Transcribing a solo

Mamos

Member
Messages
691
Location
Falmouth Cornwall
Hi All

I contacted a favourite artist the other day after a conversation with his record label to see if he had a transcription of one of his solos

He replied stating that he did not have the solo written down and that I should pull my finger out and transcribe it myself. (He didn't say pull your finger out by the way but I'm sure that's what he meant:))

All well and good but I have no idea where to start.

I have every intention of doing it but I will need some guidance.

I can play the head on the sax no problem and I am slowly working my way through the solo but I need to start writing it down.

The note pitches are not a problem it is the rhythm I am finding imossible

And what about the chords?

So, where do I start?

mamos
 
OP
Mamos

Mamos

Member
Messages
691
Location
Falmouth Cornwall
So what does this program do.

I don't want it to do the job for me because I am keen to learn how to do it myself

mamos
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
So what does this program do.

I don't want it to do the job for me because I am keen to learn how to do it myself

mamos
Ha......

You'll be lucky! It will allow you to import a tune, determine which section you want to transcribe, loop that section and slow the whole thing down. The rest is up to you and it ain't that easy though it does get easier the more you do.
 

c9off

Senior Member
Messages
607
Location
London SE/Kent & Rickinghall
Ha......

You'll be lucky! It will allow you to import a tune, determine which section you want to transcribe, loop that section and slow the whole thing down. The rest is up to you and it ain't that easy though it does get easier the more you do.
plus it will guestimate the note, full info on the transcribe website, look forward to hearing your efforts!

cheers
Geoff
 

Linky Lee

Member
Messages
182
Location
Salisbury, UK
With regards to writing down the rhythm I tend to work this way.

1. Take 1 bar at a time.

2. Find some key easily identifiable notes and plot them where they come in the bar. This will break it down into smaller chunks with less notes.

3. Find more notes that come on a beat or on the & of a beat and plot them as well.

4. once you've got the key notes their beats, there will only be a few left to fill in either side of them and it should be fairly obvious if they're quavers, semi-quavers or triplets or something.

You will also find that with a slowed down recording it may sound like the notes aren't all quite the same length.
A few possible reasons - the sax player isn't playing robotically
- it's got a slight swing to the notes
- general expression of the player

if you listen to it at speed again, you'll probably find that they come across much more even/stable.

As to finding the chords, that's something I struggle with, though my method is:

1. Listen to the bass, especially on 1 and 3, it's quite likely to be outlining the fundamental harmony of the chord (either the 1, 3, 5 or 7)

2. Look at the melody, does it imply minor, major, dominat etc?

3. Can usually hear the highest pitched and lowest pitched notes the easiest, are these extensions or are they basic chord tones?

4. What chord happened before, where does it sound like it's going?
Can I hear any obvious harmonies, e.g the crunch of a tritone interval? (E to Bb, 3 to b7 in a C7 chord or tritone substitute - Bb as 3rd, E as b7th in Gb7)

I hope some of that is useful to you.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,554
Location
Surrey, UK
I use Transcribe and it's very good indeed.

First thing to do is to understand the structure of the song in terms of beats per bar, bars per section, geography of verses and choruses etc. Transcribe lets you put in marker points for sections (e.g. verses and choruses), bars (or measures) and beats.

If the song is fairly well known, you may be able to get a lead sheet or something else from the internet that helps you with the structure and gives you a fair idea of the chords (harmonic structure).

As far as getting the exact rhythm transcribed, this can be difficult, probably more difficult than the pitch. Transcribe will let you loop little selected bits (play them round and round) and slow the speed down while leaving the pitch the same. Comparing the played rhythm against the beat markers will give a pretty good idea of how best to transcribe the rhythm. But that may only be an approximation of what was actually played. If you are doing the transcription so that you can learn to play what the original artist played, then that may be good enough. If you are doing the transcription for other people or for academic purposes, then it should be as accurate as possible.

Transcribe also has a "keyboard" shown on the screen and you can sound notes on this to compare them against the pitch played on the recording until you find the right note. Newer versions of Transcribe allow easy transposition, so for example a G# on the keyboard can be set to play G# at concert pitch or as a G# would sound when fingered on a tenor sax (concert F#) or fingered on an alto sax (concert B).

