Learning songs can be hard. Guitar licks can go by fast. Using iTunes as a playback device can be frustrating. First off, in iTunes there isn’t an option to recall a location or loop a section.
It’s for this reason I use Transcribe! from Seventh String Software It’s a piece of software that is designed for… you guessed it, transcribing music!
It’s well thought out software for Mac and PC that gives you all the tools you’ll need to really hear the nitty gritty in a recording.
Let’s discuss some of the road blocks we may run into while learning a song or guitar solo.
Guitar parts can be panned in a variety of places. Most often left or right. Having a guitar part you’re trying to learn panned left and another instrument competing for sonic space panned right can cause some distraction.
In order to help keep from being distracted, Transcribe! allows us to make either the left or right side come out from both speakers. So this allows us to narrow our mix. An audio magnifying glass if you will.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to be a musical detective on parts. I’ve used the trick of turning one speaker off. But, that’s more work and has it’s drawbacks too. The music will only come through one speaker!!
Turning either the left or right side into a mono source is super helpful.
When transcribing guitar solos, it’s often really hard to hear exact phrases at tempo. Over time, you get better and better at hearing fast phrases. But, even when you get really good, some phrases need slow motion to decode.
Transcribe! allows you to slow down the tempo of a song or section. There are a few other apps hat also allow this. However, I think the algorithm in Transcribe! sounds the best and has some easy presets for jumping through speeds.
With a single click I could play the guitar solo at 75% or 25% of the original. I’ve had several experiences where I thought I heard a riff correctly. But, when I slowed it down, I discovered that I had a wrong note or two.
I like how Transcribe! allows you to see the waveform of the song. This makes it easy to find sections of the song or make quick swipe selections to loop.
This is a process that is much more frustrating in an app like the Amazing Slow Downer.
This feature gives us a more hands on feel.
In Transcibe! you can create markers to note the form of a song. When you load a song, you create a new XSC file. Within this file, it saves all the info about your current project (song).
This is different from the Amazing Slow Downer. The ASD only allows you to open multiple songs in one browser. It doesn’t save marker setting or various loop points for a selected song.
When I open a song in Transcribe!, I spend a minute or two marking and labeling the sections of the song. An example would be: Intro, verse, chorus, verse 2 , chorus 2, bridge, chorus 3, outro.
This makes it easy to navigate the arrangement and dig into sections.
In Transcribe! you can save multiple loop points. Say what? Yup!! I can tear apart a solo bar by bar and return to looped points later. You save an unlimited number of loops!
This is a great feature as you’ll often have to go back and shred certain guitar figures over time. And you wont have to make the same selections to loop multiple times. This lets us get right down to business!
I can create a few alternatives as well. Let’s say I learn the first line of a guitar solo. I can make save a loop of that. Now, if I want to add the second bar, I can save another loop of the first two bars combined. But, I won’t lose my first loop if I want to go back and refresh.
On some old recordings the tuning of the instruments can be a little off from our modern standards. Musicians would sometimes tune without a tuner in the studio or to a piano that hadn’t been tuned recently.
This can be frustrating when transcribing a song. To counter this Transcribe! allows us to adjust the overall pitch of a song. So if a song is a few cents flat, you can tune it up to standard tuning.
The pitch adjust feature also comes in handy when you want to learn a song that is down tuned. I do love the sound of a guitar when tuned down a half step. But, changing tunings while learning a song can be disruptive. Especially when you’re learning multiple songs in a setting.
Pitching up the song in Transcribe! can allow more fluidity to your practice time.
I sometimes get the question of why one should trancsribe music rather then just looking up tabs on the web?
I never look up tabs on the web for a couple of different reasons. 1: The first reason is, it’s really hard to get quality tabs on the web. There are no standards. Anyone is free to put up tabs which are often wrong.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct tabs for students.
2: The other reason is I want to spend time strengthening my listening skills. What can be more important for a musician then good listening skills? It can be argued there are no more important skills then hearing skills. Music is a listening art after all.
You want to get to a point where you hear music like language. You should hear chords or combinations of notes like words and sentences.
Through a lot of transcribing, I’m able to hear certain chord shapes without even touching my instrument. Same goes for certain shapes in a solo.
This is really important to your ability to improvise onstage and learn songs fast on the band stand.
You need to be developing your ears at the same time as your technical guitar skills.
At first this seems to daunting to many guitarists. It can be confusing matching notes at first. This is where selection of song in transcribe! is important.
Make sure to pick a song that ins’t too difficult. This would include songs that have a lot of notes or are played very fast.
Try to find the most repetitive, simple song you can. You also need to have realistic standards. It’s really going to be a challenge at first. You may only be able to figure out a few notes or lines at first.
That’s ok. Take your time. It’s not how fast you start learning how to transcribe, it’s that you hear what the notes are and can match them.
For beginners, I usually start with a song that has a simple melody. I’ll focus on the vocal melody. Vocal melodies tend to be more repetitive then a guitar solo.
From here I’ll use the Transcribe! app to loop very small sections (2-4 notes) and play them until I can first sing and match the notes. Once I can sings them, I sing and find each of the notes on the guitar.
Don’t feel bad it you have to slow the tempo down to 25%. Go as slow as you need to in order to hear and match the pitches.
There are some great teachers who won’t let students pick up their instrument to play a part until they can sing it.
This isn’t as common as I wished it was in western music education. Think about it. How can you play a part if you don’t know it? I see many musicians just jump to their instrument before they have a part or melody in their ear.
When teaching, I use Transcribe! to play a section at various speeds until the student can sing the pitches and rhythms of the part. (Remember when I just mentioned this above)
You would be surprised about how quick one will find a part on their instrument if they have internalized it. It cuts the process in half.
A lot of people resist this though as they are intimidated by singing. We live in a pretty judgmental climate right now. But, I encourage you to put that aside. It’s not about you becoming the greatest pop vocalist in history.
It’s just about you being able to recall what you hear. If you can hear it, then sing it…. then you can play it.
This is a process that is often overlooked. Yes, its tedious at first. Just like starting to play an instrument. But, if you learn to strengthen your hearing skills, you give yourself the freedom to play what you hear, not what you’ve come to know from habit.
The importance of this can’t be stressed enough.
I would recommend spending time with Transcribe! everyday. In an ideal world, this would take up at least an hour of your practice each day.
But don’t just think of transcribing for melody. Rhythm is just as important.
I’m still combing through music to find cool guitar licks to learn and transcribe. In fact, I keep a guitar journal dedicated to this. If you develop you ear training and transcription abilities, there will be no end to your musical growth. Since you can just listen to something new and decode it.
At first there will be one drawback to transcribing guitar. There is more then one middle C on the guitar. This means that some parts can be played in multiple positions of the fretboard.
Over time, you will develop listening skills to better hear the position of the note. Each middle C position does sound different. Eventually, you’ll pick up on these differences faster. But, don’t get to stressed about it at first. Just make sure you’re matching the notes and the rhythms. The position will be easier to fill in later.
free content: list on tips to help ear training and order of process.
Transcribe! could possibly be one of the most important tools in your guitar growth.
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