Updated: Apr 3, 2021
Last fall, we featured a series of blog posts on transcribing. This was an important series and it laid out many of the basics of the importance of transcribing, a process for successful transcription, and ideas for how to get started. This month, I want to take a look at some strategies for attacking a transcription project. I want to put more tools in your toolbox and build your transcription skills. First up is organizing yourself to transcribe.
I can remember growing up with my father painting a variety of rooms in our house. He would pull out his same painters bag, tarps, brushes, and painters tape and go to work. Through this, I remember him saying time and time again that most of the time spent painting is in the prep and clean-up. That isn't so far off from transcription too. Not to mix metaphors but having a map before you embark generally gets your to your destination a little faster.
Know the form of what you are transcribing. Is it blues, Rhythm Changes, a sixteen bar form? Knowing that form will send you down a path of organization that will help you better understand the solo. Regardless of what the form is, take the time to bar out the measures before you start transcribing. Put double bars at the section or chorus mark. Number the choruses, put some time markers in. If done correctly, your piece of manuscript paper should look like the one below. This is a "prep" of Sonny Stitt's solo on Eternal triangle. It is a rhythm changes tune, so I am clearly marking a 32 bar form. Each A section is marked as well as the bridge. You see the "Ch1" and "Ch2" marking the the corresponding choruses, and I am plopping in the time on the track so I have guideposts along the way.
There is clear organization, and you are all ready to start. Going through this prep will improve your understanding of the solo structure - and you have eve gotten to the fun part yet!