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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?

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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.

  • Thanks all for your help. I have decided to write at the start of a song.... kC for the key of C, and then if a key change happens say to Eb I will put kEb. Once I write that, I will continue the number or Nashville system for the new key. This seems the simpest way for me. I was just hoping there was a standard way. – DaveM Aug 19 '17 at 7:16
  • The 'standard way' is to write notation and/or chord symbols. Why are you hung up on using Nashville for music that seems to be beyond its scope? – Laurence Payne Aug 19 '17 at 13:36
  • I'm a self taught keyboard player trying to find a system to play songs that wander off from simple chords (7) . I'm finding that numbering chords is so much better than writing chord names. I don't read music but play mainly by ear. I figured it would be better to use a system that is well known if it existed. – DaveM Aug 19 '17 at 13:47
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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.

  • Second paragraph: "Either modulating," did you mean tonicization? (+1) – Richard Aug 18 '17 at 12:36
  • @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 '17 at 12:57
  • " where there's an F, maybe, use VII." I think you meant bVII. – Bruce Fields Aug 18 '17 at 13:40
  • @BruceFields - I did, and should have put that. Thanks. Once in a while I become human... Glad someone's paying attention! – Tim Aug 18 '17 at 14:16
  • @Tim Wow, I didn't know that "tonicization" was a largely American thing! Today I learned... – Richard Aug 21 '17 at 15:44

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