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Thread: Transcribing = I'm Gonna Punch Somebody

  1. #1
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    Transcribing = I'm Gonna Punch Somebody

    ok so i decided i'm going to spend a huge chunk of my practice time transcribing songs and then practicing them (to help improve ear, become more musical, be a better songwriter, etc).

    i'm not totally brand new to transcribing, i've done some songs, iron man, back in black, rainbow in the dark... mainly the rhythm parts.

    i've transcribed solos like stairway to heaven.

    HERE'S THE THING...

    i find single note stuff a heck of a lot easier than anything comprised of 2 or more notes at a time (unless it's a power chord).

    so unless a song is purely power chords i'm pretty much screwed.

    ---> distortion makes this process cry worthy. i'm not talking about transcribing an acoustic guitar part. i mean thick distortion making everything a mess.

    before you say, "Just do it more, you'll get better" i know that's true, to an extent, as it is with most skills.

    however... if i'm learning wrong constantly, for example i think some double stop is a power chord... then i'll just keep hearing things wrong.

    FOR EXAMPLE...

    i've been slamming my head against the wall over the absolute beginning of a simple rock song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ab5DmWSRDQ

    i've spent 1 hour and 8 minutes today on that first fraction of a second. that very first chord or double stop or whatever the heck it is.

    i try my best to avoid tab but i had to see if i was on the right track and according to this i was no where close...

    http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/k/ki...guitar_pro.htm

    according to that it's a unison bend. what the crap? i don't know if this tab is wrong or i'm just a crappy guitar player (never mind, i know i'm a crappy guitar player, but this could still be wrong).

    i don't know anymore man. this kind of stuff just makes me want to give up.

    BY FAR the most frustrating aspect of my practicing is transcribing. everything else is great.

    but transcribing makes me want to punch people in the face, and then stab myself in the eyes with a rusty fork dipped in bleach, and then lie on the ground in the fetal position and sob softly.
    Last edited by lonewolfx; 06-18-2012 at 11:58 PM. Reason: noticed missing words in a sentence.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I'm not turned on by note for note transcription. If you are keep going. And yes tabs are a quick fix that does not accomplish any long term good.

    Let's talk about chords. Normally the notes of the chords can help you with the melody notes. Why? Well for the song to harmonize the melody line and the chord line (harmony line, bass line, etc.) should share some like notes, i.e. the chords can help you "see" things in the melody.

    Cheat - look for some fake chord or better still, lead sheets on your song, and let that give you a hint of what is going on in the melody. Failing that, get close and move on. Next time you play the song, you may figure out that segment that is giving you problems.

    Close enough is close enough in my World. That may drive you crazy.........

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonewolfx View Post
    HERE'S THE THING...

    i find single note stuff a heck of a lot easier than anything comprised of 2 or more notes at a time (unless it's a power chord).

    so unless a song is purely power chords i'm pretty much screwed.

    ---> distortion makes this process cry worthy. i'm not talking about transcribing an acoustic guitar part. i mean thick distortion making everything a mess.
    Right. We all have that problem. Distortion adds a load of harmonics and overtones which definitely mess up the sound.

    But if a band is using a lot of distortion, you can pretty much bet it's power chords anyway.
    If in doubt (if you think it might be a full major or minor chord) a little experimentation adding the relevant 3rd can usually solve the issue - which one sounds more wrong?
    Quote Originally Posted by lonewolfx View Post
    however... if i'm learning wrong constantly, for example i think some double stop is a power chord... then i'll just keep hearing things wrong.

    FOR EXAMPLE...

    i've been slamming my head against the wall over the absolute beginning of a simple rock song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ab5DmWSRDQ

    i've spent 1 hour and 8 minutes today on that first fraction of a second. that very first chord or double stop or whatever the heck it is.
    Sounds like Bm to me. Definitely a B bass anyway, and probably a power chord from one of the guitars.
    But I'm pretty sure I can hear D natural in one of the guitars, being bent up (maybe a whole step?) before the chord changes (to A, then G then F#).
    Quote Originally Posted by lonewolfx View Post
    i try my best to avoid tab but i had to see if i was on the right track and according to this i was no where close...

    http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/k/ki...guitar_pro.htm
    That's no good to me, as I don't have power tab.
    Quote Originally Posted by lonewolfx View Post
    according to that it's a unison bend. what the crap? i don't know if this tab is wrong or i'm just a crappy guitar player (never mind, i know i'm a crappy guitar player, but this could still be wrong).
    Don't worry, I can't hear a unison bend either. It could be there, but it hardly matters.
    Quote Originally Posted by lonewolfx View Post

    i don't know anymore man. this kind of stuff just makes me want to give up.

