How to Transcribe Music: The #1 Music Practice Technique You Need to Know

How to Transcribe Music

We’ve got options when practicing.

What to do when you feel a bit lost

  1. Transcription is actually really simple.
  2. Musicians love to complicate it to extract an extra 10–20% of goodness from it.

What does it mean to transcribe music?

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Transcription is hands down the best bang for your buck in the practice room.

  1. Put on whatever song is inspiring you at the moment.
  2. Pick out your favorite sections or licks.
  3. Learn them slowly and learn them well (a.k.a. Play the song as best as you possibly can. Don’t settle for mediocre).
  4. If you want to do traditional transcription, which is fantastic for harmony, then this is when you either write it down on staff paper OR double-check your memorization against a written transcription.
  5. Record yourself playing it and see if it sounds like the record. Repeat until it does.
  6. Try and pull out why you like it so much and how you can apply it in the future (this is where theory comes in handy).

The Perfect Transcription Model

How to Transcribe Music Perfectly

How to Transcribe Music like a Pro

#1 Learn the changes, perfectly.

#2 Sing the melody or solo you want to learn so you internalize the pitches & rhythm.

#3 Write down, memorize, or read the section you want to learn.

#4 Record yourself playing the solo until it sounds exactly how you want it.

#5 Analyze each phrase.

#6 Transpose your favorite licks or what you learned into a minimum of 3 keys.

#7 Apply what you just learned by writing 3 licks or writing a song that emulates the original.

The bottom line

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Nathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps

Nashville-Based Writer & Musician —Writing about practicing music and whatever else comes to mind.