Teaching Your Worship Musicians the Nashville Numbers System

What is the Nashville Numbers System and how do we use it in worship? More importantly, how can we teach our musicians to understand and use the Nashville Numbers System? In this special bonus episode, I’m answering an Academy member’s question on how he can practically teach his team the NNS (Nashville Number System) at his church.

 
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Transcript

Alex |

Hey, here’s a quick bonus episode for you. In the Academy, we have a Q and A session every week where people submit their questions that they have about worship ministry. And then I give my responses to those questions. This question came from an Academy member named Will, and he’s asking, how do I train my worship team to know the Nashville Numbers System? The Nashville Numbers System is a way of assigning a number to every chord in a key family.

 

Alex |

And that way you can tell your musicians to go to the one chord, the four chord, the six chord, the five chord, whatever. Okay? So this question is, how do we teach our musicians how to play like that? And so here is my response. And if you’d like to join the Academy, I would love to have you inside.

 

Alex |

You can try it for $1 by going to worshipministrytraining.com. Hey, Will, thanks for your patience. I do have a lot of thoughts about this. First of all, I think it’s great that you want to challenge your team to grow. I think the Nashville Number System is super helpful for all worship musicians, musicians in general, honestly, and then especially for worship leaders.

 

Alex |

You don’t need to know it to be a great worship leader, but it does help, and it helps train your ear. So your question is, how do you help your musicians move towards learning the Nashville Number System? I would say a few things. Number one, it takes time. So play a long game.

 

Alex |

Don’t expect, okay, in the next month, all of our musicians are going to learn this, set a more realistic goal of like, over the next year, I want 75% of our musicians to be able to play by numbers. Over the next two years, I want all of our musicians to be able to play by numbers. And then the question is, how do you actually practically go about getting them to play by the numbers? So I have a few thoughts. Number one, the thing that probably made the biggest difference for us at our church, not all of our musicians know the number system, but many of them do now.

 

Alex |

And more and more of them are becoming familiar. And it’s just like a foreign language when you’re immersed in it, when you hear it constantly, your brain, it’s very smart, your brain, and it is able to put together patterns and put together pieces of the puzzle so that it becomes familiar with it. So even some of our singers now, they go, oh, is that the four? Are we going to go to the two? The verbiage and the understanding?

 

Alex |

And even the ear training has come simply by us introducing the language and using it on a regular basis. So the way that it started for us was at the end of each song, I would say, let’s land it on the one. Okay. And then sometimes I would say, let’s land it on the four. Those were literally the only numbers that I used to ever talk about, 1414.

 

Alex |

And then because we’re in different keys over the weeks, there are different keys, the team would get used to the one being the root note and the four being the whatever the four is for that key, and they would just understand, okay, we’re going to go to the four. So those two numbers were how we started, and then we started talking about the six. Let’s go to the six here. And people started to understand what that is. So it’s kind of like just introducing it slowly and then being consistent about using it over and over and over with all your musicians.

 

Alex |

That’s the very passive way to begin training people to understand this concept. It’s not a very active way to go about training. There is a more active way, which I’ll share right now, and that is you have a couple of options. One, actually, in the Academy, I’m going to move my head here. There are Nashville numbers cheat sheet that I give you permission, you have permission as an Academy member to print this out, give it to all your musicians and say, hey, guys, over this coming year.

 

Alex |

My goal is that all of us understand the system. And don’t worry, I’m not going to take away your chord charts, blah, blah, blah. But my goal is that we improve as musicians because God wants us to keep improving in our craft. And you want to always point it back to the Y, and you always want to make the Y spiritual and biblical, which is God wants us to be good stewards with what he’s entrusted to us. He’s given us all the gift of music, and I want us to keep developing that gift.

 

Alex |

Therefore, I want us to all be able to play by numbers because it’s going to make us more versatile, and we’re going to be able to flow with where the Spirit is leading us and we can communicate more quickly, and it’s just more efficient overall. And that’s why we’re going to do that this year. And because it’s January 2023 right now, it’s a great time to cast that vision for your team. Maybe you have an annual team meeting, or maybe you don’t have an annual team meeting. You should have an annual team meeting, and you can check out the copyme course in the Academy to see kind of some of the rhythms and structures that I put in place in my ministry.

 

Alex |

Annual meeting is huge. And at that annual meeting, cast vision for a couple of big goals. And that for you, is going to be your team’s goal this year. One of your team’s goals, maybe you have two, maybe three. By the way, I’m doing a live training on goal setting in ministry in the next couple of weeks.

 

Alex |

So tune in for those. So you have that meeting, you cast that vision, you explain the why, and then you say, here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to pass out this paper, the national numbers cheat sheet paper. I want you guys to just get familiar with the concept. I will also give you a video file right below this video.

 

Alex |

I’m going to leave a comment and I’ll give you the video file to one of the lessons in the musical excellence course that actually does the teaching of the national number system for you. And I give you permission to share that with your team members. In fact, I will probably put that in the team members training document resource that you guys have so you can share that video with your team and let me teach them the national number system, the basics of it. Okay, so one, use it regularly. Two, set it as a goal, cast vision.

 

Alex |

Three, hand out that document here’s. Your fourth way that you could do this is say, hey, guys, once a week, one song per week. We’re going to not have chord charts printed for you because we want you to learn the songs by heart. And we want you to train your ear so that you can just feel the chords instead of having to look at the chords. So maybe it’s one song per week, maybe it’s one song per month.

 

Alex |

I’m not sure what your musicians can handle, but I would say that that’s a really healthy way to do it, where you print out the first three songs of chord charts, but the fourth song, they don’t get it. And you expect them to put in the work to prep and know that song by heart and that’s going to help them train their ear. Okay, so that’s another way, practical way for you to begin helping them train their ear. Then the other option that you can do is for a few of the songs you can actually have the chord chart with the chord and the number next to the chord. So that for a few of the songs, they’re seeing both of them and they’re understanding, okay, this is the one, this is the two, this is the three, this is the four or five, six.

 

Alex |

There’s literally only six notes, really, or chords that you’re really going to be playing. It’s very rare that you play that weird, diminished 7th, whatever it is. So print out ten of your chord charts, have the chord and the number next to the chord so that they get used to correlating the chord and the number together. So those are like five or six practical ways that you can begin training your team in this area. Most of your team will be able to follow along.

 

Alex |

There might be one or two that never grasp it and maybe eventually they just fall off the back of the train as the train moves forward and you guys keep progressing and growing. Maybe those less experienced musicians just realize they can’t keep up anymore and it’s not their season anymore. And that’s totally okay as well. You want to lovingly help them along. Help them to try to stay on the train.

 

Alex |

Help them to try to stay on the back of the train. You might even have to do some special one on one meetings with them. But eventually it might get to the point where either they or you say, maybe this season of your ministry is over. Or they might say, I think my season of ministry is over. So that is how I would recommend you teach them the national numbers system.

 

Alex |

So I will put links to all the Academy resources that I talked about right below this video, and you can get those and share them with your team. I hope this helps. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. God bless. Hope this little bonus episode helped you.

 

Alex |

And just be patient with your musicians as you train them and help them improve again. Check out the Academy would love to have you inside worship Ministrytraining.com. You can try it for $1. See you in the next episode.