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Thread: How to transcribe music???

  1. #1
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    How to transcribe music???

    I started trying to transcribe some music today, and I found it surprisingly difficult.

    I can easily recognise any interval when they're played out of context, but I still have great difficulty in recognising the intervals within a piece.

    How did you start with transcription? Did you just sit down and transcribe, or did you follow a specific method? Any advice welcome.

  2. #2
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    It really is a case of practise for this. I don't really think of the intervals consciously I guess although i'm sure I do use them to find the next note. I'd just recommend finding the exact same note on an instrument as the first starting point, it may well be slow progress at first, but keep at it.

    What are you tabbing from and for?

  3. #3
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    Practice listening to scale degrees, not just intervals. Always take note of repeated phrases and large jumps in the melodies. This is how I do it normally:

    First time hearing the melody - notate the rhythm and memorize whatever you can. Usually I will make little symbols to remember how long the notes are (like a circle for a whole note, dot for a quarter, etc.)

    Second time hearing notate what degree of the scale each note you hear is on. Usually, above or below the staff I will write 1, 5, 3, 2, 4, 5, 7, etc... on top of the rhythm notation I did in step one.

    If you get a third time, I usually use it to check my work and clear up any confusing jumps or phrases of the melody I didn't catch in step 2. It takes loads of practice, but I'm sure there are some web sites or software programs to help.

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I use the piano keyboard -- And I transpose to C first because C is easy on the keyboard - all white notes. With C being the key I sing the first word and see if a C note works with it, if not I'd try a G note and if that does not work I bet the first note will be an E (one of the C chord's notes C E G).

    Once I settle on the first note then it's just up scale or down scale ....... no really, once you find the first note and get past that -- next note is up scale or next note is down scale thing -- how much up or down is just a matter of sliding into the right note. Takes a lot of practice, does not happen over night. Start with simple tunes, not necessary to use Mary had a little lamb, just one of your favorites and be happy with a simple version.

    Now you have to write it down as you go, I don't use standard notation - I should, however have settled on using the notes names...... and a little help from symbols to help with jumps, i.e. > would show a jump up scale or < would indicate a jump back down scale, etc.

    I sing as I transcribe so note duration --- while transposing is not a big factor. Have not settled on a "publishing" format - lillypad or guitarpro -- to get it into standard notation, right now I just play from my pencil notes, but that would be the final step. Once I have the melody notes I then decide on what chords to place under the melody notes.

    My pencil notes look a lot like fake chord sheet music....

    Autumn Leaves
    ...............(Am).....(Dm).........(G)
    E.... F.. G > C.... C < D.. E.. F.. B... B
    The fal-ing leaves - drift by my win-dow

    I rely upon the lyrics and singing the tune to help me find the correct melody note.

    I find it easier to not try and transpose to the key the song is being played in (on the CD), instead I transpose to C -- which on the keyboard is all white keys. This also helps get that first note and first word out of the way --- which after I have that the rest just falls into place.

    Sounds like we all do it a little different, however, we all employ a hunt, peck, and write down process.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-04-2008 at 02:55 AM.

  5. #5
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    Finding the notes, for me, is the easy part. It's notating the rhythms that gets me every time.

    But yeah, practice practice practice. It's pretty daunting at first, but it pays off every step of the way.

    Your instrument is kind of a lab. If I can hear a note being played, and I can tell if a note I'm playing is the same one or not, then I can figure out the notes without fail. Ok, yeah, chords can be a bit tricky though... Might want to start with simple melodies first. I wouldn't start by trying to nail every single note in every chord, right off the start. That's what I did, at first, and I'd get just get frustrated a few bars in... lol

    Grep.
    "Whaddya mean DYNAMICS?! I'm playing as loud as I can!"

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    Autumn Leaves
    ...............(Am).....(Dm).........(G)
    E.... F.. G > C.... C < D.. E.. F.. B... B
    The fal-ing leaves - drift by my win-dow
    I realise this may just be an example of your method, but (in case of misunderstanding) the Fs should be F#s and the Dm is D7...

    (The key is E minor)

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falcon
    I started trying to transcribe some music today, and I found it surprisingly difficult.

    I can easily recognise any interval when they're played out of context, but I still have great difficulty in recognising the intervals within a piece.

    How did you start with transcription? Did you just sit down and transcribe, or did you follow a specific method? Any advice welcome.
    I don't listen for intervals, I just listen for individual notes.
    I usually start with a melody, notating it as I go. (I play guitar till I find a matching note, working one by one; but it doesn't take long for a key scale to become apparent, which makes identification of whole phrases easier.)
    The key scale in turn suggests likely chords - if I can't tell what those are straight off.
    I also listen for bass notes, usually to confirm chord identities (although, as a sometime bass player, I often need the bass line too).