    BY FAR the most frustrating aspect of my practicing is transcribing. everything else is great.

    but transcribing makes me want to punch people in the face, and then stab myself in the eyes with a rusty fork dipped in bleach, and then lie on the ground in the fetal position and sob softly.
    LOL. I do know the feeling with this kind of heavy distortion. I don't know how other people do it.
    Luckily I don't much like this kind of music, so it's not a problem I encounter very often (only when transcribing something for a student, or folks on the internet...).

    A couple of things: Do you use Transcribe! (or similar software)?
    If you don't, get it.
    (The encouraging thing about Transcribe is that it sometimes gives up too when faced with that kind of distortion. It doesn't punch people or go off and sob, however; it just says "Spectrum too messy, or out-of-tune notes". You might still want to punch someone yourself, but at least you know your ears are not the problem. If the computer can't do it, how can a poor human be expected to?)

    Secondly, listen for the bass. That's hardly ever distorted, and almost always plays the root note (certainly in this kind of music). (Transcribe will raise the octave to make the bass clearer if you need it; and it has some frequency removal options which can sometimes help.)
    At least the bass will tell you that first chord is some kind of B. Then assume power chord, unless you're really sure something else is going on.
    (Eg, here there's someone messing around with B minor pent on top, but I wouldn't want to get more detailed than that. I'm struggling to care already, it's not a song that's worth wasting too much of your life disentangling, IMO.)

    It's more important to get a picture of the overall structure of the song, the basic chords (not any fancy business on the intro or behind the vocal), and maybe the juicier parts of any solo. And the vocal line, IMO.

    And there's no shame in checking internet tab in this kind of case, if someone else has done the dirty work for you. Don't trust it, of course, but that's what it's there for, to check against your efforts. If it's better - if it works - swallow your pride. There will be plenty of other cases where you'll do better, trust me.
    (I don't honestly think - even if you love this kind of music - it's much use for ear-training. If that's the reason you're doing it, choose more complex pieces of music, with cleaner sounds. )

    One point worth thinking about: musical sound has many aspects. The kinds of thing one traditionally listens for when ear training or transcribing are melody (single notes, in vocals, lead instruments or bass) and harmony (the sounds of particular chord types). And rhythm of course (bars, beats, etc).
    But an important (indeed crucial) aspect of this kind of rock is the complex timbre; that's what the distortion provides, and to some extent it replaces the complexity offered by the more traditional practices of harmony (fancy chords).
    Trouble is, we have no way of analysing timbre. It's just noise (which is not a bad thing!). We can't "transcribe" the type of distortion being used. The aural mess created by a distorted power chord has a whole soup of extra frequencies piled on top of the fundamental root(s) and 5th. They make no sense in terms of harmony or melody. And any other note played on top of the power chord (eg the lead guitar in this into) is going to add its own palette of overtones to the mix.

    Experienced ears (rock guitarists immersed in this kind of thing for years) should be able to hear better what's going on. Their ears will have been trained (somewhat) to discriminate between types of distortion, as well as the kinds of chords or scales which would produce certain types of sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Normally the notes of the chords can help you with the melody notes.
    thanks man, but in this particular case i couldn't figure out the chord (or dyad). melody lines usually aren't too difficult for me. it's when two or more notes decide to play at the same time that my world is ruined.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Close enough is close enough in my World. That may drive you crazy.........
    i unfortunately do have the particular neurosis that causes loss of sanity if it's only close enough. i need to get over that or i will a) give up guitar b) have my life cut short by a massive heart attack.

    i have some sort of sick perfectionism were i want it to be exactly as the player performed it. thing is, with all that distortion it's pretty much impossible. i need to get over it.

