"Number one with a Coke Please"

The Number system

Picture this: You just arrived at a fast-food chain restaurant and you yell out your window, “Number one with a Coke please.” Or for you mid-westerners out there, “ A number one with a pop.” After ordering, you pull up to the window, pay the cashier, and viola!...you receive a Double cheeseburger with fries and a Coke.

On the other hand, you could have told the cashier that you wanted a number two from the menu and you would have instead received a Spicy Chicken sandwich with fries and a Coke. Each number on the menu represents a different combination of food and consequently a more efficient way of communicating.

Just like most fast food restaurants, music has a number system also. It uses the numbers 1 through 7 and each number represents a combination of notes on the piano. Musicians Love Love Love to communicate with numbers. As a matter of fact, I use it all the time. This is how it works: Let’s pretend we are in the key of “F”. (If you are unsure or do not remember what it means, no worries, just keep reading.)

You just quit your job as an accountant and decide to live out your dream as a world famous musician. You’re currently in a rehearsal with the band preparing for a 3 day concert in Milan next week. The band leader instructs you to play the “One.” Easy. You simply press the notes F, A, and C on the piano. Boom! Done! Next, the bandleader instructs you to play the “five.” You then press the C, E, and G simultaneously.

Below are the numbers and their associated chords in the key of F:

1 = F A C

2 = G Bb D

3 = A C E

4 = Bb D F

5 = C E G

6 = D F A

7 = E G Bb