    I've always worked the same way - for some 42 years now!
    Not having a great ear (although it's better than it used to be), I use technology to assist me. It used to be reel-to-reel tape decks, with 2 speeds - 1/2 for fast passages, double speed to bring out the bass line - now it's software. I highly recommend "Transcribe!":
    http://www.seventhstring.com/
    It doesn't analyse or interpret the music for you (it does suggest chords, but I wouldn't trust it that far), but it lays out the audio file as a waveform so you can isolate sections to listen more closely - at any speed or pitch you want.
    The site has a lot of good tips too.

  8. #8
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    realise this may just be an example of your method, but (in case of misunderstanding) the Fs should be F#s and the Dm is D7...

    (The key is E minor)
    Not my Autumn Leaves. I transpose everything to C. That was one of my hints -- C is just easier on the keyboard so that is what I use.

    So I guess I'm not transposing as such. I'm singing and recording what I'm singing; and I choose to do all this in C.

    Good point, taking it to another key would not be pure transposition. However, pure transposition was not my goal, having some sheet music to play from was what I was working toward.

    Interesting point.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-04-2008 at 12:53 PM.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    Not my Autumn Leaves. I transpose everything to C. That was one of my hints -- C is just easier on the keyboard so that is what I use.

    So I guess I'm not transposing as such. I'm singing and recording what I'm singing; and I choose to do all this in C.
    But if it was in C, the notes and chords would be even more different:
    Code:
    (Am)        |Dm7      |G7          |Cmaj7
     A   B  C   |F        |  G   A  B  | E   E
    The falling |leaves    drift by my |window
    Your line would work as a harmony, of course, but it's not the original melody. And (even allowing for text line-up issues) you seemed to have had the chords displaced.

    I mean, I'm not objecting to you being creative with the original , I just thought it was clearer to use the original in this context (transcription).
    Last edited by JonR; 11-04-2008 at 01:26 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I'm not defending ---- asking. I find it interesting I elected to start the melody on an E note and you elected to start on an A note.

    Your example
    Code:
    (Am)        |Dm7      |G7          |Cmaj7
     A   B  C   |F        |  G   A  B  | E   E
    The falling |leaves    drift by my |window
    My example:

    ...............(Am).....(Dm).........(G)
    E.... F.. G > C.... C < D.. E.. F.. B... B
    The fal-ing leaves - drift by my win-dow
    I started on the E melody note and used the first three notes as an introduction before introducing the Am chord. You started on the A note /Am chord. Why did you elect to start on A? Is it as simple as I was thinking C and you were thinking in the relative minor? As far as the choice of chords I used the Am under the C note - I could have used a C chord (CEG) or Am (ACE) or even an F (FAC). Not real sure now why I started with Am, it fit and I supposed it sounded good to me so I used it. The Dm (DFA) under the D melody note harmonizes, as does the G (GBD) chord under the B melody note. Again not defending, giving my reasoning and asking why you went the way you did, trying to learn something.

    I think the real question is; I elected to start with the E melody note you elected to start with the A melody note.

    Why I started on E -- as I wanted to play in C I like to start on one of the C chord tones (CEG) the E note and the word "The" sounded good together, so I started there. Why did you start on the A note?
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-04-2008 at 04:35 PM.

  11. #11
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    I'm not defending ---- asking.



    I started on the E melody note you started on the A note. Why did you elect to start on A? Is it as simple as I was thinking C and you were thinking in the relative minor? As far as the choice of chords I used the Am under the C note - I could have used a C chord (CEG) or Am (ACE) or even an F (FAC). Not real sure now why I started with Am, it fit and I supposed it sounded good to me so I used it. The Dm (DFA) under the D melody note harmonizes, as does the G (GBD) chord under the B melody note. Again not defending, giving my reasoning and asking why you went the way you did, trying to learn something.

    I think the real question is; I elected to start with the E melody note you elected to start with the A melody note.

