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Transcription Practice - Last Train Home

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Aaron Olson, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Last weekend, I sat down to transcribe a song from my past: Last Train Home by the Pat Metheny Group.


    When I was in high school I played trumpet in all the bands: symphonic band, stage band, dance band, pit band, jazz combos, and even a brass quintet (my favourite). I first heard this song in my last year when all the seniors in the music program went out for dinner and had a sleepover. After staying up late, talking about life and meaning and music and who knows what else, the guitar player put this on repeat as we went to sleep. It was one of the more profound musical experiences in my life.

    He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and died last year. We hadn't kept in touch. His obituary said he died in his sleep, but reading between the lines, I think there's more to the story.

    Since then, this tune has carried a lot more meaning for me.


    I personally transcribe (and compose) at the piano with pencil and paper. For this one, I sat at the piano with Transcribe! for playback and looping. Here's the handwritten result:


    I then had to go do family stuff, so I didn't post anything then. This weekend, I tried to prepare a lead sheet for it, which I've attached as a PDF.


    Structurally, it's basically a jazz tune. There's a 7-bar intro of the basic groove and then the head twice, followed by Metheny soloing a couple of times through, then a bridge (with the vocals, also transcribed!), followed by the head out.

    The percussion is really basic: straight sustained 16ths on the snare with brushes and a shaker on 2 and 4.

    The bass part is pretty basic too, all straight quarter notes (at 160bpm though).

    The piano voicings are also pretty straightforward; most of them sound like octaves or fifths in the left hand with block chords in the right hand centred around middle C. The highest notes tend to be F or G, which you can really hear in the cheesy string pad that fades in with each chord.

    Due to my background as a trumpet player, I can hear linear lines pretty easily. Metheny plays mostly ahead of the beat so I didn't bother trying to capture every single little nuance, but the grace notes I think should be considered part of the melody.

    Chords though... I can mostly hear them by basic function (IV, V, ii, etc), but for anything remotely complex, I have to work a lot harder to hear what's going on. There's not a whole lot of harmonic complexity in this tune, so while I think I've got it basically right, I'm unsure of some of the alts (especially on the Ab chords).

    The second chord in particular haunted me for decades (since 1997) and I went through several guesses as to what it was. However, I'm pretty sure I've got it now: C9 over Bb (aka third inversion)! It's so fucking simple.

    I think there's also some mallet percussion in there, probably vibes?

    The bridge was also interesting: the higher vocal singer is in the right channel and the lower one is in the left, which meant listening only with one side of my headphones or the other to isolate the voices. (I didn't bother with the syllables though because fuck that.)


    If you know this tune and/or see any mistakes, please let me know! I can't get better if I don't find out where I suck, so please, tell me. I am going to try to find a lead sheet for this after posting and will follow up with stuff I got wrong, but I'm trying to learn here, so I've posted this initially without any external influence.

    Also, if you're a jazz player, please comment on the lead sheet! Another thing I'm trying to get better at is being able to write shit down and share it and explain it to others, so I'm eager to hear what you have to say, especially if it's a nit-picky detail.

    I wanted to be really transparent about this because transcribing is one of the most intellectually (and spiritually??) satisfying things I've found to do. As such, I'm happy to do what I can to help others do it too, even/especially being wrong in public.

    All feedback is welcome.

    Attached Files:

  2. Hey !

    Just wanted to say bravo! Well done.

    You know if you, or of course anyone else, ever want to try again transcribing as a group I would be very keen to do that too.

    It was happening often in the early days of this place, but I have not seen it in a while.

    I do think it would be in your best interest to go beyond a lead sheet however. You are already more than half way there.

    The chord symbols don't really tell you anything about the voicing.


    I can't really tell you anything about the accuracy of the transcription.

    Pat Metheny, and perhaps Mike Stern and John Schofield are three of my least favoriets. I HATE fusion.
    Everything about this song makes ill. That tone. Oh man. Not for me.

    Return to forever (never) is another group I never care to hear again.

    That's a off topic rant, but clicking on it for even 15 seconds will do that to me.
    I feel like I need a bright sweater like Mike V would wear on an album cover.:)
    Aaron Olson likes this.
  3. Good job, Aaron.
    Aaron Olson likes this.
  4. Fusion for me is hit and miss. But have a listen to this, and don't stop until you hear Lyle Mays's solo.

    Doug Gibson likes this.
  5. I'll make you a deal Paul. I will listen to the entire video you posted if you listen to the first 4 minutes of this video.

    It has everything I hate about "Fusion" is an instant. From the rip-off crappy Juan Miro sweater, to the leather pants, to yellow guitar.

    Worst of all: imagine you are the bass player.

    It sounds like a cruise ship band is getting wild at parts, and at others a VoiceOver should come on and say "Your call is important to us. One of our agents will be with you momentarily."

    Paul Poole likes this.
  6. Doug, you should be more careful who you make fun of. Frank Gambale is one of my biggest musical influences. His Concerto for Fretless Bass is a revelation.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  7. Then I bet you have some great sweaters and pants. :)

    I hope his concerto gave the bass player more than one note per bar.
    A 20 minute tour de force drone on G? :)

    I could go on all day.

