The joy of transcription

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by willhutch, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    Been doing some transcribing lately. Well, I haven't actually been writing anything down, just learning the lines. I've learned some Grant Green, and some of the licks of TGP members have made available on the member soundclip forum (including the work of yZe, Tag, harryj).

    What a beneficial that pursuit that is! I find that new material is more deeply ingrained when you cop it by ear, as opposed to when you read it. I think it is because the act of listening and repeating 100 times engages your ears and mind as well as your fingers. You really get to know the line in a way you don't when it is spoon fed to you.

    After cracking some lines, I learned the 'secrets' of certain sounds I have been hearing for years. Among them are the use of the major 7 over minor chords and the 3 to b9 movements on dominant chords. I also made sense of some ii-V-I motions I'd been hearing in the harmony.

    This will be a "no-duh" to many of you, as transcribing is a common developmental exercise. But I thought I'd share my recent experience in the hopes of getting others motivated to tackle some transcribing.

    Have fun!
     
  2. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    One thing a lot of people don't seem to understand when we talk about transcribing vs learning from sheet music is that not only are you learning the lines but your also learning how to listen. It's not just training your ear to hear tones- the harmonic side, but all the other things that rarely get mentioned on these forums but are so important. For example, being able to hear most of what's going on in a single pass of a tune. I know it wasn't till I did some serious transcribing that I got to the point where I could put on a recording of a tune I didn't know and be able to tell you the form and most of the changes after a chorus or to. Before that I might have to listen to the entire tune 3 or 4 times. When I listen to a pop recording I can usually tell you what the drums are doing, the bass, when the little keyboard line starts, that the tambourine comes in on the chorus, etc without really focusing on any of it. You just hear it, your ear gets bigger. That comes from a lot of time spent transcribing, dissecting, deconstructing, all of it.


    Transcribing is the best way to develop the skills you need to be a good player, and IMO maybe the only way.
     
  3. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    That is a strong statement. I'd like to hear you elaborate on it.

    When you read interviews with great players you often hear them say "I used to spend HOURS in my room figuring out Coltrane solos".

    A lot of the players I admire have the ability to play idiomatic stuff that sounds familiar and appropriate to the style. They then can branch off their own interpretation of the style. Mastery of particular stylistic idioms comes from copping a lot of licks.

    It has never been an area in which I have put alot of emphasis. I've learned plenty of tunes by ear for the purposes of playing in bands. But I never immersed myself in transcription in order to understand the recipes of my favorite players.

    Never too late to start.
     
  4. robelinda2

    robelinda2 Member

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    Well you can sit down and read music and play it, but it doesnt stay in your mind or fingers like it does when you spend the hard time transcribing it. Plus you arent restricted in any way, there isnt tab for every song on the whole planet, but your ears can figure anything out with time.
     
  5. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Congrats on your discovery...learning things from recordings was a really big deal for me...

    IMHO - the real 'discovery' comes with what you decide to do with it once it's transcribed...

    And also, IMHO...there's a time to stop transcribing as well....
     
  6. theohartman

    theohartman Member

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    great thread and contributions, thanks. i remember the first time i wrote down miles' trumpet solo from so what.

    my first discovery was how much of it was on the downbeat. the second was that certain notes i thought were there, just weren't, they'd been ghosted into the lines, and when i took it apart, there was nothing actually there but silence.

    i do a lot by ear out of desire to get it under my hands now, but i think there's a lot to be said for setting it to the page, the act of notation itself, and the decisions/kind of listening it forces. -t
     
  7. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Ah, Miles, doncha love him!:cool:
    Another thing that struck me, when I transcribed the solos from "All Blues", was how much he played the chord roots.
    Huh? Most boring note to pick? Nope... just depends how you play it...
     
  8. High Voltage

    High Voltage Member

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    I just finished Miles solo on So What!

    I was wondering where to go with it after finishing it. Do you guys memorize the whole solo? Any tips and pointers are appreciated.
     
  9. jb70

    jb70 Supporting Member

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    right on- ken speaks the truth.

    for me, transcribing is the best, fastest way to improve your playing. i will go thru periods of transcription and then lay off for a long time. for instance, there was a period where i was transcribing a lot of john scofield solos and lines and i began to start to sound like sco a little (like a lame version- haha!!!). so, i knew it was time to stop with sco and i moved on to a few non-guitar players (mostly coltrane, keith jarrett, and bill evans). i was on a kurt rosenwinkel kick right before i moved out to nyc. once i got here and heard every other young guitar player sounding like kurt, i knew it was time to stop.

    it definitely takes a while for that information that's sitting in the left part of your brain to jump over to the right side where your own creativity morphs what you have transcribed into your own take on it. that's when you will start to hear "your voice".

    a lot of people think that it's necessary to transcribe an entire solo, but that's not the case. you can get a great deal of information from 4 or 8 bars (especially when you are dealing with someone like herbie hancock or chick corea).

    i usually try to listen to the solo a lot so i can sing along with it. i always write the solos down and try to do as much as possible at the recorded tempo. i use "the amazing slow downer" to slow down any fast stuff i can't hear at the regular tempo.

    for me, it's better to transcribe the music myself rather than buying a book. i think you get a deeper connection to the music that way and it's great for your ears too!

    jack
     
  10. theohartman

    theohartman Member

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    +1 on the how part. humbling.
     
  11. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    I just wanted to add not to take the term transcribing too literal. The more transcribing you do the less you'll have to do later. What I mean is you'll get better at it and your vocabulary will increase, and pretty soon you won't have to transcribe that much- you'll hear it and just know what it is, or at least have a good idea.

    So to me transcribing is just a developed form of listening. It basically means anytime you cop something off a recording. Eventually you want to get to a point where you stop working on other people's stuff and focus on your own, but you never stop listening, so you're always bringing in new material to your woodshed.
     
  12. pedped

    pedped Member

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    Memorizing is always a good thing, but more important it is to learn something from it - to understand what is going on. In the case og the So What solo, try to se the pattern he is using to develope the melodic ideas and the progression in the solo. It is amazing!
    The thing to look for is call and response and notice where he reaches the climacs, which seems to come with the same interval of bars.

    If you just memorize it without further attention payed to other than the point of remebering the notes, it will only enhance your ability to memorize thing and you might as well try to remember an article in the newspaper.

    Always try to get it into the music-context.
     
  13. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Right on RR

    Back in the "old days" for me that was around '66, when I first wanted to understand music from a book.
    The problem, there was none, Mel Bay just looked too square.

    So I learned by transcribing from records at half speed.
    Very slow and tedious, having to lift the record player arm and place it
    close to the lick. Tablature didn't really exist, or should I say they
    hadn't agreed upon a universal way.

    And real notation became way to difficult for a newb to read when it came
    to all those new sounds, no Tab, didn't matter, you couldn't buy it. Not in '68.

    It was all about hearing it, and retaining it so you didn't have to learn it again.

    All ear. Just the way I like it.
     

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