Playalong – Log Driver’s Waltz in Nashville Numbers

You may run across a kind of notation called the Nashville Number System, especially if you find yourself in the woods with some bluegrass players. They may appear instead of traditional chord letter names on a sheet of paper with song lyrics, or they might be hollered or signaled using fingers.

Do you know how to read Nashville numbers? (It’s interesting that Nashville names it. Jazz people have been doing it for decades, you dig.)

Instead of giving a chord a letter name, it is given a number that represents the position of the chord root in a scale. Once you can read and translate this in your head, you can play a tune in any key, and you can transcribe chords quite easily whether you can read music or not.

To keep it simple, I’ve included only a few keys here. For more, click through to the Wikipedia article linked at the top of the page.

.                             1     2     3     4      5    6     7
Key of C              C    D     E     F     G    A    B
Key of D            D    E     F#  G    A    B    C#
Key of F              F    G     A     Bb  C     D    E
Key of G             G    A     B      C    D     E    F#

So, if you’re going to play The Log Driver’s Waltz in the key of D, your song leader might say “Log Driver in D!   1, 4, 5-7!” If you look at the handy chart, you will see that the 1 chord is D, the 4 chord is G, the 5-7 chord is the fifth note, A, as a seventh chord, so A7.

Neat! Tell me more!

Here is a clue to help you out — in a simple major key tune, your 5 chord (in the key of D, the 5 chord is A) is going to be a seventh — A7. In the same vein, your 2 chord or 6 chord is usually minor. If there was a 2 in this song, it would be 2min. (Emin in the key of D).

Stop, oh blargh, this is confusing!

Okay, okay. You only need three chords from the one line.


“Symbols (you may see in printed bluegrass jam charts):
– Asterisk (*) =  new measure, play same chord
– Most songs use four chords or less ( 1 , 5 , 4 , 6 )
– Beware: the number 7 could be the seventh scale note or a 7th chord”

THE LOG DRIVER’S WALTZ  – Wade Hemsworth

THE LOG DRIVER’S WALTZ  – Wade Hemsworth

Time: 3/4     Playalong Key: D    Chords: 3    (Hint: D, G, A7.)

.                          1               *                       4              *
If you should ask any girl from the parish a-round
.             57                  *                         *                     1
What pleases her most from her head to her toes
.             *                    *                        4                  *
She’ll say: I’m not sure that it’s business of yours
.         57                 *                     1                   *
But I do like to waltz with a log driver, (for he goes)

1                       *                               4                       *
For he goes birling down, and down white water
1                *                                  57                      *
That’s where the log driver learns to step lightly
.        1            *                 4                       *
It’s birling down, and down white water
.     1                    *                       57   (*)          1
A log driver’s waltz pleases girls com-pletely

.                   1                          *         4                  *
When the drive’s nearly over, I like to go down
.       57                     *                             *                    1
To watch all the lads while they work on the river
.   *                             *                           4                *
I know that come evening they’ll be in the town
.               57                   *                      1            *
And we all want to waltz with a log driver

To please both my parents, I’ve had to give way
And dance with the doctors and merchants and lawyers
Their manners are fine, but their feet are of clay
For there’s none with the style of my log driver

Now I’ve had my chances with all sorts of men
But none is so fine as my lad on the river
So when the drive’s over, if he asks me again
I think I will marry my log driver

ENDING: CHORUS TWICE (add extra bar on “com-” of “com-pletely”)


2 thoughts on “Playalong – Log Driver’s Waltz in Nashville Numbers

  1. Oh Outstanding! What a great video! And Kate and Anna McGarrigle vocals – Yea!!! I love the way they have actual log drivers at the beginning before the animation starts – remarkable strength, balance and athleticism!


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