    Why I started on E -- as I play in C I like to start on one of the C chord tones. Why did you start on the A note?
    Because that's the note it starts on! (I do know this tune pretty well... )
    If you're working it out in A minor/C major, then the note it begins on is A.
    What I posted was the original tune. I mean, as composed by Joseph Kosma. From published notation (and memory, of course, but checked).
    The tune you originally posted was close to the correct tune, but for the key of E minor (starting with an Am7, melody note C on the word "leaves"). But the run-up to that should be E-F#-G, not E-F-G, and the following chord would be D7.
    If you want to use the white notes, then you need to start on A, and the chord on "leaves" will be Dm7 (melody note F).
    The key is A minor, btw, not C major, and there is a phrase which uses the A melodic minor scale (4th line of verse).
    The tune finishes on Am, which is why I put Am in brackets over those first 3 notes "the falling...").

    You seem to be inventing your own version of the tune - which is fine (and creative), but seems a bit beside the point for a topic about transcribing (from recordings).
    Last edited by JonR; 11-04-2008 at 04:31 PM.

  12. #12
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    You seem to be inventing your own version of the tune - which is fine (and creative), but seems a bit beside the point for a topic about transcribing (from recordings).
    From recordings, I agree. I don't transcribe in that since, I play by ear and put it into the key I want. Guess I need to rethink the meaning of transcribe.

    {EDIT} Well perhaps not. Transcription - A written composition that contains some deviation from the original written composition. Usually a transcription is a copy of the composition into a different key or arranged for different instrumentation.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-04-2008 at 05:32 PM.

  13. #13
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    I agree. I don't transcribe in that since, I play by ear and put it into the key I want. Guess I need to rethink the meaning of transcribe.
    OK.
    Personally I don't trust my ear (memory) that much, and always check with a recording if I can.
    Your version of Autumn Leaves is close enough to be recognisable, but I wouldn't recommend playing it that way with musicians who know it...

    "Transcribe" has 3 meanings in music:
    a. To adapt or arrange (a composition) for a voice or instrument other than the original. (I guess that's the sense you're thinking of)
    b. To translate (a composition) from one notational system to another.
    c. To reduce (live or recorded music) to notation. (I think this is the sense we're discussing here)

    "Transpose" means to change a piece of music to another key, which is close to meaning (a) above, and can often get confused with it.

    The difference is the "-scribe" part indicates writing in some way, while the "-pose" indicates position or place (as in a key).
    You can "transpose" without writing anything down. You can't "transcribe" without writing something!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falcon
    I started trying to transcribe some music today, and I found it surprisingly difficult.

    I can easily recognise any interval when they're played out of context, but I still have great difficulty in recognising the intervals within a piece.

    How did you start with transcription? Did you just sit down and transcribe, or did you follow a specific method? Any advice welcome.
    Hi, Falcon, the only way to Transcribe from recordings is- to First of all-learn what all the different KINDS of common chords are called and what they sound like!I have found that It is only neccesary to learn ALL the KINDS of chord in one key only, and thereafter transpose to any other key that may be desired!
    For example, one may be listening to a tune or melody that one fancies Transc'ing And it soon becomes obvious that one chord is repeated often enough to establish itself as the I chord of the piece. it could be the IMaj 7th chord or the basic Major chord or even the IMajor 6th, no matter, Just call that chord the chord of 'C'
    No matter if the music is sounding in some other Key! I highly recommend using Key 'C' because it is the Key that virtually ALL the leading music tutors use to illustrate their lessons in, the reason being that it is the only key in the whole spectrum of 12 Keys that does'nt need sharps or flats to play correctly it's diatonic Major scale!!In other words " It is the easiest key to figure music theory in because of it's simplicity It is also the only Key on the Piano which does'nt need any black keys to play correctly The Major scale of 'C'....... This is a difficult art to succeed at, but, the better 'ear' you posses, then, the easier it is to become good at it!
    there is a very neccesary reason for Using One Key only(C) because nobody, but nobody, would be able to learn ALL the common chords in ALL 12 Keys without using a musical referrence to check with! I imagine it would take Hours and hours of playing and rewinding just to 'Scribe a few bars- making it not worth while to make the effort.
    sincerely
    leegordo

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    Picking up from lees' post.....

    I'm sure most of you know the 7 chords you can get from the Major scale :-

    I Major
    ii Minor
    iii Minor
    IV Major
    V Major ( usually dominant )
    vi Major
    vii diminished

    I'm basing that on the seven note of the major scale from 1 to 7. It's the same order of chords in all 12 keys. It is easier to explain theory using the key C, but you then have to assume all songs are in that key, which they're not. The way I transcribe is try and find some sort of overall key for the piece ( usually coming from the I chord, but not always ) and use the chords above. If it's not a diatonic piece, I'll pick out the chord(s) I'm having problems with and figure them out.

    It can take hours, I start with the basic major/minor chords above ( which can be harmonized into 7ths ).

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