Transcription is the process of listening to a piece of performed music (a live performance or recording) and using listening skills to write it down. This could be as a score, guitar tablature, simplified notation, or even your own informal shorthand. Transcribing relies on a range of listening skills, including good absolute and relative pitch> skills, along with chord knowledge and rhythm skills.
Many musicians develop ear training skills in order to improve their transcription, and as luck would have it: not only is ear training the best tool for improving transcription, but transcription is one of the best forms of ear training!
The obvious use of transcription is to create a score for use by fellow musicians, but it can also be an end in its own right, either as a form of aural skills development or for you to unlock the secrets of great improvisers and soloists...
Remember: transcription is not just for those of us who are fluent in classical musical notation! It is also possible to transcribe music into guitar tablature, the piano roll of a sequencer, or even into your memory as part of playing by ear.
Transcribers of great skill may be able to instantly commit a complex piece directly to manuscript, but for the rest of us it is often a great help to have an instrument to hand to pick out key phrases and verify what we think we've heard.
Investing time in ear training for transcription can help you to:
- Transcribe melodies faster and more accurately
- Unlock the secrets of great soloists
- Play music by ear
- Recognise common chord changes and structures
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