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Creating Charts / Transcribing Tunes for Your Band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jive1, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Anyone have experience with creating charts or transcribing tunes for members in your band?

    Looks like I'll be in a position to get some charts for horn players in the band. The goal is to make it easier to get a fill-in, so I'd like to have charts. But, I'm not a horn player. So, I'm looking for time/cost efficient way to do this.

    - I could pay one of the guys to do the charts, but how much should I pay someone to chart out a book of tunes (approx 60 songs)?
    - I could buy charts, but not all songs have charts available. And even the ones that do may only have a piano/vocal sheet that may not have the horn parts.
    - I could create them myself, but my transcription is bad and I'm afraid I would mess up the time values of the notes. I could play them on the keyboard, so is there any software out there that can take a keyboard performance and turn it into a chart?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. nicopiano

    nicopiano Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Levis, Quebec, Canada

    The best way is:

    - If you find charts with horn arrangement that fit perfectly (form, key, number of horn, etc.) : buy it
    - For everything you can't find in the market : hired a good arranger to do the job

    I would say don't do it yourself if you're not good at it and if you don't have an extensive knowledge about brass instruments and arranging. It's at your own risk!

    Good luck!
  3. If I remember correctly, Finale has an interface that allows you to connect a keyboard to your computer and lets you enter notation by playing it on the keyboard, instead of manually entering the notes on the staff. I haven't used Finale in years, though, so I don't know how current versions work.

    Otherwise, I agree with what nicopiano said about finding someone else to do it. If your transcribing/transposing/arranging chops are good, and you have the time, it's probably cheaper to do it yourself. But if you're unsure and under any sort of meaningful time constraint, you're probably better off hiring someone.
  4. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Both Finale and Sibelius let you hook up a keyboard and play stuff. I personally prefer Sibelius, but that's just me. I've found that full transcriptions of horn-driven pop tunes tend to run between $60-$100 a chart. I've dropped $4000 on such transcriptions for one of my bands, and they've been worth every penny in terms of saving time, avoiding arguments about "when does that lick come in?", bringing subs on-board with varying lengths of notice, and even making a better class of musician available to the band.
  5. GarageBand takes midi keyboard and prints off the sheet music.
  6. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Thanks for responding, I remember you mentioning paying for arrangements, but man, that's expensive. For the price you paid, did you get them in digital format? Also, how complex were your arrangements? Was it just horns, or all instruments? I'm only looking for horn arrangements for 2 pieces. Mainly trombone and tenor sax, but it would be nice to get an arrangement for 1 high and 1 low like Bari/Trumpet, Tenor/Trombone, Trombone/Trumpet, etc.
  7. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Put up an ad at a local university..

    I make alotta spare change doin transcriptions/arrangements
  8. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Yeah, it was definitely a pretty penny, but I figured that it was an investment not dissimilar to a (really) nice bass. Also, unlike a (really) nice bass, there's no 'wear and tear', new strings, worry about dropping and busting the neck, etc :)

    My charts were for lead-sheet, bass (really just simple Real-Book style chord charts so my book stays nice and thin), and tenor/alto/bari saxes. The trombone players have no problem transposing a tenor chart, trumpets transpose the alto, and the bari is there for all those ToP charts with the REAAALLY SPECIFIC (and funky) bari line. The guy I get my charts from also has no problem giving me the Sibelius file so I can transpose/edit after the fact as necessary. If you're just looking for two horns, you can probably get them for close to half of what I paid.
  9. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Normally I would either pay or farm it out, but the band is a ska/punk/swing/funk band so there's not alot of charts available commercially for the material. But, I have been looking for ones that do.

    Some of the horn parts are kinda simple, and that's the only reason why I would consider doing it myself. But, I'm not experienced at brass or winds, or dealing with Bb vs C instruments so I could be off too. Another option I'm considering is doing the charts from keyboard and then giving them to one of the horn players to fix afterwards.
  10. beggar98


    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    If you can do it yourself, I think it's worth it. Transcribing is like any other muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. I'm pretty sure Finale and Sibelius will let you enter a chart in C and then transpose as needed. They'll also give you a score, which is indispensable for rehearsals with anything more than two-part horns.
  11. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    That's the approach I have taken with this band. Lord knows I've already spent plenty of money on equipment over the years, so this time I'm willing to invest in the band. As they say, you gotta spend money to make money....
    After dealing with horn players, it's just a whole lot easier to find and replace them when you have charts. Even though I can find a guitarist or a bassist who can memorize a tune, it's pretty close to impossible to find a horn player. I think there's some type of different mentality going on. But, since so many of the songs are non-standard, it's going to be harder to find a fill-in who fit the bill without them. I figure once I have the charts, I can get anyone capable, not necessarily one familiar with the tunes or genre (although I'd prefer that).

