Transcribing music is generally a core part of the syllabus for music degrees and higher-level instrument learning.


In the 21st century it may seem outdated to worry about how we write down music with a pencil on a staff. But in fact, the benefits of learning to transcribe music by ear are just as important now as ever.

1. It lets you record what you hear.

Whether it’s pencil on printed manuscript paper, entering notes into Finale, or using the piano roll in Logic, being able to set down the notes you heard accurately empowers your music creation and manipulation.

2. It proves you know what you heard.

If we break down “understanding the music you hear” into its component parts, it’s a process of:

A. Hear the music
B. Form a mental ‘picture’ of the music
C. Understand that picture in detail
D. Do something with it

Everyone can do A.

Part B, being able to form the music in your head—called “audiation”, “auralising” or just “imagining”—takes practice, concentration, and good active listening skills.

C, understanding that picture, involves music theory, relative pitch, rhythm skills, perhaps absolute pitch – in short, all the important bits of music theory and aural skills!

Part D (doing something with it) is, of course, the point of it all.

Maybe you want to:

  • play the music on your instrument (playing