Silly Question about Transcription

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by EdJim, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. I've been messing with some jazz. It mostly consists of practicing along with Real Books chord sheets, playing rudimentary chords to learn common changes, writing beginner walking lines and figuring out simple heads by ear. I'm still very much a beginner.

    To add to my woodshed 'duties', i'd really like to get started transcribing. I've got my free copy of transcribe and I've got some blank sheet music, but when it comes to actually transcribing, I freeze, overanalyze, worry I'm doing it wrong, get frustrated and quit.

    For example, this evening, I started transcribing the first solo from So What. I can play along with it and I'm finding the notes just fine, but when it comes time to put the pencil to paper, I worry that I'm doing it wrong... "Should that note go there or at the beginning of the next bar? Is that note dotted or shorter/longer? Etc..."

    Should I worry this much about making my transcriptions easy for others to read or should I just transcribe and figure that I'm the only one who really has to understand and know how to play them? Is transcribing a skill that I'll develop as I do it more & more?

  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    If others can't read what you're transcribing, then you're transcribing wrong. Notation is universal, not proprietary. Furthermore, if you're the only one who can play what's written correctly, then you're probably also reading wrong...or not really reading at all.

    You kind of need to be able to read before you transcribe.
  3. Milestones


    May 28, 2012
    The difficulty with transcription is always notating the rhythm. Ink on paper is at best only an approximation of what you hear. But you can get close. Here's a good method:

    First of all, make sure you're listening and only listening. Put your bass down where you can't touch it. You'll think you'll need to play it in order to hear the notes, but you don't.

    Now while listening to the part where you need to figure out the rhythm, tap your index finger on beat 1, your middle finger on beat 2, your ring on beat 3 and pinky on beat 4. Listen to the rhythm of the line and see what fingers it lines up with. It will take a lot of repetitions, but this is a great way to figure out rhythms.

    Remember that even great players with great ears still need to take a long time to learn some things by ear. Transcribing is difficult, especially at first. To keep from going crazy, start by transcribing very simple and easy things. Nursery rhymes and folk songs are good for that. I'm not sure if Transcribe slows things down, but I would urge you to not slow down your recordings for transcribing. One of the many benefits of transcribing is that your ear speeds up, but only if you transcribe at real speed.
  4. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    yup, that's it. Baby steps. Learning to transcript is very close to learning another instrument. Go at it that way.
  5. You'll get better at it as you go along. Also, a lot of times when you transcribe (especially with jazz solos), that the rhythms being played by the soloist don't exactly match up to precise notation. Put another way, you'll probably find that Miles plays some notes slightly behind the beat, slightly ahead, he'll maybe slur into or out of a few that any given passage doesn't translate into a strict pattern of rhythm.

    There's nothing wrong with this - the way the soloist plays rhythmically (and melodically) is the reason why you're interested in the solo, right? The fun part (or hard part, depending on how you look at it) is that music notation has always been an inexact science. Transcribing or composing, it's sometimes difficult to notate a passage of music precisely as you hear it using standardized Western notation methods (which is why you have composers in the 20th-century using non-traditional methods; check out the score to George Crumb's "Black Angels" sometime).

    Ultimately, your goal in notating the solo should be to write it out so that anyone sitting down to read the solo should be able to play an approximation of the original solo. Rhythm, articulations, all play a role.
  6. Thank you all for your answers. I'm pretty ok at transcribing very simple whole, half, quarter, etc... but the_stone hit it right on the head... it's mostly the slurs and embellishments like that that I have a tough time at notating.

    I'll keep at it. I've found another player's transcription of Miles' trumpet solo on So What, so when I finish transcribing, I'll examine them side by side and try to learn where I went right/wrong that way. Might have to be like that for a while -- choosing songs that have already been transcribed so I can check my work against them.
  7. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    What about reading?
  8. 64jazzbass


    Sep 5, 2002
    Chicago, Il
    Transcribing is the best thing you can do to improve your ear but I recommend finding a good teacher to check your work. The mistakes will be there at first, but as time goes on they will be less and less. A good teacher can really help the process.
  9. kalanb


    Dec 17, 2012
    Rhythmulator is a good app that's a rhythm calculator. You can enter in any rhythm and it plays it back for you. It helps a lot when I'm transcribing a tricky line or trying to figure out a challenging rhythm.
  10. AMp'D.2play


    Feb 12, 2010
    You could always use a transcribing software instead of ... or in addition to ... putting pencil to paper. Someone here mentioned MuseScore a while back, and that's what I've been using. It's free. (I also have tried the free version of Finale, but I prefer MuseScore.) It's pretty basic, but it gets the job done. For the price, you can't beat it!

    It also has a playback option, so you can listen to what you've transcribed to see if you have the rhythm correct.
  11. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Transcribe along to a metronome. Sounds old timey and silly, but it can help put any rhythms into context when you need to write them out.
  12. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    I suggest Guitar Pro or a program like mouse in what you think the correct notes and rhythms are .... Play back via midi sounds and re adjust your rhythms till it sounds right!
  13. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    Plus.... With a dedicated program you end up with pro looking tabs, notation or both together! Everything can be exported to PDF and printed anytime, emailed etc