Excellence with song transcription is one of the most valuable skills that a serious musician will work on achieving in their life-time. In this lesson post, the various techniques of song transcription will be discussed including the required skills and the study approach.
Learning to transcribe musical pieces will involve a number of playing and listening skills, but the most important will be your capacity to accept and tolerate the difficulty involved with learning music by ear – without getting angry or upset.
Once you start to develop the ability to comprehend the sounds of different scale and chord movements related to your instrument, the next step of ear training will involve working on hundreds upon hundreds of hours of song transcriptions.
In the beginning, be sure to choose songs that are fairly basic. Also, consider the interest level that you have for the music. If the music is of greater interest to you, the time that you spend trying to learn the piece will feel more enjoyable.
The techniques related to accomplishing transcription ability will involve establishing a group of skills. These skills include;
- awareness for the shapes of common scales, arpeggios and chords
- understanding sound character and quality
- learning how to isolate musical sounds, percussion and voice
- the ability to discern sound between pitch and intensity
- perceive the sound quality (timbre) of musical notes
- judge musical dynamics and rhythmic flow
MUSICIANS AND TRANSCRIPTION:
Professional musicians who work in a variety of musical situations need to possess a high degree of ability to be able to transcribe songs for a multitude of reasons.
In order to develop the skills necessary to quickly transcribe and notate charts, musicians must study the following;
- key signatures
- harmony, scales and chords
Once a musician thoroughly understands how each one of these musical concepts apply within a piece of music, they can listen to songs and in a matter of seconds comprehend the musical direction of the piece.
Even with a good deal of musical knowledge, a musician will still require a good quality instrument and sound gear for both the study and the listening to songs during the transcription process.
Programs which work well for this purpose are called digital audio work-station and sound editing software (D.A.W. for short).
With good quality audio editing and mixing software, musicians can listen to specific sections of a piece and have an easier time working at lifting off the exact melody or chord from the recording.
Higher end audio software programs, such as Adobe Audition, Logic and Pro Tools all contain both pitch altering and stretching capabilities.
Quite often a piece of music is not in proper tune and can be pitch modified using audio software to correct any such ‘off key’ issues. These “DAW” audio-software tools can be very helpful during the transcription process.
Any program that allows you to see the audio wave of the recording (on the screen of your PC), will be of great benefit when transcribing. A free audio software program that works very well for this is, Audacity.
SINGING TO PITCH:
It is of utmost importance that a musician be able to “match” into a pitch. By singing scales and arpeggios for many hours, a musician will be able to develop this ability.
LISTENING and LIFTING PARTS:
By listening to only very small segments of a piece, musicians will be able to more easily ear and also understand the note movement of the songs’ chords, or the melodic movement from how one pitch flows over to the next in the piece.
A common mistake that music students make when first transcribing is the mistake of attempting to bite off more than they can chew when listening to individual parts of a song. Learn song sections in small sections for more successful results.
Over the years I have come to realize that learning from some type of structured course is the best way to develop transcription skills. The Creative Guitar Studio “Ear Training” program is the best course available online for learning the art of mastering the ability to hear musical sound.