Frank Zappa transcription project

renardvert

Silver Member
Hi guys,

Not that long ago, I challenged myself in trying to transcribe one FZ song a week for a year. That year came to an end last September and even with covid slowing me down big time, I still managed to reach my goal of 52 songs in a year. I've kept on writing more just for my own fun and because I wanted to understand better what was going on these songs. It's been a lot of fun to listen closely to what Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Wackerman, Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson, Aynsley Dunbar, David Logeman and others are playing on these classic tracks. Here are a few sheets that I've been writing down. I don't have any precise plans regarding what do to with them other than playing them for my own purposes right now. I thought some of you might find this an interesting topic of discussion. (and I'll need to write them in Sibelius at some point).ZappaCharts.jpgZomby1.jpgZomby2.jpgZomby3.jpgMarqueSon'SChicken.jpgTeenageWind.jpg
 

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J-Boogie

Gold Member
OMFG that is sick!! No clue what im looking at but I think that is the coolest project for yourself and you have to be a way smarter drummer for it. Freakin' awesome man!
 
Great project. Like a deep lesson in understanding time sigs and breakdowns within. I had to listen to Zomby again. Great accomplishment sir. Thank You
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Wow, amazing project. Kudos to you.
Something I always wondered; did the band and especially the drummers play Franks songs exactly, note for note, the same way each time they played the song. When I listen to their live performances it sounds like there were parts of the songs that had some interpretive free form playing.
Is this true?

.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
That's fantastic, do you mind if I share one of them, and the picture of the pile, on my site? With a link to your site.

Love your copying style too, don't switch to Sibelius.

It'd be great to release that as a book, but you'd probably have to get permission, or do it through Zappa's publishing company-- they seem to be really litigious.
 

renardvert

Silver Member
Wow, amazing project. Kudos to you.
Something I always wondered; did the band and especially the drummers play Franks songs exactly, note for note, the same way each time they played the song. When I listen to their live performances it sounds like there were parts of the songs that had some interpretive free form playing.
Is this true?

.
As far as I can tell, Zappa was asking for very accurate rhythms but not specific drum parts. The drummers were then left to create parts that were fitting those rhythms.
 

Sakae2xBopster

Well-known member
To say this is an amazing accomplishment is such an understatement. There aren't adequate words. Wow, just wow.
 

renardvert

Silver Member
That's fantastic, do you mind if I share one of them, and the picture of the pile, on my site? With a link to your site.

Love your copying style too, don't switch to Sibelius.

It'd be great to release that as a book, but you'd probably have to get permission, or do it through Zappa's publishing company-- they seem to be really litigious.
Thank you. I was mainly thinking about writing them in Sibelius eventually for printing purposes, if there are any.

You can share all you want. Thank you for that.
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
Great googly moogly! Waaay back, I transcribed the Zappa In New York album. I was playing bass and drums at the time, and transcribed both parts for the whole album. This is truly impressive!!!

I agree with Todd. Your copy is great. If these ever get compiled and published, be sure to include some/all of the originals. Anyone reading will appreciate the effort involved.

Have you shared these with any of the Zappa drummer alumni? Or Dweezil? A nod from any of them is the foreward to your book ?
 
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ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
Awesome project to take on that is! Man, I remember hearing Zomby Woof for the first time. It was the live version from Cheap Thrills.

Great work!
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Fascinating, what an effort. I'm interested in how this works. The songs are very complex with many time changes.
I am wondering how many times you would have to repeat listening to a song? Do you listen to say various intervals, say 8 to 12 bars at a time, then pause, chart, start again?
 

renardvert

Silver Member
Great googly moogly! Waaay back, I transcribed the Zappa In New York album. I was playing bass and drums at the time, and transcribed both parts for the whole album. This is truly impressive!!!

I agree with Todd. Your copy is great. If these ever get compiled and published, be sure to include some/all of the originals. Anyone reading will appreciate the effort involved.

Have you shared these with any of the Zappa drummer alumni? Or Dweezil? A nod from any of them is the foreward to your book ?
I know Chad has seen that I transcribed his playing on "Drowning Witch" but aside from that, no. I should share it with Dweezil.
 

renardvert

Silver Member
Fascinating, what an effort. I'm interested in how this works. The songs are very complex with many time changes.
I am wondering how many times you would have to repeat listening to a song? Do you listen to say various intervals, say 8 to 12 bars at a time, then pause, chart, start again?
I've been transcribing songs for a very long time now and I'm quite confortable with the notation of rhythms, so that helps. Depending on the level of difficulty, it might take me a couple of hours to transcribe one or many hours (like Inca Roads or Drowning Witch). I usually will listen to what's going on bars by bars, even more so when it's very difficult. And quite often, I'll pause, go back, pause, go back, over and over until it's clearer. The hardest Zappa passages for me are the spoken ones where the band plays a figure that seams to be based on the specific lyrics and not so much a clear musical line. There are a few like that in "Drowning Witch" and "Inca Roads".
 

renardvert

Silver Member
Hey! A kindred spirit! Agree w/TB that your copy style is great. I used a kind of short hand to minimize page turns.

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Hey! That's very cool. I started more like that, transcribing more like lead sheets and the more I did, the more I added notes to the point where now, they pretty much are standard drum transcriptions with all the grooves and fills. Good job
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hey! That's very cool. I started more like that, transcribing more like lead sheets and the more I did, the more I added notes to the point where now, they pretty much are standard drum transcriptions with all the grooves and fills. Good job

Thanks, and likewise. I started the opposite way, transcribing in great detail at first, but then taking a lead sheet approach as the deadline got closer. And I got nervous about having to turn pages so much.

I was using what appeared to be FZ's full band scores at some point, to get through some of the crazier spots.. They were handwritten, presumably by Steve Vai. And they looked gorgeous.
 

renardvert

Silver Member
Thanks, and likewise. I started the opposite way, transcribing in great detail at first, but then taking a lead sheet approach as the deadline got closer. And I got nervous about having to turn pages so much.

I was using what appeared to be FZ's full band scores at some point, to get through some of the crazier spots.. They were handwritten, presumably by Steve Vai. And they looked gorgeous.
Cool! I haven't seen many originals. The few ones I have seen written by FZ himself were absolutely beautiful. His handwriting chops were fabulous.
 
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spelman

Senior Member
Amazing job! I hope to do a transcription for "Moggio" sometime. To me, that's a tough one, plus l'm lazy.
 
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