Hi and thank you to all who use this site to talk about music.

My question which I have not been able to find anywhere is when using the chord numbering system or the Nashville system, How do you make key changes. Some songs seem to go to another key for one or two bars and then some change key completely.

My example would be When I Die by a group called "No Mercy" and the song "She".

Can anyone help?

2 Answers 2


The real answer to this is not to be afraid to discard Nashville or numbering when the music becomes too complex for them to be useful. Particularly when using them as an aid to playing rather than a system of analysis.


If the song changes key, properly, as in it's now permanently in the new key, then I would use the same NNS but indicate that I is now the old, say, II, if it went from, say, G to A.

'Changing key for one or two bars'? That's one of two things. Either modulating, which isn't changing key, permanently, but slipping somewhere else temporarily. You may find a song in G has a middle 8 that looks like it's in C, for instance. Keep the same numbers, and where there's an F, maybe, use bVII.

The other thing may be 'odd' chords that are not diatonic. No big deal: in G, say, there's a Bb. I'd write it as bIII.

Please note I use Roman numerals rather than the Arabics for NNS, partly because it's easier to make majors and minors readable.

  • @Richard - that's not a word in common parlance this side of the pond, I think. What I meant by modulation is a change, usually to a related key, for a couple or several bars (measures!), but returning to the original key rather than staying in the 'new' key. It may well be another way of saying the same thing.
    – Tim
    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:57
  • @Tim Wow, I didn't know that "tonicization" was a largely American thing! Today I learned...
    – Richard
    Aug 21, 2017 at 15:44

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