. No-one has written RN as 'this will happen', rather than 'this is what happened', in comparison to NNS 'this is what will happen'. – Tim Jun 4 at 19:34
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    So, NNS is more like standard music notation or chord notation in that it tells one (approximately what to play; whereas RN is an analysis explaining why the music has the effect it has? – Aaron Jun 4 at 19:38
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    @Aaron - that's my take on it. – Tim Jun 4 at 20:34
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I've always believed that the Nashville system was devised to accommodate musicians with little or no ability to read roman numerals or sheet music. Country music has often utilized musicians who can play up a storm, but have little or no formal training and can count from 1 to 10 but had little or no exposure to Roman Numerals. In my own experience both systems have been used interchangeably and I haven't noticed any important difference.

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