Transcribing - love it or hate it?

Caz

Senior Member
Hi all, just wondering what you think of the practice of transcribing other musicians. I've heard some people say that they don't like it as they'd rather develop their own style, and others who swear by the benefits of it. I 'transcribed' the following quote from Tony Williams, who is probably one of the most innovative drummers that I can think of, just to give some food for thought:

"I practiced everything that they played from the beginning of the song to the end. I tuned my drums like they did, or as close as I could get, and I played exactly what they played. I believe that playing like someone is a great help. I think that it gives a person a vocabulary, it gives you things that you don't have. And playing like people that have come before is the basis so that you can decide for yourself what you want to play and what you don't want to play. If you don't do these things then you never know, you're just floundering around and being insecure." - Tony Williams, Zildjian Drum Day, 1985

I've done a few transcriptions before, they're all quite varied and there are even a few non-drum ones in there (I'll link to some of these below in case anyone's interested). I've personally found the process to be really helpful - it can be frustrating and time consuming, but there's always something that you get that you would never have been able to predict. But I'm curious as to what others think - do you love or hate transcribing?

http://carolinescot8.wix.com/carolinescott#!transcriptions/c347
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
transcribing has little to do with style to me. All it is is writing down stickings/footings. How you play it is up to you. Who cares if someone played notes in that order before you.

I am mostly able to do it accurately, so I enjoy it.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I personally love transcribing

the challenge of figuring out the faster stuff.... such as ride patterns and comping
the experimenting with stickings they may have used
the feeling of accomplishment when it is complete and learned

I try to transcribe and learn a tune or two or a solo or two a month ..... I just really enjoy trying to feel where a player I admire was coming from

when a tempo is really fast and things are just going by too quickly I may slow it down..... but I try to get as much of it down without slowing it

transcribing, and emulating players we admire is one of the best things a player of any instrument can do to learn what came before and to develop your own voice going forward

emulate, assimilate , to innovate
 

Terry Branam

Official DW Chief Transcriber
I love your transcriptions and you have actually been a transcribing inspiration to me

I believe transcribing strengthens our musical understanding and sharpens our instincts as a listener
Thanks a lot! That means the world to me. So glad!

I agree wholeheartedly with your statements above and below.
 

picodon

Silver Member
It takes a ridiculous amount of time. But each time it teaches me new things.
So I hove it. Or I late if, if you prefer.
 

drummerjims

Senior Member
I used to love transcribing. But unfortunately in the past year I haven't had the time due to work. I used to transcribe random things, learn them, and then move onto something else like it was nothing. I was also a drum line instructor at the time and that really helped me write marching percussion parts. Hopefully one of these days I will find the time again.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
I buy into Tony's view. In doing this you get to see what other drummers have come up with, a quantity that most of us could never do on our own.

Additoinally the very act of listening and writing it down helps internalize it and for some people whose learning style is visual, seeing it is critical. I transcribe songs to learn them because I very much am a visual learner. I do not write out each note though. I transcribe key parts and chart the rest. I should add this is for cover band activity.
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
I transcribe a lot, mostly jazz solos to pick up vocabulary, I think that asides from listening to music, transcribing has helped me the most in learning jazz drumming.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
I believe transcribing strengthens our musical understanding and sharpens our instincts as a listener
Yep, and for me, it stretches not only my vocabulary but my capacity for physically embodying patterns and phrases on the instrument. I don't have as much time for it these days as I used to but when I do make time for it, the benefits are well worth it.

And speaking of Tony Williams, I dig your avatar Terry. ;-)
 

groove1

Silver Member
In all of art it is a good idea to first imitate the masters, then develop your style. After all, it's
what some artist was doing that first got your attention to want to do that, so why not imitate
first.
 

porter

Platinum Member
As a primarily progressive metal drummer, it's kind of a necessity to transcribe complex passages of my music in order to actually learn and perform them. I use a combination of that and just listening to the song a whole lot of times to learn the things I cover (I am luckily pretty good at memorizing passively). For this reason, I also tend to pick up licks from other drummers just by listening and playing them later. I also enjoy playing along to songs, which lets me learn new things as well.
 

moxman

Silver Member
Absolutely..neither love or hate it... as it is a bit of work. But it does have great benefits. Transcribing is an art form in itself... and you can get pretty efficient at it. I don't use Nashville notation or note-for note; more along the lines of basic charts that I can fit onto 1 page.

I use it mainly when I need to learn a nights worth of material FAST. It's the actual process of listening and charting out the structure, key figures, fills or basic rhythms - that locks it into the muscle memory in your brain! I suppose it forces you to really listen hard and focus on the big picture as well as the details.. and it doesn't take long before you can throw away the chart. In fact I never play with charts because it's all in my head.. I'd rather concentrate on playing rather than reading (which I can do). Once you have the charts locked in and get comfortable with the tunes, then it's a matter of making them your own (although if it's a Ringo track I hail to the chief and pretty much play them as close as possible!).

I also use it sometimes to figure a really cool lick I've heard etc. but as mentioned, if you want to 'up your game' make a note of some really cool drumming you've heard and study it, tear it apart, master it, use it and spin it to your own uses.
 

longgun

Gold Member
Not to sound like an ignorant drummer - Are "Charts" and transcribing basically the same thing, or is one more involved than the other?

The most recent Drum! magazine had some "Chart" articles I was looking forward to. To me, they were disappointing...........didn't learn much from them.

What book(s) would you guys recommend to get better at it?
 

Caz

Senior Member
It probably varies from drummer to drummer. I think charting out tunes to be able to play them with bands is also really useful, but I'd probably see that as different from transcribing something in detail - i.e what Tony was talking about with trying to emulate every little nuance and pitch. It's really hard work.

I was at a Dave Liebman masterclass and he recommended that every transcription should take no less than 50 hours to complete (that's writing it out and then being able to replicate every little bit). That's extreme, I can see a lot of people not wanting to do that. I guess that's mostly what I'm curious about here - some might say that putting that much time into what someone else did could be put into doing your own thing.

Caroline
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
I was at a Dave Liebman masterclass and he recommended that every transcription should take no less than 50 hours to complete (that's writing it out and then being able to replicate every little bit). That's extreme, I can see a lot of people not wanting to do that. I guess that's mostly what I'm curious about here - some might say that putting that much time into what someone else did could be put into doing your own thing.

Caroline
Wow, that is a lot of time. Did he talk about what the transcriber might get out of this or what sort of "return on investment" would make 50 hours or more worth it?

TW's take on this seems pretty clear: It's the copying that originates. But it seems like one of those things that's paradoxical or counter intuitive, that putting all of this time and energy into copying someone else is going to position me even better, or make it even more possible, to create my own thing.

But I reckon there's something to this with all kinds of expressions of life and living, not just music.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
It probably varies from drummer to drummer. I think charting out tunes to be able to play them with bands is also really useful, but I'd probably see that as different from transcribing something in detail - i.e what Tony was talking about with trying to emulate every little nuance and pitch. It's really hard work.

I was at a Dave Liebman masterclass and he recommended that every transcription should take no less than 50 hours to complete (that's writing it out and then being able to replicate every little bit). That's extreme, I can see a lot of people not wanting to do that. I guess that's mostly what I'm curious about here - some might say that putting that much time into what someone else did could be put into doing your own thing.

Caroline
Man to get a 40 song set would require nearly a full year 24/7. That is extreme.
 
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