Is it transcribing if you don't notate?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mambo4, May 22, 2012.

Can you transcribe without notation?

Poll closed May 29, 2012.
  1. Yes, transcribing is just playing it

    4 vote(s)
  2. No, the notation is crucial

    25 vote(s)
  3. Carrots

    4 vote(s)
  1. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Some have posted claiming to transcribe things , but go one to indicate they re not writing things out on the staff.
    Do you feel that is that really transcribing?

    I voted "no" because as an educational tool, transcribing is not just about learning to play a part
    but also to learn notation, and to see the part in a more functional way than simple mimicry.
  2. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    If you learn it and play it, that's memorizing. If you write it down so anyone who reads music can play it, that's transcribing.
  3. To scribe something would generally be to write it down, so I'd have to go with no.

    Maybe they're confusing transposing? Or using a fancy word for figuring something out by ear?
  4. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Not really. Transcribe means you're putting it on paper. They're just learning the song by ear.
  5. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I think it's publishing if you write it down so anyone who reads music can play it. It's still transcription even if you don't write it down.
  6. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
    I'm going to join the "scribe means write it down" camp. On the other hand, I don't think that requires standard notation. IMO, TAB would also be transcribing.
  7. The term is used by many to mean both.

    I was in the 'literalist camp' for a while (scribe means to write) - but I watch the jazz cats banter 'transcribe' around all day long meaning "by ear" - so I accept it as both, but feel that if I had to make a stand, my literalist tendencies would prevail.

    So I guess I'm Carrots.
  8. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Exactly! An important, valuable skill but not really transcribing.
  9. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Transcribing means to write stuff down in a way that other musicians can play it as intended. In other words, standard notation. Otherwise - no.
  10. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    For me, if I want to commit a piece of music to memory and really understand it inside and out there are few things that will do it as well as transcribing it. It's almost always worth the time and effort and it gets easier the more one does it. It's fine if you need to learn the basics of the song with the bass first but after you know it try putting the bass down and transcribing while listening without your instrument. Do this enough and you eventually won't need the instrument to do it. I think doing this without constantly referring to your instrument is a great way to train your ear while getting some work done for your gigs. (it's amazing what you will hear when not holding the instrument)
    I did a sub last week and had to learn some Israel Houghton and Fred Hammond tunes on short notice, and I'm not a Gospel guy. Don't think I would have done as well on the gig if I hadn't done the basic transcriptions first. I was second guessing which sections were next until I made the charts. Once I made the charts I no longer needed them although I kept them in view discreetly to the side just in case ;-) I prefer not to read on a gig if I don't have to so I can keep my focus on the leader for any unexpected changes.

    Regardless, semantically speaking, if you don't write it down it's not transcription as the word literally means a written document or the act of creating a written doc.

    Noun: A written or printed representation of something.
    The action or process of transcribing something

    Educationally speaking, it's worth the effort and will yield greater gains than learning the piece by ear on your instrument alone.
  11. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    If you don't write it down but still call it "transcribing," you're using the word incorrectly.
  12. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    meh, who cares.

    Why would you possibly need notation for a song you clearly are already quite familiar with, otherwise you wouldn't ask somebody to transcribe it for you.

    It is a bit different if money trades hands, then I would expect that person to lay out EVERYTHING including chord charts, and full staff, possibly including other parts as well so you can see melody and such.
  13. Gaius46


    Dec 15, 2010
    Transcribe in common usage means to write something down or to make a copy of something. I don't believe the music specific definition is any different. If you don't write it down how is it any different from learning or memorizing the song? If it's not available to other musicians it not a transcription.

    Half the work of transcribing, maybe more than half, is notating the rhythm. If you aren't doing that you aren't transcribing.
  14. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    You can still put rhythm in tabs.

    For me rhythm is probably less that 10% of the work, working out the notes takes lots more work.
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I suppose it varies depending on the genre of music,
    But for me and my soul/funk study, notating the rhythm is by far the more challenging part.
  16. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    I voted yes. It has been my experience that, to really know a solo that you've lifted from a recording, it must be "transcribed" directly to your head, without the intermediate step of writing it down. At least that was how it was taught to me back in the day at the University of Miami when all sax majors had to lift and learn Parker and Coltrane solos. Their philosophy was that, once you write it down, you only "read" it on subsequent playings, and thus, your inherent knowledge of the solo was gradually diminished. At least that's the reasoning if you're transcribing for your own use only. The sax teachers hated it when we said we "learned" Parker solos from the Omnibook!
  17. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
    I'm reading your response, Gaius, and nodding my head. Good point. I read standard more "fluidly" than I read TAB and get almost no value from TAB alone. I like TAB as a supplement, but agree that at best, TAB is a partial transcription.
  18. As others have said, if there is no transcription, you haven’t transcribed anything. You’ve just learnt to play it.
  19. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    Transcribe means to write out -IMO- so my vote is no.

    To me,

    If you memorize the are INTERNALIZING the song. you know the high/lows (dynamics) ptiches, rhythms, the silences..lyrics etc.etc..

    If you learn by ear w/ are learning to PLAY the song..(again easier if the song is internalized)

    If you transcribe the are WRITING the song out -standard notation- notes (ptich/duration) and rhythms. (this too is easier if the song has been internalized)

    if you have internalized the song (or intervals/chords etc.etc..) then you can more easily transcribe and play the song. but it is not necessarily a requirement

    *Note* I also feel you need no instrument to produce a transcription. (pensil/; the like) as well as you do not need an instrument to internalize a song. only ears/time

    my 0.02 cents

  20. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    "Transcribe," by definition, means to make a written copy of something. If you're not writing it down, it is by definition not transcription. If you're learning a song by ear without writing it down, you can call the process whatever you want, but if you're calling it "transcribing," you're using the term incorrectly.
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