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What Is Music Transcription?

Mark Wollacott
Mark Wollacott

Music transcription is the process of taking a new piece of music and writing it down in an understandable format. A good number of musicians and bands loathe the idea of transcribing their music, but it is an essential element that allows music to be preserved and understood, not just by others, but by the musicians themselves. Transcription requires the transcriber or musician to understand the music he or she is playing and how notes are represented on the music sheet.

Established and published music tends to have already been transcribed. A music transcription is often available online or in the form of music books. Bands and recording artists often transcribe their music as they create it. This forms the dual purpose of allowing fans to try to recreate the sound and remember the musical structure for later recordings or live performances. Quite often, musicians will begin music transcriptions during jam sessions with band members or friends, when they stumble upon a good piece of music they can use later.

Music transcription involves putting musical notes on a sheet.
Music transcription involves putting musical notes on a sheet.

Where music may need transcribing the most is after a live performance. Many live performances from progress or prog rock to jazz include solos and variations from the recorded material. In these cases, a person may wish to transcribe the new tunes to paper in order to record them for posterity. This is important for musicians, as live recordings, especially jazz ones, are often improvisational and will not be recreated later.

In order to transcribe music, a person needs to know how to identify chords and notes. This means having a good ear for music and some training in the arts of music notation. It requires the music to be played over and over again, while being broken down into its composite pieces. The more layers and instruments a piece has, the more complicated the transcription.

There are a number of services that offer to transcribe music. Not everyone wishes to transcribe their own music or know how to. In these cases, it is possible for someone or a band to pay a music transcription service to do the job for them. Rates vary from company to company and depending on the amount of music that needs transcribing.

In addition to hiring a company to transcribe music, it is possible to buy or download software from the Internet. The software is designed to make a visual guide to the music so it can be played back. Such software should be designed to incorporate music from a number of instruments being played at the same time.

As well as being a professional undertaking to preserve music, the act of music transcription can be a hobby. Hobbyists take a piece of music they are listening to and attempt to transcribe the music. This can then be compared to the actual music or replayed on instruments as a test. Obviously, the more complicated the music, the harder this is.

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    • Music transcription involves putting musical notes on a sheet.
      By: matttilda
      Music transcription involves putting musical notes on a sheet.