Transcribing music – the simple way

Want to write some music down just for yourself, so you can play it confidently…and not forget half of it… But have no idea how to figure out the rhythm?
Here’s a quick way I use often during my students’ classes.

1) Convert the video to MP3, so you can do this offline. There are many good online converters, just Google them. (I don’t do this during class of course – this is when I transcribe at home)

2) Play the MP3 through a music app that allows you to set play speed. My Samsung music player can do that. It’s very useful!

3) Using earphones, sit at your piano/keyboard; listen to a short section of music, pause, find the melody notes on the piano. Just write down the note names on a piece of paper first. Use lower case alphabets (don’t put them too close together). Put a little dash/dot at the top of the letter to denote a higher octave.

4) Repeat until you’ve got one section written out, check for accuracy, then go on until the piece is finished. Label your sections Intro, Verse 1, Pre-chorus, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Verse 3, Chorus, Outro (where appropriate)

5) For the left hand, try to identify what the lowest note of the chords are in the music. Write that note in upper case alphabets above the melody note at which the chord enters. Very often, chords change in between melody notes, that’s why I suggested you don’t write the melody notes too close together.

6) Now play the parts together in single notes – just the melody notes and the bass line note. See how it sounds, make any corrections.

7) Lastly, if you know how to play block chords, broken chords or arpeggios, figure out the rest of the chord notes and play them in left hand. This is usually the hardest part of transcribing music – identifying the chords and arranging the accompaniment to suit the music. Your skill in this will develop as you play more and learn from other musicians. There are also tons of vids on YouTube you can learn from 🙂

8) When you’re good at this and want to make a nice score, download Musescore (it’s free and good), click Help and learn how to use it 🙂

All the best! And have fun!


2 Replies to “Transcribing music – the simple way”

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