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I'm so bad at transcribing, what the hell?!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by d8g3jdh, Apr 3, 2006.

  1. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    Alright, I'm currently engrossed in a large amount of schoolwork, so when I do have time to practice I devote it mostly to ear training, which means transcribing. But I'm so bad at it! At first I thought I had a handle on it when I nailed a couple Audioslave tunes, but today I tried to transcribe 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' and was completely off! Not a single note correct. And the bass line to this song is ridiculously easy, something like 4 notes. But I was still way off. Argh, I need help!
  2. just listen. Unfortunately this is one aspect of bass (to me) that is just an outright female dog. I find that once i get started it just gets easier. The first three notes are the hardest. Keep at it bro!
    Try ramones songs - thats what i did
  3. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    The only way to get better is practice. Start with just trying to get the chords right. Then get the actual notes.
  4. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
  5. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I find that I have trouble when I go for every single nuance. It drives me nuts some times. Now, I just make sure I get that main lines down and sometimes "close enough" will just have to do although it really depends on the song and how authentic I want to be to the original.

    If I find I am having trouble on a certain part or passage, I'll take a break and come back to it later with fresh ears. The bottom line is practice. The more you do it, the easier it will become and you'll start to see the notes and rhythms. We are talking standard notation, right?
  6. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    +1 I find as my ears get more tired it is harder to hear the notes. Either take a break or play some songs you know. Just easing up on the concentration can help. But a complete break it best.
  7. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I can relate.

    It certainly hasn't come quickly or easily for me.
    Along the journey, I haven't picked up a whole lot of
    tricks. Just keep at it, and slowly, but surely, you Will get better at it.

    One thing I do - I *sketch* the song first. I lay it out just outlining the chords. Then, when I'm totally clear with that, I'll go back and try to fill it out.
  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    And when you practice, don't just do scales and finger exercises. Pick out melodies that you know... Happy Birthday, Take me out to the Ballgame, church hymns, folks songs, easy stuff. It really helps get your fingers going to the notes you hear in your head.

    It takes time.
  9. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    One suggestion would be to sing what you hear. Sing it until you really know the bass line. Then, make it happen on your instrument. This goes along with the last post that suggests playing familar melodies by ear.

    I just recently did a transcription of Miles Davis's solo on Autumn Leaves and his solo on So What. I had a tough time working out some of the rhythms. I used a program called Transcribe to slow things down for accuracy.

  10. menyo


    Feb 15, 2005
    +1 for Transcribe! The best $45.00 I ever spent on a piece of music application software. I am learning to play funk. I use Transcribe! to loop a groove in a particular song that I want to learn and slow down 50%-70% until I get it down. You have the ability to also pinpoint a note and Transcribe! will display all of the harmonics in that small, notes-length section over a keyboard display at the bottom of the screen. All you have to do typically is find the highest peak over any particular note on this keyboard and that likely is the note being played. I have learned to hide this portion of the display on the screen by only displaying the analyized portion or the music so I don't 'cheat'. Once you start finding a note or two, the song tends to get easier to follow, at least for me anyways. I was in the very same boat as you just up to a couple of weeks ago after playing for a little over a year. I never thought I would get it. Now I find myself hitting the correct note as soon as I hear a tune. It can be really frustrating but keep at it. As soon as you start picking a correct note or two, the process will seem to snowball in a postive way will quick. This software did more for me than any other book, video or software. Good luck.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Transcription is a wonderful activity. But don't forget ear TRAINING. runners don't train for a marathon by just running marathons, basbeball players don't train for a game by just playing baseball.

    You need to spend some organized, focused time learning to hear, identify and sing intervals in the first and second octave, triads in open and closed positions, 4 part chords open and closed, 4 part swith one tension O & C, with two tensions O & C. That way you aren't juts trying to pull notes out of the air, you can hear that a line starts as a first inversion minor chord then jumps a 4th and then is scalar....
  12. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    When I teach transcribing to my students, I ask them to listen to the song at least 3 times without an instrument in front of them. Just listen, listen to the song structure, how many "parts" of the song are there? Just verses and chorus? a bridge? Then listen for movement, does the line go up or down? step wise motion or big jumps? Then listen for chord quality, are they major and minor chords? For the more advanced students I ask them if the note that the bass is playing is necessarily the root, can you hear what a first inversion or second inversion sounds like? I know this is a lot, but this is about 6 months of transcribing work that I do with my students boiled down to one paragraph. I guess my point is to not try to get everything in your first pass at the tune. Listen for different things each time you listen and don't get frustrated. If you know any theory, once you get the key of the song down, write out the chord possibilities of that key, and that might narrow down your search for the chords of the song.

    Chris A.:rolleyes: :bassist:
  13. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    Another idea - start at the end. What's the last note? Where does the tune land? That note is going to be your reference point.

    Once you know that note, play a few scales, maj and minor perhaps, starting on that note. Now go back to the beginning of the tune. See if that first note is, by chance, the same as the last note. Often it is.

    If you can't hear it right off, use the process of elimination. Play the first note. Try to think in scale degrees. Like, hm, that second note sounds pretty far awy from the first one, maybe it's a 4th or a 5th away from the first note. Or, gee, it sounds like the first four notes of of this tune all are going down, each one lower than the prevoius one. What happens if I play down a major scale and see if any of it lines up with the tune? It's all about reference points.

    Try to hear a big picture. Where does the tune start, where does it land. Which parts are higher and lower? Is it majory or dark and minory? Try to sing the melody AND the bassline. Make yourself focus on the pitches, just singing first. It's musch easier to transcribe something if you can sing it. In fact, if you can't sing it, it's close ot miraculous if you can transcribe it.

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