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Transcribe, transcribe, transcribe.

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Mike Verta, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. Use a notation program (Sibelius, Finale etc.) for any transcribing digitally. Pencil and paper is much more enjoyable for me. By far.
    Also the program TRANSCRIBE! is pretty cool and has a little keyboard you can pluck notes on. But you still need to notate it.

    I would separate transcribing with any performance aspects. It IS very useful and helpful to record your playing one of your transcriptions so you can listen
    back and critique your performance. I am assuming you are transcribing to improve your composing/orchestration/arranging as opposed to building a vocabulary on your instrument and improv.

    The assumption being the former requires you to notate out your ideas and hand them over to other musicians. Of course being fluent on your instrument and having improv chops are connected, and all going to help greatly. However you must also train the last step too.
     
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  2. I'm using Musescore2 which seems to be working well enough. I've considered Notion as it integrates with S1 but Musescore is doing everything I want.

    Pencil and paper is quite flexible but I find it to be tedious at times, I should probably just work at it more.

    Indeed I'm separating it from performance -- you're right, it's for improving composition/orch/arranging. Instrument vocabulary is more something I learn by ear on said instrument and then learn to play it properly as well. Indeed they do all go hand in hand, but transcribing in this case (i.e. working something I hear out on piano and notation for various instruments) is for improving composition. I do know that the neural connections created by physically writing tend to be much stronger than typing, but I'm wondering how many people still notate by hand. I enjoy it more than staring at a screen (slow as it may be right now), especially since all DAW work and other compositional learning tends to be screen oriented.
     
  3. +1 for Musescore. That is what I use now. I was building up to taking a week to bootcamp my way through Sibelius on a transcription binge but then I came across Dorico and it interested me since I'm a Cubase user. Decision paralysis set it and I just stuck with Musescore.
     
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  4. Just watched the video again.

    Hey Mike, thanks for saving me thousands of dollars. I know music school has the advantage of deadlines, connections and motivators, but I've learned more about composition and music in general in less than a month than I did in a comp class that cost me $500 over 4 months.
     
  5. I think it is great you are making progress, and I too 100% advocate transcription. Additionally I think a few lucky (meaning hard working) people surround themselves in an environment that demands excellence full time.

    A music school can be compared to a marriage: a good one is great, a bad one is a bad experience (not speaking personally)

    I had a great experience at music school. I never knew how good one could be at the craft. Having for example Sam Adler look over my orchestrations....
    well...... he makes Mike look like a teddy bear. (Mr. Adler was a Sergeant back in the day.... and that vibe is still there)
    Also every two weeks I had to have 5 minute compositions get performed by real musicians. I was freelancing on the side to.

    I guess I never thought of it like a prison. It was always just a bunch of talented musicians working on their craft. When I later joined a faculty at another University I became aware of the political nature behind the scenes.

    My point it this: It does not matter if it is from a school or not. What matters is your drive and MOST important learning from the best. Think about it. Those at the top are going to have distinctions others are not. So if school is not your thing, and you have gaps (which we all do) in your learning study privately.
    I still take lessons privately ----- and I make a living at music composition. Or..... invest in a studio recording with a real ensemble, etc., etc.

    There are some autodidact's (Like Mr. V.) who really push themselves and truly just need to be on their own. However I have met some many with blind-spots
    that only someone else can point out to remove.

    Post some of your transcriptions for us. Let us see how you are progressing.
     
    Gharun Lacy likes this.
  6. Honestly, I'm glad you did, and if given the option I'd absolutely take it. Having someone else critique orchestrations and have an environment where people are encouraging and holding you accountable is extremely helpful, and there are certainly times where I wish I had more discipline coming in the form of a deadline or the like. Self-motivation can be hard, especially when one feels overwhelmed with the amount of learning to be done and has to deal with the harsh realities of adult life, as opposed to hopping into music school at a younger age. The experience I had, while informative, does make me grateful that Mike's courses are available and affordable, because I quickly realized that the last thing I want to do is endlessly write in the style of composers I had zero interest in, and be forced to focus so heavily on musical structure over a simple "does this even sound good" appraisal. Years of that may well have killed my love of music.

    More transcriptions to come, but I'll probably post them in my "Transcription Requests" thread to keep this one clean.
     
  7. Ok another question for the guru's among us grasshoppers:
    Time budgeting -- I know time isn't everything, but given that it's an easy metric to work with in terms of scheduling, what's sort of a good recommended regimine to try and follow daily? I've heard of John Williams writing a few minutes of music a day, etc, but for someone without a requisite amount of piano skill, I'm not sure precisely how to allot my time.

    Say I have (being conservative) 4 hours a day, 3 times a week, and 2 hours a day 2 times a week, give or take (if I get really hung up on a transcription or creative idea I'll typically extend that as far as I can). What would be a good way to parse out time?

    i.e. 1h transcription, 1h instrument practice, 2h writing (4h day)? One hour transcription, 30 min practice and 30 min writing on a 2 hour day?