    I did my year at G.I.T where he taught. "Tribal Tech" or,"Tribal suck" as I like to call them, were kind of legends around there.
    Frank, was on tour with Chick Corea the year I was there, but Scott Henderson and Gary Willis were around.

    Joe Diorio was there all the time and I took a lot of lessons with him.

    I really connected on a personal level with a guitarist name T.J Helmerich.

    He and Brett Garsed (who also taught there).

    I just don't like the aesthetic of fusion at all. I don't question that they are profoundly talented, and skilled.
    It's like how Jacob Callier's music always makes me feel I am waiting in line at an apple store. It's a feeling that I hate.

    Look what fusion did to George Benson and Miles.

    Benson can play some of the meanest mind-blowing legit licks ever. Then turn into 100% cheese.

    "Time after time" is not (nor any sting covers) a song I ever want to hear in a jazz club.
    That's music for musicians who got office jobs to survive.

    To completely hijack the thread and act like a douche bag; THE Philly sound shits all over fusion.

    If I am listening to any jazz guitar player

    I love this guy!

    My personal guitar god. I have seen dozens of his shows. If there is one person I would just hang it all up for and follow around it's this guy.
    The way he plays all the bass and guitar parts mind-blowing........and it's just damn fine music. The tone, the feel....so much more my jam.

    You'll even see a large painting of Jesus saying "And may the funk be with you"

    He breaks down his technique here

    Paul Poole likes this.
  8. Aaron, I don't know the tune, but the part of it that I checked against your lead sheet seems fine. The complete harmony is barely audible at points, so you're left with just an impression of it in some bars on first hearing. He plays in between the beats a lot, as you'd expect, which makes some of the rhythms a bit ambiguous as to whether a certain note may be on 4 or 1, and another may be on 1 or 2, things like that, but the pitches are good.

    Since you said nit-picky is okay, I will say that that hand font is the ugliest I’ve ever seen by a mile. I have no comprehension of why someone would have done that. None of the hand fonts really get it right—they have no conception of what really terrific hand copying looks like and I think they're based on those shitty Real Books—but that one can't be unseen. I won't belabor the issue, and I don't fault you for someone else's crimes against humanity. :cool:

    To your chord notation, you may eventually want to align it with the Brandt/Roemer standards, if you can find a copy using the inter-library loan program. I bought mine for $5.95 in the 90's, but now that it's out of print it's an absurd $64.95. :rolleyes:

  9. Hahaha yeah the font is pretty gross; I think its name is Petaluma if you'd like a name for your disgust.

    I didn't know about Brandt/Roemer standards before! I'll see if I can track down a copy. It's $200+ on the big website. :rolleyes:
  10. Yeah I remember; let's do it! I transcribe little bits that catch my ear throughout the day already, but I'd love something more challenging as a group.
  11. There's obviously no controlling authority for such things—if you're just doing these things for yourself, it doesn't matter since you already know your own system—but if it's going to be distributed, Brandt-Roemer is the closest thing you're gonna find towards standardization; they were very experienced professional copyists who thought long and hard about such things over the years and worked with musicians to find a consensus of what works best for them. I myself learned a slightly different system initially, but switched to theirs after learning it. I'm just going to attach a few scans of some reference sheets I did before I was using Sibelius. These are all according to the Brandt-Roemer standards. Together I think they cover most of the main labelings you'd routinely come across. Obviously you'd just replace the Roman numerals with the correct letter names for doing lead sheets and the like. Underneath some of the tall chords there is simplified alternate way of notating that same chord.


    Attached Files:

    Aaron Olson likes this.
  12. Oh awesome, thanks. This looks like a great reference. I know the basics of this system too, though I didn't know it had a name. Given the voicings in Last Train Home (at least as I heard them) it seemed easier to just write them the way I did.
    Paul Poole likes this.

  13. I can't tell you how jealous I am you can do that. I have serial killer handwritting.

    Those labels though.....ouch.

    How can you have both a +5 and b5? Really, isn't that just a Bb9 chord in first inversion? Then further extensions of the Bb (9#11) (13#11)?
  14. #14 Paul Poole, Jun 17, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
    Doug, of course. Thanks for bringing that up. I would have mentioned it had I not forgotten I did it in the first place. Nowhere in the Brandt-Roemer book will you find that. That was my own eccentricity (among many) at the time I made it. When I did those charts, I was adhering to a strictly functional labeling, which is why everything is in root position and labeled with Roman numerals. Basically my own "in-house" mnemonic device for chord scales according to function. But I don't know why I didn't label the +5 as b13, since that's what it normally is. I would attribute it to a specific line of "in-house" thinking that I can no longer recall. I don't think it can be merely a case of brain fartage, since I did it three times. My own system of Baroque/Classical harmonic analysis would look weird to a lot of people for that matter. Either way, it's not the fault of Brandt-Roemer. Lead-sheet-wise, you'd obviously simplify the real world chord label to Bb9/D, etc.

    Your friend,

    Frank Gamble
    Doug Gibson likes this.

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