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Transcribing rhythm

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Hello,

I've really avoided transcribing, or in my case playing by ear at the moment, which is a shame it turns out I quite enjoy it. It was something I did as a guitarist a lot, but I think I've avoided it because of the rhythm notation issues. On the guitar I would just write it out as tab.

Anyway I've forced myself into, and as I say its fun and satisfying. However I need to write it out, give it a week I'll forget it.

I've read a couple of other threads about this, and @rhysonsax notes but it doesn't really cover the mechanics of how to notate the rhythm.

I thought about this more recently when I listened and watched the Chad Lefkowitz-Brown My Foolish Heart transcription:

The transcription has this phrase:

1613384936218.png

I can't even imagine how to count that out that, let alone be able to listen to it and transcribe it. Obviously a more difficult example.

I understand some people use conducting patterns, but does anyone have a concrete example of that or a description I can read somewhere.

I am transcribing this at the moment:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adMCMOKMQIw


Nothing particularly complicated, but I expect ballads and swung rhythms are much harder to notate in general.

Thanks for any tips!

Richard
 

rhysonsax

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I have been doing quite a bit of transcribing of jazz solos (not all saxophone) since Covid hit and I really find that notating rhythms is particularly challenging for ballads. On medium and uptempo numbers it seems to be fairly straightforward to decide what the soloist played / tried to play and that is often about which note is on/off the beat.

For the ballads, there seem to be so many variants of subdividing beats and playing with tempo (hanging behind the beat, playing on top of the beat, rushing) that what the transcriber actually notates has plenty of scope for subjective input.

My most recent transcription is this live performance by Sonny Rollins (for this month's TOTM). It isn't a ballad but Rollins plays around with the rhythm and tempo so much and with such variety that it looks complex written out.


I use Transcribe ! software to assist my transcription process and it certainly helps to mark and understand where the beats fall, but perhaps the result of that is too much information and over-complex notation.

I use Sibelius for doing the notating part of my transcriptions and the playback from Sibelius is quite helpful in letting me hear where what I have written is not quite what was originally played.

I guess it depends on why someone is doing transcription - is it for them to play along with the original solo, or for sharing with other people or as a precursor to doing an arrangement ? In practice, the purpose of the transcription helps to determine how simplified or how accurate the rhythm part of the transcription should be.

As you asked about tips, I would suggest starting on rhythmically simpler solos and not over-obsessing with notating every last nuance of the solo. And the more you transcribe the more you will recognise common rhythms.

It's also a two way process of recognising how a written rhythm should sound as well as knowing how a heard rhythm should be notated. So I have found playing lots of written big band charts helpful in understanding the first of those.

Rhys
 
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jbtsax

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One thing I have done is to take a 1 or 2 measure segment and listen to it repeatedly till I can tap the rhythm with my finger or a pencil. Then without thinking note values or durations, I just put these type of marks to represent each tap: / / / Next I would draw a bar line if there are more than one measure. Then above the marks I make these types of marks to indicate where the beats fall: | | | |

The last step is to draw in the stems, beams, and flags of notes to show the duration of each.
 

Pete Effamy

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One thing I have done is to take a 1 or 2 measure segment and listen to it repeatedly till I can tap the rhythm with my finger or a pencil. Then without thinking note values or durations, I just put these type of marks to represent each tap: / / / Next I would draw a bar line if there are more than one measure. Then above the marks I make these types of marks to indicate where the beats fall: | | | |

The last step is to draw in the stems, beams, and flags of notes to show the duration of each.
I'm similar to this. I just use coloured-in note heads for anything that isn't a long note and a semibreve (whole note) for long notes. Essentially writing all the pitches into their respective bars. It's a shorthand for a solo I usually know and want to play. If I want to be precise I'll go back and fill in the rhythms.
For me, conducting whilst listening is an easy way to see where a rhythm falls - I'm singing the phrase in my head rather than counting, so the conducting helps.
..I've never transcribed (or had to conduct) anything in 13/8..
 
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Thanks everyone. I will attempt these techniques, and see if anything sticks!

I like the idea of the simplified notation. I'm certainly writing this out for my own benefit, and so as such rhythm doesn't matter as much but I think just writing out crochets would just confuse my brain.

There is another description from the maker of Transcribe that Rhys mentioned, I will leave it here in case it is useful for others too:

Here's a tip for determining rhythmic values of fast notes. Suppose someone plays two notes quite quickly, "duh-duh" and you're asking yourself are they eighth notes? Sixteenths? Part of a triplet? The answer is to tap your hand in time with the quarter-note pulse of the piece and sing along with the "duh-duh" notes but extend them to an endless sequence at the same speed "duh-duh-duh-duh...". Then all you have to do is count how many fit into a quarter note. Two? then they're eighth notes. Six? then they're triplet sixteenths. For more complicated phrases learn the phrase so you can sing it accurately, then sing it on your own with your hand tapping the beat (switch off playback) then get slower and subdivide the beat by tapping your hand more rapidly. When you subdivide the beat into small enough pieces then you will find every note of the phrase will be on one of the subdivisions so by noting how many subdivisions per quarter note you are tapping and which subdivision each note falls on, you can work out the rhythm.

From here: Introduction to Transcribing Music

Thanks again,

Richard
 

eb424

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Hi as a newbie trying to learn music i transcribe the notes only and buy the sheet music. I write the transcribed nots above and try the piece with a backing track re rhythm and tempo. Then i yry to break it down bar by bar..

Eddie
 

turf3

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That first example is what happens when you try to transcribe jazz rhythms. The pulling and pushing of note values is extremely difficult to notate, and even harder to read. If you want to improve your ability to read complex poorly notated rhythms, you can work with that pattern - if you want to play the line, you'll need to listen to the source recording.