I haven't found the pitch analyser function on Transcribe very useful for helping with chords, but the similar function in Band In A Box (BIAB) worked pretty well for me on a couple of tunes. BIAB also can guess where beats and barlines go.

Good luck

Rhys

PS Who is the artist and what's the tune ?
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
Messages
3,352
I think life is to short to get to hung up on transcribing lot's of solo's ,yes there's lot's of plus's on it but playing your horn and letting your mind go and the most important thing is your ear's,you cant wack a good pair of well oiled lug's.Were abit spoilt compared to the legend's of yester year who had ONLY A FRACTION of what we modern player's have and can use and the strange thing is WE ALL WANT TO SOUND AND PLAY LIKE THEM.At time's we forget about the moment and the off the cuff and get to tied up with all the wacky stuff and aid's flying about.We are lucky to have lot's to pick from but just playing the horn is the nice part we all love.
 
OP
Mamos

Mamos

Member
Messages
691
Location
Falmouth Cornwall
Thanks for all your input Guys

I have downloaded the trial version of Transcribe and I will have a play with it tonight

Looks good though

mamos
 

RSPINDY

New Member
Messages
19
Hi All

I contacted a favourite artist the other day after a conversation with his record label to see if he had a transcription of one of his solos

He replied stating that he did not have the solo written down and that I should pull my finger out and transcribe it myself. (He didn't say pull your finger out by the way but I'm sure that's what he meant:))

All well and good but I have no idea where to start.

I have every intention of doing it but I will need some guidance.

I can play the head on the sax no problem and I am slowly working my way through the solo but I need to start writing it down.

The note pitches are not a problem it is the rhythm I am finding impossible

And what about the chords?

So, where do I start?

mamos
Hi Mamos,

Transcribing improvised rhythms can be anywhere from difficult to impossible. The freedom that improvisation allows can create rhythmic combinations that make Trigonmetry, Calculus, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, E = MC2, string theory, et. al. seem simple. Don't loose sleep over it.

That said. I would first create a "Map" of the section that I am trying to transcribe. (You can do this with manuscript paper or even just a simple, cheap notebook).

1. How many measures (and beats) is the section? Now you know that everything that you are doing must fit into this range.

2. I'm a keyboard player so the harmony is always in my mind. Even as a solo player, it can be helpful, so I would at least determine the bass note at the beginning of each of those measures. These will most often be the root of the harmony, and even if not they will at least be a member of the base chord (the triad or 7th) at least 90% of the time. This in itself can give you an idea of the notes being used. Say we are in C and the bass runs C - A - D - G, you know that the G bass is going to be some form of a G7 chord, not a G major scale. A G7 allows about any modification to the 5th and the tensions 9,11,and 13 so those are going to be the freest scales and chords. (For the harmony, if you can determine the 7th chord, which only modifies the 5th [#5 or b5] or the 3rd [becoming a sus4] you basically have the chords.

3. Now that you have a map, and at least a basic harmonic plan, you simply have to place a given set of notes in that space. This is where you look for "guide" notes or "target" notes - what notes fall at or near important rhythmic points in the phrase. While syncopations are always a problem, determining the notation can be worse. Is the note enough ahead of the beat to notate it as an eighth note tied across the bar to another rhythm, or is it just a slight anticipation of the beat that all of those ties would simply confuse the intent more. This is what "quantization" on the computer does.

If you know where the important notes (such as the beginning and ends of runs) fall, then you have the rhythmic concept. Our music notation system wasn't designed to give us much accuracy beyond the sixteenth note, and rhythmically, it has never notated even simple jazz (swing eighths) correctly. But that's OK. We notate to remind ourselves of what is going on and then we read between the lines to make it happen.

In these fractured thoughts, I hope that I have at least given you some food for thought.

Scott
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Location
Leeds
I'm not a big fan of transcription software, I think it misses the point a bit. I think you get more out of it if you do it the old fashioned way. Take a solo, learn it so well you can sing along with it when it's not playing. Break it down into small bits, write it down one phrase at a time. For the changes, there have been some very good suggestions so far. I look for cadences and key centers and fill in bits and pieces as I figure it out and double check with the piano.

You learn a lot more from the mistakes you make stumbling around the piano than you do from the mistakes you don't make letting the computer do it for you.
 
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