    I understand it won't be a precise prescription but it gives me a good idea of what to focus on.
     
  8. My advice would be to work backwards from a goal.

    So spend one day thinking by Dec. 15th I want to be able to XYZ, or even better something that makes you have "skin in the game"

    Spend say $1,000 to book a studio and engineer, and another $1,000 for real musicians (adjust according to your budget..... the point is not just the money wether it is one or ten thousand... enough to make you sick to your stomach to think about wasting)

    (* it can be anything the really excites you ! It can be individually hiring a violin, cello, flute etc. teacher and writing little excepts they play through for you.)

    Now you have a clear - existing in REAL time- goal to work towards. Plan out you practice towards this.

    Otherwise it's too nebulous and honestly misses the obvious question -- why are you already not doing what you outlined above, and why do you think you need too ?

    I know more than a few composers who crank out pieces, then once they are not on "demand" totally flat line. It's actually pretty normal.

    You know the quote about bacon and eggs : The chicken is interested the pig is committed.

    Off topic, but it's related: I was visiting at a pretty well known university (in the U.S) last summer and the yearly tuition was nearly 40,000 a year.
    Head shaking, or a kick to the balls to be sure. I mention this as theoretically one could budget 20 recording sessions of $2,000 each (say one every 3 weeks give or take) and spend the same amount. I would easily bet the 20 recording sessions would both be more educational and fun !

    The issue always comes down to "mind-set" so to speak. The flip side is I have so many aspiring composers who proudly have never gone to a university for training, but they never do anything to put themselves at risk of failure. When I mention something like the above, a common response is about not wanting to "spend" that much. If you see it as an investment you will look at it another way.

    The point is: It does not matter where you learned something. If it was from a great teacher, or stepping on a rake and getting your face smacked which causes enlightenment .... so be it.
     
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  9. #29 Sam Miller, Sep 19, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
    I could be wrong, but the transcription process comes across as top-down learning - a difficult, but powerful approach. Indulge me while I spin a yarn...

    I spent two years doing intensive language training - 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I spent 3 months studying one language via bottom-up learning and 18 months studying another language via top-down learning. Bottom-up learning eases you in by increasing complexity in a linear fashion as you develop your knowledge. Top-down learning is fucking hard and humbling, you don't get eased into complexity - you're thrown into it with very little knowledge. It's overwhelming at first, but it gets better as you become more familiar with the subject and its content. On its own, that's nothing spectacular, but there's a silver lining.

    Top-down learning creates problem solvers - people who recognise patterns and are comfortable under pressure because they've already made a million mistakes and persevered. As they accumulate more time on the subject their ability to correctly presume a pattern increases and their capacity grows exponentially. It's a slow and painful process in the beginning, but the better you get, the faster you get better.
     
  10. Thanks Doug. I've been thinking about this for a few days now.

    I think it's a great idea -- a scary one, to be sure, but that's the point. I consider myself driven in a conceptual, grand-scheme kind of way, but in the day to day, without collaboration, accountability, or small degree of pressure (even if self-imposed), I find my neuroticism tends to win out and ideas are never "good enough" or my insecurities end up paralyzing me, so I appreciate this advice. I need to sit down and evaluate some medium and long term goals, as it's too easy to think "oh 5 years down the road I want to be good at X" without any real markers of how to get there.

    I kind of am, but it's a "paralysis by analysis" situation.Trying to figure out what to practice, how much, when, etc. I think what I'm wondering is how to map that out a little more effectively -- I started learning guitar by learning and playing lead parts that were above my skill level, which allowed me to progress technically quite efficiently but it meant that I'd spend an awful long time perfect one line or part and not really absorb enough music -- I figure this might be something to avoid on piano when my purpose with it is composition.
    I suppose what I'm wondering specifically is whether short bursts of time are useful -- I know that at least when it comes to motor learning (at least in early stages), frequently is better than long and seldom, so for instrument practice this seems obvious. I do find myself getting really perfectionistic about trying to transpose things and as such they tend to take a while, but I also recognize I need uninterrupted writing time.

    Mike talks about transcribing every day, and I figure a "soft goal" (for now) is 30 mins a day. In early stages is writing just as important (or does that go without saying)?

    I find this really comforting, actually. I think it tends to be a side-effect at times of the creative temperament.

    Again, great point. I catch myself mentally wanting to hide behind that sort of sense of safety, but I think risk is important, even in a simple sense of putting oneself "out there" (something I need to do more).
     
  11. Anyone know where to get sheet music for the Lord of the Rings score? I've found a book or two online, but it seems really difficult to find complete scores (and some of the books seem less than official, having been arranged by someone else). Is it the same story with Williams scores, or is it possible to get the real recorded versions of those?
     
