Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tricks for Transcribing Music

The ability to transcribe music makes it possible to accurately notate sound.

Transcribing music can be a difficult part of any musician's work. The complex process of listening to a recording or live performance and transferring that performance to paper can be a daunting task for even an experienced transcriber. Transcribing is an essential technique required in many instances where a performer improvises or the sheet music for a particular piece is not available. However, some techniques and tricks exist to improve the process and help prevent errors.


Listen to the piece several times before attempting to transcribe it. It is very difficult to transcribe music that you are not familiar with. Listen to the piece, at least, ten times before attempting a transcription. Start with the melody in the first couple of measures. If you can nail down the melody, then the chords will be easier since the melody will help guide you and make it possible to place the chords in the right place. The key to a successful transcription is to use your listening skills. If you are not familiar with the piece, you must become familiar with it through repeated listening.


Set the music in a loop where you only listen to 2 to 3 seconds at a time. Work on these increments of sound until you have that section notated perfectly. Frequently play back what you have notated and compare it to the original song. If it sounds correct, move on to the next 2-to-3-second segment of the piece. You should be checking each chord on a piano, or if you do not have access to a piano, a music notation program.

Transcribing Rhythm

If you are having trouble notating the melody, then try just notating the rhythm. Start with the melody's rhythm and then begin to transcribe the rhythm of the background parts. When you have a rhythm notated, double check it by tapping the rhythm along with the recording. It may be necessary to do this several times before you get it right.

Software Programs

There are some programs that can help to make transcribing easier. While it is better to work in real time to develop your skills further, a software program can help you complete a transcription much faster initially. These programs can slow down an audio recording, pause and loop sections of sound making it easier to transcribe a piece. Digital Transcriber from NCH software has a free program that will help you with your transcriptions.

Put in the Effort

Transcription is a difficult process and there are no shortcuts that can be taken, so the best trick of all is just putting in the time it takes to become good at it. A program that slows down music can make the task easier, but if you truly want to improve and become a better transcriber, you must put in the effort required to transcribe music playing in real time. The benefits to learning to transcribe music on your own include a more fully developed ear and increased awareness of music.