Tuning in to, and Notating, Inner Voices

Once we’ve transcribed melody and bass, there may be additional lines that seem important to add. As you might guess from the section above on bass lines, this skill relies on two foundations:

  1. The ability to train our attention on different parts of a musical texture, and
  2. Familiarity with how the kind of line we’re transcribing tends to work.

So there’s not really anything new to teach here; instead, simply practice your attentional focus exercises, and learn as much about the style you’re working with as possible. For example, the more you work with bluegrass harmonizing, the better you’ll be able to guess what a harmonizing line is doing; the same is true of fugue countersubjects.

Activity: Transcribe Inner Voices

Goal: Train attention on inner voices and apply our transcription skills to them.


  1. Listen to a song from the playlist below. Optionally, transcribe the melody’s first 1–2 phrase(s), making sure not to give your notation plenty of space so that any inner-voice activity that may be faster than the melody will be able to fit aligned with the melody.
  2. Even more optionally, transcribe the bass. This is great practice and will help add context, but we recognize you only have so much time and our focus is on inner voices.
  3. Then add another line of music to represent the most prominent inner voice. Give it an appropriate clef (as well as the same key and time signature as the other line(s)), and then transcribe this inner voice.

What to listen for:

  • Hallelujah: the harmonizing melody that enters under the primary melody at “It goes like this…”
  • The Rose: at 1:35, the altos sing a new version of the melody that is heard throughout the song, starting with “when with moss and honey….” Try to notate up through the word “and,” where the line leaps downwards
  • We Don’t Talk About Bruno: see if you can follow and notate each individual line in the layered verse at 2:42


Suggest a song for this playlist!



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Foundations of Aural Skills Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Chenette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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