  5. #5
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    JonR...

    wow, thank you for your awesome and in depth reply. greatly appreciate it my friend.

    i don't have Transcribe! but i do have the Amazing Slow Downer. same concept i guess, just not as many options. for example it doesn't say "Spectrum too messy" although that would be reassuring.

    i guess it comes down to me accepting that transcription, and especially transcription of distorted rock, is actually subjective and interpretive unless you are friends with the performer.

    until reading some stuff the last couple days i suppose i was under the impression that one really could (given well enough developed ears and patience) figure out exactly how the original recording is played.

    so these last few months i'd be trashing myself if i couldn't get it perfect.

    it's actually news to me that people are saying it's not possible. i guess that's a relief if i let that sink in.

    and as far as doing this for the purposes of ear training, it's mainly for the purposes of learning that style of guitar and hopefully improve my ear a bit at the same time.

    i actually have a couple good books on ear training with CDs... but i have to wonder if the extent of my ambitions with the guitar is to be a competent dirty rock player... is there really a point to take it that far?

    i mean, i'm pretty sure the people playing the song i'm trying to figure out didn't spend an hour a day listening to recorded tones trying to guess the scale degrees.

    i don't know.

    anyway, thanks for the help, my main take away is that i shouldn't be such a stickler because getting it 100% accurate with this type of music isn't realistic.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    I always think it's worth taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture, and asking yourself "wtf am I doing this for?"

    Learning songs is one thing. Ear training is another. Both matter, but different rules apply.

    IMO, when learning songs - esp in rock like this - you don't need to get every last detail. How do you think those guys learned their craft? They copied their heroes as well as they could, for sure, but at some point they said "ah the hell with this, we get the picture; let's do our own stuff now!"
    It's a matter of reaching a point where you say to yourself "ah I see what's going on here". For me, in this case, that's spotting that the bass is B-A-G-F#, a very common minor key sequence, probably in power chords (power chords will certainly suffice); and that the lead guitar is riffing in B minor pent. OK, now I can go away and do it my way. (Naturally the rest of the song has more complications, but again I'm going to select what I regard as the fundamentals and make a judgment as to how much of the rest I could improvise.)
    How loose you can be with someone else's song depends on a lot of things, of course. Maybe you really love every single damn note of a song, and yearn to be able to exactly reproduce it because it's such a work of genius. But that's obviously a redundant exercise. The closer you get, the more a waste of time it is - why wouldn't your audience just go home and play the CD? You are just being a conduit, you might as well be a jukebox.

    What I find is I get to a point where I feel know enough of the song. Different people may well feel differently to me about the same song: they might not go as far as me, or they might go further. (I encounter both types, and both annoy me for different reasons . The first type just seem careless, or have crap ears, and the second type are just too damned anal .) Funnily enough, I often return to a song many years later, and realise I didn't listen closely enough the first time... "oh ****, that's how it goes..." (I like to think my ears are getting better as I get older, but maybe I'm just getting more anal...)


    Now - when it comes to ear training, you have to select the songs accordingly, maybe ruling out a few you really like, and choosing a few you wouldn't normally listen to. Like I said, clean sounds are important, and (for a beginner) relatively simple tunes, chords and structures. When you start, you have to work with material where you stand a good chance of getting it right!
    As you get better, keep the clean sounds, and look for fancier chords and arrangements. (Because the first goal of transcription is to get the notes. You can have a lot of notes going on at the same time, to challenge yourself, but you want each one to be reasonably clean, with little extraneous noise.)

    As you get used to standard rock song structures and typical chord progressions, you can move into more distorted material , because you will be able to hear better the underlying changes, beneath those chaotic timbres. (Like I spotted the familiar "Andalusian cadence" in the above track.)


    And the goal that both exercises are working towards, of course, is to enhance your musicianship. Obviously you need to refine your hearing; and learning songs will expand your palette of influences, the vocabulary you can draw on when composing or improvising.
    Ie, even if you don't particularly like a song you're using for ear training, there's probably something useful in there you can steal.

    One of my favourite music quotes is from Duke Ellington. He was asked if he liked other kinds of music apart from jazz. He replied: "There's only two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both kinds."

    (The first sentence is a common saying of course. It takes a genius to add the second part.)

  7. #7
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    All I saw was Satan's unicorn.
    But aside from that unfortunate business,
    B minor pentatonic is your friend.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    How do you think those guys learned their craft? They copied their heroes as well as they could, for sure, but at some point they said "ah the hell with this, we get the picture; let's do our own stuff now!"
    it seems it ultimately comes down to that... the stage you're on.

    because i tell you, one of the most valuable benefits i get from transcribing is the licks and rhythms i learn from them. now, these maybe be totally stock licks for all i know, but they're new to me and this is how i came across them. so in that sense, i can see the value in trying to get it as correct as possible.

    but you're right, once you get a handle on things there may be more value to just saying screw it "let's do our own stuff now!"

    thanks again for the help.

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