Transcribing music means writing down what you hear when you listen to a song or piece.

However, many music students assume this must mean perfectly writing down every note in traditional notation, which makes transcription an intimidating and overwhelming subject!

Transcription does not have to be hard.

How Transcribing Helps You

Outside of the music conservatory and exam hall, the purpose of transcription is simply to help you as a musician.

This could be:

  • To remember a piece you’re writing
  • To check you’re hearing what you think you are in a song
  • To share musical ideas with other musicians, like sharing your new song with your band
  • To practice expressing your music through writing and explore how it relates to your instrument and musical imagination

So transcription should always be considered a tool for you to use – not a challenge for you to fear or avoid!

Often transcription and “melodic dictation” (writing down the notes of a tune) are grouped in with music theory and ear training as tasks which music students struggle with, fear, and ultimately avoid. But (like music theory and ear training) if approached in the right way, they are powerful tools for building musicianship, and needn’t be a struggle at all.

Music Transcription Tips

The most helpful transcription tip is to choose the kind of notation that’s suitable to the task.

The best rock transcribers will listen repeatedly to the same passage of music and painstakingly transcribe each and every note played in minute detail. This produces a score or tablature perfect for somebody who wants to accurately reproduce the original song, for example in a covers band.

However, such detailed notation often does more