1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Transcribing Tips

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LeeNunn, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    I play in a band that stays fairly true to the original recordings that we cover. I use Transcribe (by Seventh String) to transcribe the bass part using standard notion to both help me learn the song and to improve my reading ability. I’m starting this thread to consolidate tips on using software to learn songs, not to debate the merits of transcribing or playing in a cover band. I don’t use music notation software because my transcriptions are only for my benefit. Here’s my usual routine.
    • Download the mp3 file if I don’t already have it and open the file with the Transcribe software.
    • Confirm key that we’re going to play the song (usually original key, but sometimes changed by singer)
    • Listen for a few seconds to get a sense of the beat.
    • Replay the song from the beginning and place measure markers at the beginning of each measure.
    • Where the “one” is not obvious, I make a visual note of where the previous measure falls to approximate where the “one” should be. If that doesn’t work, I make a note of the length of each measure in the hope that the tempo is reasonably consistent. Adjust for any partial measures.
    • Change the measure markers to section markers where appropriate (e.g. beginning of each verse, chorus, or bridge)
    • Edit the first measure markers to automatically subdivide each measure into beats (usually four).
    • Edit the subdivision of measures for partial measures or changing time signatures.
    • Make a note of which sections are vocals or solos.
    • Shift the focus to chord structure. Identify roots, chord qualities, and slash chords (e.g. bass doesn’t play the root).
    • Change the key if necessary. Fine tune the pitch if necessary. Raise the octave if the notes are too low to identify.
    • Write out the song using repeat notations as appropriate.
  2. ericicf


    Mar 11, 2012
    I am a novice bass player and have a excellent teacher , who teaches several lessons on the ins and outs of "Transcribe". As far as sorting out the chords , that is not in my vocabulary yet , but hopefully soon . That there is not more responses to the use of this most excellent tool , is surprising. I guess everybody else just buys the sheet music and reads ;)
  3. Or just uses their ears to learn tunes.
  4. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I use my ears, transfer directly to paper, or my ear, bass then to paper.
  5. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    That's how it was done in the olden days and how I continue to do it.
  6. dsamudio


    Oct 22, 2007
    Fort Worth Texas
    I have owned several versions of Transcribe over the years and like you have also transcribe note for note for bands and horns.

    I do not use Transcribe for Chords.
    I do not use the key function.
    Usually there are to many conflicting overtones for Transcribe to get a good read on the chords.
    I do all my transcriptions by ear.

    That said, I do use Transcribe to:

    Tune the recording.
    Change the key and create a reference recording for band members in the needed key.
    Slow down the recording for transcription and practice.
    Set loop sections for transcriptions or practice.

    I have found Transcribe to the the best at changing recording keys and tempos for practice and my ear and a keyboard the best for transcribing.

    I hope that this helps.

  7. +1
  8. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    Thanks Dimitrius. That's the kind of response I was looking for. I agree, there's no substitute for using your ears. I think of Transcribe as a way of listening more efficiently, or maybe more precisely. Looping and slowing down are great tools. I think maybe the greatest benefit for me has been my increased understanding of rhythmic patterns. Sometimes the most subtle aspects of a bass line are the most interesting.
  9. tappingtrance

    tappingtrance Cooke Harvey Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    Also remember with Transcribe if the bass is hard to hear double the octave and the bass line pops out. You will get used to tuning out all the screeching vox and guitars quickly.
  10. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    I agree. Raising the octave can be a more effective way to hear a bass line than adjusting the eq. Especially really low notes. Thanks for posting.
  11. dsamudio


    Oct 22, 2007
    Fort Worth Texas
    This one is new to me, but makes so much sense. I will give it a try next time I get stuck.

  12. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    Great! Sharing tips like this was the point of this posting. I often find rhythms even more challenging than pitches. I wish I had known about automatic division of measures into beats a long time ago.
  13. CatSquare


    Mar 7, 2014
    I have never used transcribe and was thinking about getting it, but realized all I would use it for can be done in Adobe Audition (which I already have). And then I realized that Audacity could also do what I would want it for (loop, octave, slow), and that's free!
    I didn't want to knock transcribe or anything, I just thought I would mention it for others out there that plan to only use those features I mentioned and let their ears do the heavy lifting.
  14. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Listen, sing it back, write it down, play it back. Of course small bits (i.e. phrases, licks). Build it slowly.

    If you can't sing it... you are NOT hearing it.
  15. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I have the track open to play on my laptop while notating it in Sibelius. Occasionally I'll open the track up in Reaper if I want to slow down, shift pitch or loop a section. I usually have a virtual piano keyboard open in another window for reference where needed.
  16. kakuk_marci


    Jul 17, 2013
    I use software (Finale notepad) to write down the songs in standard notation. The fact that it can play back my notation is very good for me to listen and to reassure me that I am on the right path. I agree with the previous posts that it is particularly interesting with rhythms. When I have relatively short time to learn many songs, it helps me to have a visual image of the rhythm when I have to remember it playing the song.
    LeeNunn likes this.
  17. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    I also use Transcribe. When the pitch is hard to hear, I play the line an octave up to make sure the notes are right with the track. Much clearer that way.