    Another question, for that price, how many songs did you get transcribed?
    I already have chord charts. I do that for every band I work with. Lead sheets I may be able to find in a fake book, but since I'm the vocalist, I should be familiar with the melody. I think all I need are some horn charts, and they don't have to be for the whole song. Just the main riffs and sections are good for me.
  12. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    As one of my ex-horn players was fond of saying, "Why do horn players always read the chart down at the gig?"


    "Because they can!" :smug:

    As for charts-per-dollar, it's somewhere between 40 and 50 tunes ranging from simple-ish Lyle Lovett blues to full-throttle Tower Of Power to the theme song from a very popular Japanese anime (how many funk bands have YOU heard play 'Tank!' between sets? ;-) )

    If you've already got chord charts and/or lead-sheets, it sounds like you would do very well to pick up a copy of Sibelius and their "Photo-score" plugin. With that combination, I can scan in charts and have it (mostly) convert it straight to Sibelius-compatible notation. They've got a pretty comprehensive tutorial that will get you up to speed in about two hours. I'd wager that if you dedicated a solid weekend to transcribing/learning Sibelius, you'd make a lot more progress than you'd think. Afterwards, future transcription would be relatively easy and straightforward (Beggar is right, transcription is just like any other muscle), AND you might be able to start charging schmos like me to chart the occasional tune!
  13. Yep. this is the way to go if you have keyboard skills.

    You can do at 60bpm if you need to to get the timing right, plus you can adjust the note lenghts and pitch once you have the basics in. You can play it all in C and then transpose to whatever for each horn if want.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Been awhile since I wrote horn parts, but I've done it, not for pay, though. But, I did write a bass book of 72 songs, note for note for a successful band that had two hits. I talked it over with a local arranger/composer about a fee. He said that for regular tunes, about $20-25 per page. Actually, that wasn't enough considering the amount of time it took me to listen and pick it all out. It's all I did after work every night for weeks. Whew, I'm not fast enough at it. But, I am a calligraphist, so it looks good, and I have a music degree, so it was all accurate just like classical sheet music. I managed to get most songs on one or two pages. Sometimes, though, the charts are hard to follow due to all the repeat symbols, coda, and whatnot. I had to mark them carefully for myself until I no longer needed them (I was in that band for awhile). But, the charts did help when a sub was needed, and for whoever followed me as the bass guy.

    Point is, get someone who can really do the job. It just might not be cheap. Time is precious.
  15. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    if you do them yourself post on here and I'll double check them
  16. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I think I might have found another option. Looks like I could download a MIDI file and create notation from it. It's not a complete nor necessarily effective solution, but it might work for a few tunes.

    Has anyone else done this?
  17. ThirstyMonkey


    Jun 27, 2011
    I was going to suggest this, but you found it yourself before I found your thread. If you have the right software (I use Sonar Producer, it's full featured DAW) it'll be really easy once you have accurate midi files of the compositions. I've found this to be hit or miss. The good thing is you can play the files and listen to see if they are accurate (I use the virtual instruments in my DAW as they sound better than anything a sound card can play).

    The one thing you'll have to be careful about is transposing. I'm pretty sure all of the midi files are intended to be played on a standard keyboard, and will notate as such (Standard piano music staff (treble/bass clef). Not all instruments are notated this way and you will have to notate the part with the correct Clef. This is complicated further that the same note, for example middle C on the piano, is not a "C" on some instruments. Here is a chart that will help with transposing: http://www.saxontheweb.net/Transposition.html. Whatever software you're using should be able to this, you'll just need to make sure you're doing it correctly for whatever instrument you're creating the charts for.

    BTW--I know you're a very experienced musician and likely already knew this, but I thought I'd point it out for any less experienced folks who stumble on this thread.
  18. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    For two tunes, seems like $100 or so would be worth it to have them done for you.
  19. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I usually use Cakewalk (I'm old, so I still call it that).

    I scoured the net today and downloaded a bunch of MIDI files. I hope they work out, and reduce the number of charts that I'll need to create or purchase.
  20. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    If it hasn't been mentioned yet , can't sibelius transpose from clef to clef for you ?

    You know the rest.
    cheers Jive,

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