Five Transcriptions I’ve Done that are Worth Checking Out
I have transcribed a lot of music in my life. Thousands of songs. I would be lying if I said that it never gets tedious. But in the process of transcribing all that music, I’ve become aware of the times that I’m most engaged with my work. During these moments, I seem to lose track of the time and distractions seem to fall to the wayside as I’m totally engrossed with what I’m doing. As far as I can tell, two aspects of the music have to be present for me to be fully engaged. Firstly, it has to be high-quality both in terms of content and production value. And secondly, it has to be just the right level of difficulty that it’s a challenge, keeping my ear attuned, but not so complex that it requires me having to replay the same two seconds ten times to make sure I got it right.
Here are five examples of transcriptions I did that I’m very proud of, both because I think the source material is excellent and because I think I did a particularly quality job of capturing these performances on paper. The link to each song is in the title - feel free to follow along with the sheet music I have provided!
Josh Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists, and his collaboration here with pianist Frankie Moreno as they cover a Beatles’ classic is memorable and fun. Transcribing some of the frantic scales on the violin proved challenging, but I think the transcription turned out really well in the end.
This medley between Carol of the Bells and My Favorite Things is one of the more challenging transcriptions I’ve ever done. The client I was transcribing this for had a slightly different instrumentation than the recording, so you’ll see in the score a lot of the harp parts have been distributed between the piano and flute, and the percussion has been simplified in places.
This Motown medley between Go Tell It On the Mountain and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is a catchy Christmas rendition that was stuck in my head for a month after charting it. While I did transcribe the entire orchestra, I’ve attached the rhythm chart here as an example of what you would want to give to your rhythm section in most cases – not individual parts, but a stripped down vocal leadline with rhythmic cues as necessary.
This Prince cover by The Mighty Untouchables was fun for me, not only because of how groovy the song was (check out some of those hits near the end), but also because I recognized the lead trumpet player and the studio engineer as people I’ve worked with in the past. My client was surprised I just happened to know some of the musicians in the video. Attached is the lead trumpet part from the transcription.
This Dixieland rendition of a Christmas classic was tremendous fun to transcribe, picking out how the individual lines were woven together in a delicate music puzzle. Fortunately, the instruments were panned far enough left and right that, along with the different timbres of the instruments, their lines were fairly easy to distinguish from one another. In the score, you’ll see an empty staff for a saxophone that the client requested for this own notes.