Transcription is a great way to train one’s ears, while learning & assimilating the vocabulary, rhythms and stylistic nuances of jazz.
Tips for Transcribing:
- Pre-format your pages by writing…
- on every second staff, so as to leave room for written observations
- only two or three measures per line
- clef and key signatures
- chord symbols above each measure
- double bar lines and boxed letters to indicate the song’s formal structure
- the soloist’s name, the song title and chorus # at the top of each page
- Know exactly where you are in the form at all times. (This is why we pre-formatted our pages.)
- Skip the challenging passages, returning to them later.
- Aim for “fence posts”. When you encounter a seemingly difficult phrase, find isolated notes landing on downbeats and write them in. Eventually it becomes an exercise of “filling in the blanks”.
- Expect times when you will be working from note to note. Its OK. At other points you will probably hear and notate entire phrases with ease!
- To determine on what beat a phrase begins, tap and count.
- When you reach your saturation point, take a break (or do something else) rather than continuing and becoming increasingly frustrated.
As a supplement, here is a link to a well written article by Illinois-based trumpeter Jeff Helgesen, entitled “Effective Solo Transcription“.