Transcribing Songs

by JazzMaverick (Oct 17, 2008)

I've mentioned this in my "Practicing Routine" lesson, but I can't tell you enough how important transcribing really is.

I've seen people who say transcribing songs or licks is a waste of time. Transcribing is probably one of the best ways to understand your instrument. The more you transcribe, the more you'll be able to "see". You'll be able to improvise and also improve on your speed, rhythm, and technique in no time.

While transcribing a song or lick, take it apart so you understand absolutely everything about it. Know what chords are being used, how the melody compliments the chords and how the chords compliment the key, what mode, the timing of each note- is it playing on the "on" beat every time? How would you improvise over it? Are there any Chromatics? How can you apply this to your improvising?

The idea is to transcribe one piece and move onto another right away, but this is entirely up to you. Move on when you're comfortable and feel you can remember what you've just learned. It is so important that you challenge yourself, though! Even though you can run out of patience, keep trying, it’ll pay off in the end! I’m not saying push yourself; if you’re not happy, stop doing it. But if it’s just frustration, keep at it!

"The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist, the opportunity in every difficulty." - L.P. Jacks

Once you've transcribed a song, learn from it, pick it apart! Remember what you've done and then try your own thing over it. Improvise over it and watch yourself improve. Because you know that song in such detail now, this should be a lot of fun to improvise over.


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