How to Transcribe, and the Benefits of Doing it (Part 2)

After choosing the appropriate song to transcribe, its time to get down to work. Here are some tips and tricks I can share with you guys.
Tools are very important in this process. I personally use the Transcribe!7.40 software that I mentioned in an earlier post. So some of the points I will be talking about later might be related to this software. You might also want to check out the Bill Evans solo on Body and Soul transcription I have for you guys, and the audio clip for your reference at the bottom of this post, in case you missed it on the earlier post. 

1) Getting the notes of a solo is seldom a big problem, especially with the help of a software like Transcribe!. Thanks to technology, there are plenty of softwares out there with the capability of slowing down the music without altering the pitch. The problem however lies in determining the placement of the notes rhythmically, especially in fast tempos. I personally would always try to fit in notes appropriately. Take this Bill Evans solo for instance, the bassnotes cannot be use as a very good guideline, but the drums seems to be quite consistent. Thus by fitting in the notes between, for example two cymbal hits, I can logically figure out the rhythmic value of the notes. Six equally spaced notes within a crotchet beat is definitely two pairs of semiquaver triplets. Bottomline is, find a sound in another instrument which you know where it stands rhythmically, then fit in the notes that you are trying to transcribe with it, and work it out logically.

2) Another problem many transcriber would face is to get the “middle notes”. When a number of notes are hit simultaneously, those frequency between the highest and the lowest are the hardest to hear, assuming that the difference between their volume is insignificant. The only way to solve this problem is to listen continuosly with an attentive ear, and try to unlock the voices in between, slowly with practise, the ears will open up more and more and will be able to unlock inside voices with relative ease.
I personally will always try to use my ears to figure out the chords first. If its very difficult, try looping the instance, like I said earlier, a sustained note is easier to catch then a short staccato hit. However, sometimes the looped sound may become very irritating after a period of time, especially when a loud snare hit or something like that is stucked in there. After that, I will usually use the spectrum analysis function in Transcribe! as a check for any tones I might have missed out on.

3) Although notes in the middle are hard to get, but notes that are very high or very low may be blurring also. Try  transcribing the bass guitar part when it is very low, maybe going to the B string or something, and you will get an idea of what I am saying. There are several ways of solving this problem.
The first way is to simply transpose the audio up an octave, bringing the bass notes to more ear-friendly frequencies. Not all softwares are capable of doing it. I normally use my sequencing software, Cakewalk Sonar, to settle this task.
The second way is to listen to neighboring bass tones instead of just individual ones, in other words, listen to the whole bassline as if a melody. This will help you figure out the bass note you are transcribing, whether it is a half step lower than the previous one, or a perfect fourth down,etc. Try it and you will see sometimes it works quite well also.
The third way is the laziest way, and unfortunately, the one with the potentially most accurate result. That is to look at the spectrum analysis in Transcribe!. The bass notes due to its low frequency are mostly seperated from other notes, thus making it easy to identify. However be careful that you are not getting the overtone of the bass note, sometimes a fifth apart from the actual note.

If you have your own take on transcribing that you would like to share with us, or if you have any further questions, feel free to post a comment and we will try to get back to you as soon as possible. In the mean time, have fun and enjoy….

Bill Evans Body and Soul Solo Sound Clip

Bill Evans Body and Soul solo transcription

Related post :

How to Transcribe, and the Benefits of Doing it (Part 1)

Bill Evans Waltz for Debby Transcription

Joe Pass Reharmonization on Autumn Leaves Transcription

Michel Camilo From Within Transcription

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