I talked a couple months ago about the recording process and how studio musicians have a way of notating chord and melody changes using the Nashville Number System. I’ve always been fascinated by how quickly they are able to learn and make changes to one song after another in a three-hour session.
The system has somewhat been passed down from player to player over the years, leaving few textbook explanations outside the studio. To learn the language, you’d most likely have to get to know one of these professionals—until now.
My friend and fellow songwriter Jonathan Riggs has just made it much easier to communicate with session players during the recording process. In his new booklet, Diamond on the 1, Riggs gives a simple yet thorough overview of the Nashville Number System. As a professional, I’ve found my copy to be very helpful, even in the writing process. This is a booklet worth keeping in your gig bag.
A “diamond on the one” would mean that you play a chord on the first beat of the measure, for the entirety of the measure. The intro to The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” would be a diamond on the one (even though the song’s first measure begins with a strange number of beats). There’s plenty more to explain, but I’ll leave that to Riggs and his booklet.
Keep writing (and learning),
PS - Here is an example from my most recent session: