Transcribing, is it worth the effort

TwangTwang New
in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 415

To what extent do people agree with the following I wonder.

Transcribing solos is the best and fastest way to become an accomplished improviser. This is essentially the only method gypsies use to learn how to improvise. The real value of transcribing is not in the end result i.e. learning how to play a solo or lick. The value is in the process, straining your ears and fumbling around the neck to pick out the notes and rhythm of whatever you are transcribing. By doing this you will develop a natural ability to play what you hear in your head in your own solos. You may not be able to pin point exactly what you are doing to achieve this, you will be vaguely aware that you ear seems to guide you to all the right note choices and your hands are familiar with the shapes and patterns, but this hard-won skill will be there nonetheless. All the best players spend more time transcribing than doing anything else. Without spending a considerable amount of your practice time transcribing you will find it almost impossible to make progress as an improviser. To write down your transcriptions is to miss the point entirely.

Discuss 😁



  • Posts: 92

    IMO I agree transcribing is a great learning tool. However, if I am trying to learn a certain line and I have access to the tab for the line, I use it, absolutely, as long as it is placed on the best area of the fingerboard. My thinking is this: I can read the tab in almost real time, so I can get the line under my fingers immediately. Then, I run it through the cycle of 4ths which drives it into my ear and under my fingers all over the fingerboard. Then, I play it with several tunes inserting it into the area where it is appropriate. At the end, I will have spent maybe an hour or so getting the line built into my arsenal and having it at my disposal. In the same time, I might not have been able to even transcribe it in one key. So, if we are talking about improving in the most efficient way, this is a viable option. Again, this is just my opinion, love these discussions.

  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 415

    It's interesting to see your approach. Your goal appears to be to add a usable lick to your repertoire and develop a bunch of other skills along the way and at the end of your practice session you have something tangible to show for it.

    I'm suggesting that maybe the real value of transcription is not trying to retain anything. So it's ok if you can't remember the lick after your practice session because you have learned so much more by just going through the process of trying to work it out. Transcription for the sake of it if you will...or maybe this is not a very good use of my practice time and @matthewkanis is getting much more from his practice sessions than I ?

  • TwangTwang New
    edited July 2020 Posts: 415

    @matthewkanis you say "I can read the tab in almost real time, so I can get the line under my fingers immediately" This raises an interesting issue. So can I and the longer I study this style the more I see this as a handicap to my learning. This coupled with the fact that there is so much access to tabs now. You can get several lifetimes worth of accurately transcribed gypsy jazz solos for free at the touch of a button. Sometimes I think I'd like to transcribe a solo only to find I have access to dozens of versions of it neatly transcribed on the net. And I think what's the point spending all that time and effort when it's already been done for me.

  • PetrovPetrov ✭✭
    Posts: 125

    Transcribing for me has been a huge asset and I think for the most part is probably the best way to learn how to improvise using your ears.

    The process of using your ears to transcribe is very valuable. Writing it down is secondary and not necessary but could be a good way to reference it in the future.

    Of course use TAB if you want, but I think in the long run transcribing would be better. TAB lacks dynamics, time feel and all the little nuances that make the notes sound good. Learning your own fingerings can also help unlocking the fretboard.

    In the end, everyone learns differently. Do what you enjoy!

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 248

    Yeah I would say 80% of what I learn these days is through transcription. I'd given up long ago on reading sheet music (I plead dyslexia but it's really laziness) and tabs, while nice for figuring out where to play something, are often inaccurate. General knowledge of the fretboard, chord shapes, triads, apreggios, etc get me the rest of the way, although admittedly I could work harder to try and retain what I learn.

  • Posts: 92

    Don't get me wrong, I still transcribe all the time. Yesterday I transcribed a line that caught my ear, b dim into e dim resolving to a minor. But then, I turned on the metronome and ran it through the cycle of 4ths to drive it into my ear and under my fingers. Then, I played it in several tunes, all of me, minor swing, solidify it. If I had the tab for it I would have just learned it from that and then done the exact same thing. As I get older I see my practice time as a precious thing and try to get the absolute most I can from every hour. I have done a lot of transcribing, I studied music at PSU for 4 years and would be tasked with things like transcribing a passage of Mozart and then analyzing it for harmonic and structural analysis. I have done this with a tons of jazz too, because 20 years ago when I was in school tab for everything was not available at the fingertips like it is now. I also used to learn entire solos, which is something that benefited me very little. Now, this is just my experience, but these days, I have my regular warm up and technique routine, then I pick out some lines, run them through the cycle of 4ths with the metronome, then work them into tunes surrounding them with lines that have become natural and spontaneous. Some of the lines I practice become natural and spontaneous and most others are lost into the universe. But I still consider this valuable time spent on technique and timing. I am very open to everyone's opinion on this matter because I believe we all have the same goal: to play what we hear and what we feel in the moment with all the dexterity that is required to do so. All comments/opinions welcome.

  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 415

    @mac63000 Coming from a classically trained musician who has read music since he was 5 years old, I suggest to you that reading music is laziness!...worse actually it might be a curse!

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 248
  • Posts: 92

    One thought, what really matters to me is when at a gig or jam, here it comes: one, two, one two three four! At that moment the rubber hits the road and either I can do the thing or not. What I need from my practice is to make the theme, changes and solos creative and effortless when it is happening in real life. That is what it's all about for me. I think any practice method that gets a person to that point in an acceptable amount of time is golden.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320

    Why not transcribe (if you have the time)? I think it's fun and satisfying. Builds skills and ear training. And with time you get better at it.

    But if you are in a hurry and you have tabs go ahead and use them but a word of caution, tabs can have "errors" or inefficient fingerings depending on who created them so use your own judgement.

Sign In or Register to comment.
Home  |  Forum  |  Blog  |  Contact  |  206-528-9873
The Premier Gypsy Jazz Marketplace
Banner Adverts
Sell Your Guitar
© 2024, all rights reserved worldwide.
Software: Kryptronic eCommerce, Copyright 1999-2024 Kryptronic, Inc. Exec Time: 0.156018 Seconds Memory Usage: 1.044449 Megabytes