  12. This is what I could find.

    https://www.docdroid.net/xVC73QB/howard-shore-lord-of-the-rings-the-fellowship-of-the-ring-suite.pdf

    https://www.docdroid.net/Vj63Gbj/howard-shore-the-lord-of-the-rings-selections.pdf

    Pretty far from complete scores as it's ~4hrs of music per movie, but some of the more popular pieces can be found here.

    Not sure if they're 100 correct, the "Suite" seems to be for a concert arrangement and the other one is transcriptions.
     
  13. #33 Rohann van Rensburg, Oct 25, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
    Thanks. I've found similar -- I'm basically looking to compare my transcriptions to the "real" thing, but I suppose a concert mix if probably sufficient considering I'm mainly looking to see if I accurately transcribed core instruments. That seems hard to do with film scores. I would think Shore's actual version would be available for purchase (though I'm not sure how many concerts would include log drums, a hardingfele, etc). Is it the same deal with Williams or are those obtainable? I could have sworn I read Mike talking about Williams sheet music.
     
  14. The Williams scores that are available (from Hal Leonard) are mostly suites or just the main titles, but at least they're done by John Williams.
    There's a lot of actual full cues floating online as well (including full star wars), but they're all hand written and copied quite poorly.

    https://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=4490056
    This one has the following tunes, should be enough to keep you busy for a while!

    I. Main Title (5:20)
    II. Princess Leia's Theme (4:30)
    III. The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) (3:05)
    IV. Yoda's Theme (3:30)
    V. Throne Room & End Title (5:35)
     
  15. Thanks for this. Any idea why it's $675?
     
  16. Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  17. #38 Rohann van Rensburg, Jul 4, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2018
    @Mike Verta , or anyone else who has time and insight (and the patience to read this silly post):

    Continuing work on transcription, as well as rewatching Structure and Mod Squad, I'm trying to consolidate a few ideas.
    Mike, you've mentioned avoiding theory generally, especially as a prescriptive element -- understandably -- and first just learning music through experience, approaching it like a language (you summed it up in another thread I made a while ago). You've mentioned not reducing a score down to a playable piano version, because the reverse engineering tends to not mimic the relatively simple process a composer uses to get to their arrangement. You also mention not taking, say, a bar of a Williams piece and then imitating or writing a variation on it, due to the lack of context and the end result, for instance, being poor imitation due to mistaking structural choices for colours.
    On the other hand, you do mention the usefulness of being able to recognize 4-1 and 5-1 cadences in all keys; looking at a note and recognizing what other functions it could have in chords (i.e. C is the root of a C chord, m3 of an Am, 5th of an F, etc); learning jazz licks and improv via transcribing and then transposing and varying the idea to "own" it, and improving one's composition speed through proficiency with this; etc. Of course, all of these points have context, so this is more so a consolidation query to "get it all in there" (that way I can shut that noisy part of my brain off and go back to transcribing).

    So just to clarify what you mean in context (hopefully without making you beat a dead horse):
    -In the last year or so of transcribing, I find that some of the pieces I transcribed without really analyzing afterwards or "playing" on piano (aside from finding the notes) don't really feel like they "stuck", and I don't see them coming out in my writing. Recently, I switched to transcribing a particular part at a time, i.e. just the melody, then the harmony, then embellishments and runs, etc, and would analyze the structure at the same time (or sometimes after), i.e. "so the flutes tease the A melody here, and then the fuller A melody goes to strings, and then the clarinets take the melody and it goes into the B section", etc. Would you advocate the latter, or do you think the analysis takes time away from transcribing more things? This leads me to:

    -You mentioned that a reduction of a piece to a two-handed playable piano part doesn't really work in reverse, since the approach tends to be much simpler when composing. I do often see you playing Williams parts, or other pieces you've learned. I've also noticed that playing something I've learning, rather than plunking and writing a note at a time, tends to be much more productive in understanding what's going on, and see how developments occur, how A and B sections relate, how modulations are happening, etc. Care to expand on this at all (you can just say "buy X class" and I'll literally do it).

    -Re: scale and chords practice. You mentioned focusing on learning scales can be a waste of time. That said, when attempting to improve piano skills (for the sake of improv and composition speed), you seem to imply that exercises can have their uses -- i.e. inversions, chord progressions, etc. I'm assuming you mean this to be used as an orientation device, i.e. knowing what key you're in if you're learning jazz (for transposing a lick, say).

    -In terms of copying devices, would it be more useful to instead, for instance, take a Williams melody and write variations on it, or harmonize it in a basic manner, rather than remove a structural element from the whole? (Unlikely something better will come out of this, but purely in principle). Of course the intent is different here, but for the purpose of learning and extracting useful skills.

    I apologize for the long-winded post, but these classes and this forum have brought me ahead by leaps and bounds, and
     

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