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Music Transcription

Music TranscriptionMusic Transcription.

If you need music transcribed there’s a few things you should know so that you can be sure of getting a quality, accurate transcription.

1. Transcribing music takes time and patience!

There are no short cuts when it comes to accurately notating audio to sheet music. No matter how good your ear is, this skill requires a great deal of experience to understand exactly what you’re hearing and how to notate it clearly. Personally, I listen to the whole piece several times (always with good quality headphones) and then a place a marker every bar (measure) for the entire piece. I transcribe each bar by looping the audio and when it’s all done I go back over the entire track and make sure I haven’t missed anything. Now it’s time to tidy up the layout. Although there is software available which says it can “transcribe” audio I’ve never seen anything that produces intelligent results that a musician can actually read and make sense of.

Music Transcription
Music Transcription Software

2. Make sure you get to hear the finished sheet music transcription.

This should be relatively simple. I use Sibelius to notate the music score and it allows me to play what is written because it can “read” the manuscript. This can be useful because if your transcription is accurate then it will sound good…except that it sounds as though a robot is playing it (which it is!). Inevitably a human should always sound better as long as they play the right notes but it gives a good idea of how accurate the pitch and rhythm is.

Here is an example of Sibelius “reading” a complex solo jazz piano transcription:

Music Transcribing

Music Transcribing

3. Carefully check the layout of your transcription. I’ve seen music produced by some very talented musicians, which is virtually unreadable. There are many reasons for this but watch out for odd phrase lengths (5 or 7 bars to a line – this may be ok but probably not, especially for a rhythm section), missing bar numbers or rehearsal marks, does the page look cluttered? Is the font large enough? clear enough? Is there actually too much information on the page? Even if you can’t read music make sure you look through carefully to see if it looks clear and tidy. There may be a good reason for an odd looking page turn or layout but if in doubt, ask the arranger.

4. Music Transcription is a labour of love! Music transcription is a laborious, time consuming affair which requires a patience and dedication to detail that not many people possess. Personally, I transcribe music because I love to “get inside” the music and find out exactly what makes it work and exactly how great some musicians are.

Custom music transcription clientsNeed music transcribed for theater, TV, shows or just for fun? Feel free to contact me and ask anything you like. I’ll be happy to help.

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