While most classical and jazz works are written down before they are performed, songs in other genres are often worked out through a series of improvisations in which each instrument develops their own part. Because of this, it can be difficult for the songwriter to go back and write out the song later on. This process is called transcribing; the finished product is called a transcription.
Why would songwriters want to write out their own songs once they’re finished? There are many great reasons, including:
- Memory guide. When you’ve got lots of music memorized and under your fingertips, it’s easy to get mixed up and forget the details of every song. Transcribing gives you a quick reference point if you’re drawing a blank before a gig or recording session.
- New band members. Does your band personnel change frequently? Are you a solo artist who hires musicians on a per-gig basis? You could waste valuable rehearsal or studio time teaching new players your songs, OR you could have transcriptions in hand for them to read from—better yet, email PDFs ahead of time so they come in prepared and ready to play!
- Auxiliary instruments. Haven’t you always really imagined that synth patch as a bunch of trumpets? Or the guitar line to be a violin section? Musicians from the classical and jazz worlds are used to reading their parts and would rather not have you teach them by rote while the clock is running. So, if you have a group of trumpet players ready to play that synth part, you need to have their music clearly notated.
- Pass it around. The best flattery a songwriter can receive is another musician wanting to play their music. Your music will get played more often, in farther locales, and with greater accuracy, if you take the time to transcribe and notate it. Services like Digital Print Publishing provide a forum for musicians around the world to easily share PDF transcriptions of their songs—and earn money doing it!
So, how do you transcribe your songs? There are many helpful resources, both electronic and interpersonal, but the best place to start is with your own ears and a piece of paper. Continue reading ‘Transcribing Your Songs’