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Tips for Transcribing

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by theclashkid, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. theclashkid


    Nov 3, 2012
    Hi guys,
    I am planning to transcribe this version of Robert Glasper's "Smell's Like Teen Spirit" and was wondering if anyone had any tips. I understand there is no magic software for it, and at the moment I am slowing it down with Windows Media Player and putting it into Sibelius bit by bit. I can hear the double bass part perfectly fine, but am having a bit of trouble working out the piano part, chords in the left hand and so on.

    Anyway, here it is. It's an excellent cover if you haven't heard it already :)

    All help much appreciated,
  2. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I tend to write out the top and bottom notes of the piano or guitar and then cross reference with the changes if I have access to them. You can usually fill in the blanks if you know the chord changes. I also sit down at a keyboard for all of this, including transcribing bass parts. It's just easier for me to find it on the keyboard for some reason with an acoustic piano patch. Try transcribing the double bass part alone for starters if it's easier for you and then go back and transcribe the melody line before you fill in the blanks with the chords.
    Finally, the pitches or the rhythms with be easier in most things you're transcribing. If the pitches are easier, I'll just scratch the note heads (no rhythm) out on some music paper and then go back and add the rhythm. If vice versa, I'll do the rhythm first.
    Transcribing is one of the best things you can do to develop your ear and your reading. I always felt like it was like taking a private lesson with the player I was transcribing.
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    I like Ron's advice. While there isn't any magic software, there is software that can help http://www.seventhstring.com/xscribe/overview.html
    I transcribe regularly and I think how you do it depends on your goals. If you really want to tune your ear, use the software to keep your place but don't slow the tune down or change the pitch. If that's not the goal, then slowing down fast phrases and sometimes changing the pitch can make an otherwise really tough phrase pretty easy.
    Here's how I do it and I find using this method makes it fairly painless:
    1) listen to the tune a few dozen times, preferably with headphones
    2) try to sing the melody or lines I'm transcribing. For piano or guitar, I find that I can still sing along, but I'm picking the highest pitched note or a target note and both are helpful at really hearing the tune
    3) pick off a phrase or a few measures and count them to figure out how many measures are involved.
    4) sing along with the phrase. See if there are any portions that I already know - scaler few notes, arpeggios, 1625, etc
    5) play along with the phrase either on bass, piano, or guitar to pick up the notes I'm not sure about intellectually and notate as I go.
    I prefer to notate both the notes and the rhythm at the same time, but I think that's just personal preference.
    On simple standards, I can transcribe 8 or 16 bar phrases pretty quickly this way. Bop tunes with a lot of notes and fast runs, or less diatonic tunes I have to digest in smaller chunks.
    Hope that helps. Good luck with it. I agree that transcribing is one of the best things a musician can do to improve their musicianship.
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    * Something I got from Ran Blake's book "Primacy of the Ear". Do repeated listenings of the section you're work on. Between listenings, sit still, don't think about anything (even the song), and just hang out for 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat. Something about the cognition with that practice, it's easier to ingraine the melody in your ear.

    *I use Capo on my iphone ($9.99). Mark out phrases and repeat them.

    * Try to transcribe the bass line and pay particular attention to what the drummer is doing.

    * I'd also try to work backwards or simply not focus on the beginnings of tunes too much. Meaning, I'd start with the end of a phrase and keep adding more to the beginning of the section on working on.

    * The slower the better. The smaller the chunks the better. Build it up like a wall: one brick at a time.

    * Do it alot. You will find your own tricks that work for you.