The previous sections have dissected the process of melodic transcription into many components: determining context (meter and key), using protonotation/shorthand to represent your understanding of rhythm and pitch, then actually figuring out the notation for these rhythms and pitches. We hope this helps demystify the process and make it less overwhelming. But at some point, if you want to go beyond studying the process and actually do transcriptions, you’ll need to practice putting this all together.
We already outlined the full process of transcription in a previous section; it may be helpful to review that now, but we won’t repeat it here. Instead, here is some general advice:
- Don’t forget: the first step is always to determine meter and key.
- Always invite your instrument-based kinesthetic imagery into the process: imagining playing the music on an instrument, or actually doing so, can be particularly helpful in figuring out what’s going on.
- Whenever you’re struggling with pitches, relate them to the key.
- Whenever you’re struggling with rhythms, relate them to the meter, and make sure that you’re tracking the meter with physical motions such as conducting, tapping, or swaying, so that it is explicit.
Goal: Gain confidence in practicing the skill of transcription.
Before you start: You’ll need staff paper to write down your transcription.
Instructions: Transcribe the first 1–2 phrases of the melodies of the songs in the playlist below into staff notation. Whenever you have difficulty, review the advice above or a previous section of this chapter.