To transcribe or not?


Hey guys, I am wondering for all you jazz guys out there if you transcribe tunes down to a tee, or just keep playing a CD and try to get it that way or close with the same concept?

I know transcribing would be the most beneficial, I I just try to practice to already written out transcriptions or memorize some of the ideas that I have heard.

I am asking this because I am going to be spending more time on doing this now instead of technique, because i have my hands pretty much together.

I still practice my Stick Control, Reed, ect.. to warm up, but I just want to start sitting down and disecting tunes more and get a better concept for soloing so I can learn this language that they call be-bop...:)


I spent many years transcribing full solos .... it was extremely beneficial in so many ways

I still transcribe sections that I find very interesting it just some comping or a four or eight bar break or whatever .

just this week 3 different times while driving ....a section by Bill Stewart, then Tony Williams, then Antonio Snachez jumped out at me .... I made a mental note ... then when I had a second I wrote it out.... learned it ... and left the practice room feeling very fulfilled and like something was absolutely added to my arsenal ... all three just little 2 or 4 bar comping sections

start with some short pieces.... like maybe Max or Philly Joe trading fours ... it feels good to get something complete under your belt fully transcribed and learned ... then hopefully memorized ... as opposed to trying to tackle a full 2 chorus solo ... that can be overwhelming at first

emulate, assimilate , to innovate

have fun


Senior Member
and get a better concept for soloing so I can learn this language that they call be-bop...:)
This to me is the real benefit to transcribing music, especially jazz. You really start to appreciate the form and structure of the music, and build a more refined ear.

Unfortunately, like everything else, it's a skill, so don't get too discouraged if it's taking you a long time to even put a few notes together at first. Maybe do as WhoisTony recommends and focus on just a few bars at a time, with sections of music that really move you.

I still remember the first song I fully charted and transcribed front-to-back (Lou Donaldson's Love Walked In, which I still have in my binder of music after all of these years), which felt like a great accomplishment at the time.

Transcribing continues to develop my ability to understand what's going on in the song and enhances my own drumming vocabulary. To me, it's just as valuable as working rudiments or playing along to music.


Senior Member
I do both, and think there is something to be said for each way of doing things.

More often than not I'll write things out first and then learn it. But sometimes I like to work backwards. I once had a great teach tell me that the way to transcribe was, "Listening, Sing, Play, Write", meaning - Listen to the song/solo/whatever multiple times first and become familiar with it to the point where you can sing it. Then sing it, no matter how silly you feel. Use drum-ese and sing it out loud (also multiple times) to solidify the music's place in your brain. Next, move it down to your hands. Put what you've been singing onto the kit and rep it until you feel comfortable. THEN write it down. By this point it should take all of 10 minutes to jot it down. This approach relays helps to internalize the music, but is certainly a more time consuming process than writing first, then learning.

Remember, like Tony said, you don't have to make everything into a huge project. Take little chunks to find the process that works for you. Post some transcriptions here and let us know how you're doing.