Being able to transcribe a song or guitar solo is a great skill that anyone can learn. One of the things that is really helpful developing and applying this skill, is to have some good solid tools that make this process as effortless as possible.
Back when I was 15 I had a cassette recorder with a slow down function, so I could figure out the notes of a guitar solo. The only problem was the slow down function also lowered the pitch when you’d slow down the song.
So when I had to deal with a fast blazing solo I set the pitch exactly an octave lower than the original key so I could transcribe the solo by ear. The downside was that some notes were so low they became undefinable and I couldn’t tell what notes they were playing anymore. :)
The tools we have today are something I could only have dreamed of back then. I’m not complaining, because I learned a lot from those limitations, but I also enjoy the benefits of the technology today. And oh, what makes it transcribing fun and easy!
Working out a song by ear is an important skill that is often overlooked. It takes your guitar playing to a higher level and gives you a deeper understanding and insight in many aspects of guitar playing. So, try to develop the skill of transcribing and use the appropriate tools to improve your skill and take it to the next step.
I created a list with the best tools that make the process of transcribing and learning a song or solo going as smooth as possible. These tools will help both guitar players who can already transcribe and guitar players who can you use some extra help.
1 – YouTube Speed selector
For those who (are learning to) transcribe songs by ear and eyes the YouTube speed selector is a pretty convenient tool. It’s easy to miss because it’s somewhat hidden in the “settings”. Click the Settings icon in the lower right corner of the window, then click “speed”. You can choose 0.5 for half-speed or even 0.25 for quarter-speed playback.
This is really great for learning guitar solos that are too fast for the eyes and ears. I just finished transcribing the solo of “Get the funk out” by Extreme. And what better way than learning it from the master himself, so I checked a lesson video from Nuno Bettencourt where he attempts to explain the solo slowly. He is not so good at playing slowly :) For me, the Youtube slowdown setting was a great help to figure out the tapping part successfully.
2 – Transcribe
Transcribe is a piece of software that helps you work out a piece of music from a recording. It doesn’t do the transcribing for you, but it is developed and optimized for transcription purposes. It has many transcription-specific features that you can’t find on normal music players. It is used by many professional transcribers. Here’s a Quick Start Guide for Transcribe by Jennifer Batten (who played in all three of Michael Jackson’s world tours from 1987 to 1997).
3 – VLC Media player
If you want to keep things simple VLC Media player is a free software tool for playing any kind of audio format. It has a slow-down tool, a great advanced EQ and even a loop function. It’s for both Windows and Mac.
4 – Anytune
Anytune helps you learn, transcribe or practice songs by slowing down the tempo, adjusting the pitch, repeating loops, setting navigation marks, sharing timed comments and much more. Only for Mac and iOS.
5 – Tablature
The tablature you find on internet can be a great help, but there are still a lot of flat-out-wrong tablature transcriptions out there. If you want better quality and precision then get yourself a tablature book with some nice solos.
If you don’t want the entire book, but just one song, Musicnotes allows you to buy a single copy of your favorite song on high quality tablature. You can view online how it looks. You can learn to transcribe by ear using one of the slow down tools and have the book or musicsheet as your backup support whenever you need it.
6 – Aural skills
Here are two posts that will help you develop and train your aural skills to transcribe solos and songs by ear. 8 ways to develop your aural skills and 12 Ways How to Transcribe What You Hear.
7 – Guitar Pro and Mysongbook
Guitar Pro is a great piece of software along with their Mysongbook project to learn songs and solos, read tabs and sheet music, create your own tabs (I use it myself to create tabs for Guitarhabits), mix your sounds and share your music. A beautiful combination.
8 – TuneTranscriber
TuneTranscriber is a free online tool where you can upload your mp3 or paste the link of a YouTube video and then slow down the music. Using mp3 you can slow down the tempo anyway you like. YouTube can only slow down 50 percent. You can also add markers, add a loop really easy and save your work. Love it!
9 – Capo
If your using Mac or iOS then Capo and Neptune are very cool tools for learning all your favorite songs and solos. You import the song and it automatically detects the chords in your music. You can switch easily between different instruments like bass guitar, mandoline, ukelele and banjo. Capo is used by pros like Vernon Reid from Living Colour and Hanan Rubinstein (Guitarist for Alicia Keys, Pharrell, Rita Ora, Carole King and Ellie Goulding.) Here’s how it works.
10 – 50CBLI
It is great to learn and copy a guitar solo from tablature and online lessons, but eventually you want to know what you’re playing and how a solo comes into being, so that eventually you will be able to transcribe a solo by ear.
Most Blues, (Classic)Rock, Pop and heavy metal solos are based of the pentatonic/blues scale. The The 50 Cool Blues Licks Improvisation course will help you develop a thorough understanding of how to play the pentatonic/blues scale all over the neck and how to use it for soloing and improvisation, which will make the process of transcribing guitar solos a lot easier.
Do you know a great music transcribe tool? And what song or solo are you going to transcribe today? Please share in the comments. Love to hear from you!