For many musicians, even pros, the discipline of transcription – listening to a piece of music and accurately rendering it in musical notation – occupies a guilty blind spot. The great classical maestros and jazz soloists are constantly prescribing it as a means to musical advancement, but it feels medicinal; we know it’s good for us, but we’re not exactly sure how, and it’s such hard work it can be bitter pill!
First things first, the Maestros were right. Transcription helps develop your ear and your technique and, if you’re an improviser, helps you internalise a vocabulary of new phrases and ideas to use in your solos.
It’s also (counter-intuitively) a vital part of developing a distinct sound on your instrument. All the greats got great by transcribing and copying their heroes, mixing the different styles of their influences together and shaping what came out into a signature sound.
Transcription doesn’t have to be as painful as it once was though. We’re not saying you have to sit in a locked room with a quill, parchment, gramophone, and the complete works of Charlie Parker, and not emerge till you’ve got a note perfect manuscript. Micro-transcriptions of phrases, and licks can be a great way of transcribing. And the technology is making it easier.
At MusicGurus we just introduced the ability to loop any part of our video tutorials, and to slow them down without changing pitch. This was the number one feature requested by our users. Now they can capture the distinct sound of our gurus – whether that be the virtuoso violin of Maxim Vengerov, the hard-boogieing piano of Paddy Milner, or the intricate licks of grammy winning guitarist Laurence Juber.
No more battling with the youtube or spotify playback bar, trying to land your cursor on the right pixel, with all the precision of a giant texting on a Nokia 3310. No more repeatedly clicking back on that precise spot, an activity requiring the accuracy of a champion darts player needing to nail the triple 20 each throw.
With the new functionality of the MusicGurus’ player, it’s easy to precisely select the start and end section of a video, loop it and slow it down. The wave-form is shown, and you can zoom in on exactly the note, or group of notes you’re practising.
So take the plunge and try out some transcription on one our courses using the MusicGurus player as an aide. Here’s a link to our courses, go forth and transcribe!
Bonus Transcription Story! – Liam Noble, Professor of Jazz Piano at Trinity College of Music once transcribed thirty Bill Evans trio performances. Which was hell apparently, and they missed his name off the book due to a printing error! If only he’d done it via MusicGurus he could at least have got it done a bit faster! Read his own blog about it here.