Western music notation is very good with pitch values but weak in representation of rhythm anyway, and when you get to jazz subtleties it really gets very clunky indeed. Think of all the different swing eighths there are - heck, any competent improvisor is using slightly different lengths of swung eighths from one measure to the next, depending on the phrase, never mind the variations according to style, genre, tempo... There simply isn't a way to notate swung eighths properly, which is why band directors say things like " lay back more" or "play on the left side of the beat" or "push it here" or "give me more of a Second Line feel here on the drums".
 

Pete Effamy

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That first example is what happens when you try to transcribe jazz rhythms. The pulling and pushing of note values is extremely difficult to notate, and even harder to read. If you want to improve your ability to read complex poorly notated rhythms, you can work with that pattern - if you want to play the line, you'll need to listen to the source recording.

Western music notation is very good with pitch values but weak in representation of rhythm anyway, and when you get to jazz subtleties it really gets very clunky indeed. Think of all the different swing eighths there are - heck, any competent improvisor is using slightly different lengths of swung eighths from one measure to the next, depending on the phrase, never mind the variations according to style, genre, tempo... There simply isn't a way to notate swung eighths properly, which is why band directors say things like " lay back more" or "play on the left side of the beat" or "push it here" or "give me more of a Second Line feel here on the drums".
Agree. If you are relatively new to transcribing, then the best thing to have a go at is a melody, rather than a solo. In any case, you have to ask yourself whether you want to notate "feel", or what the player would want to read if they had to replay the solo themselves. Some transcriptions use the term "lay back", and so do some big band charts.
 

Dibbs

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I can't even imagine how to count that out that, let alone be able to listen to it and transcribe it. Obviously a more difficult example.
That smells of someone who's been looking at the waves in a DAW and lining the notes up with a grid. Most people, using their ears, would just write 4 quavers and write "laid back" or something above it.
 

jbtsax

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Hi JBT is that book ok for a beginner re rhythm..i.e. is it basic
It is very easy and basic at first, but progresses to more complex rhythms rather quickly. Someone starting out will "breeze through" the first few pages and then find the progress gets slower as they go along. I had my students "write in" the counting and then say the counting first before playing and passing off each exercise.

Because this method is directed at percussion players it progresses to rhythm patterns more complex and difficult than other sections in the band would normally see in their parts. There are lots of books on counting and reading rhythms that are not as challenging.
 
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That smells of someone who's been looking at the waves in a DAW and lining the notes up with a grid. Most people, using their ears, would just write 4 quavers and write "laid back" or something above it.
No, as I say I have been playing it by ear and not worrying about writing out the rhythm.

My particular reference was to the Chad Lefkowitz-Brown solo as someone else transcribed. Without listening to it, could you play the rhythm in that phrase as notated?

If everything was quavers, then that would be easy.
 

Pete Effamy

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Sorry but I haven't heard the Chad LB solo that you reference, but isn't there a danger of trying to write down in-performance rubato? Consider a classical piano recital from almost any era, the pulse is pulled around no end.
 

rhysonsax

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Sorry but I haven't heard the Chad LB solo that you reference, but isn't there a danger of trying to write down in-performance rubato? Consider a classical piano recital from almost any era, the pulse is pulled around no end.

Players of solo piano (or another instrument) can pull the pulse around to their heart's content. But where playing with other instruments there would be an agreed pulse, even if that is able to change from strict tempo.

Here is the Chad LB performance with the transcription and you can hear the rhythm section grooving (pulsing) away as well as the soloist on top.


You can see the phrase that @sunsetandlabrea highlighted in bar 14 on the first page. The notation seems unhelpfully complex to me.

Rhys
 
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Agree. If you are relatively new to transcribing, then the best thing to have a go at is a melody, rather than a solo. In any case, you have to ask yourself whether you want to notate "feel", or what the player would want to read if they had to replay the solo themselves. Some transcriptions use the term "lay back", and so do some big band charts.
Yes, I agree. I can't really comment on this directly because essentially I can't read it:

1613564410446.png

Which is from here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aRv0cK0_3M


My question was a more general how do I figure out something slightly more complicated than crochets and quavers, but likely less complicated than this. I think from the sounds of things you begin to recognise certain rhythmical patterns and you just need to gain experience or figure out where they fall in the bar.

I referenced that transcription because that seems ridiculous, I wouldn't attempt to read it, just listen and memorise the pattern.


Thanks
 
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Pete Effamy

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Bar 14 is even 8ths with a bit of feel thrown in. Rubato can take place from a soloist without it happening in the rest of the group. In fact, if it does it isn’t necessarily rubato. Classical soloists have done it forever. Sinatra drips off the back of the beat as was the style - do you notate that?
 

rhysonsax

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Bar 14 is even 8ths with a bit of feel thrown in. Rubato can take place from a soloist without it happening in the rest of the group. In fact, if it does it isn’t necessarily rubato. Classical soloists have done it forever. Sinatra drips off the back of the beat as was the style - do you notate that?

Absolutely. I think that was part of the OP's original question - how far to go when transcribing into trying to capture the rhythmical variety and stylistic choices of a soloist. And I guess the answer is "it depends - why are you transcribing and for whom ?".

Rhys
 

Pete Effamy

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The sextuplet rhythm is 6 equal 8ths that fit into one ¼ note. If you can feel the 6, or two sets of 3 within the ¼ beat pulse then you have all the subdivision.

mod that six, two go into the first note C, one and a ½ into the B, one and a ½ into the A and one for the final B.
 

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