Summary: Transcribe! is a software program in a league of
its own. No other program provides the functionality that Transcribe! provides. Read the rest of this
Transcribe! Review for details. Highest Recommendation.
Details: If you are guitarist, sooner or later you are going to want to
figure out how to play some piece of music without having the benefit of the tab or sheet music. This process is
known as transcription. There are two crucial tasks involved with transcription: (1) being able to correctly hear
what is being played and (2) determining what you are hearing. Transcribe! helps with both parts. I’ll look at each
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Correctly hearing what’s being played. When music gets too fast, the human
ear has a natural tendency to blur the distinction between musical notes. The result is pleasant from a musical
perspective. However, from a transcription perspective, it’s not so nice. The key to being able to figure out
what’s being played in such cases is to slow the music down.
Many years ago, when cassettes were commonplace, this used to be accomplished by special
cassette players that could slow down playback. The problem with this approach, of course, was that slowing down
playback also changed the pitch of the music. Usually, the approach was to slow down the music to half speed which
would lower the pitch of the music by one octave. Then you would figure out the given lick an octave lower on the
fretboard. This worked okay for guitar solos that were above the 12th fret. However, when music got into the lower
registers of fretboard, you just had to live with the octave difference. Combine these difficulties with the
clumsiness of cassette players and clearly the situation left much to be desired.
How far we’ve come. With the advent of modern signal processing technology, software can now
slow down music while maintaining the pitch of the music. This means you can slow it down and yet still figure it
out in the exact position it is played on the fretboard. Nice. Honestly, there are quite a few programs that are
capable of doing this – with varying degrees of success (the Transcribe! website has a list of 56 such programs). I
used to use Cakewalk’s Home Studio to do it. Their interface was a bit of a pain and the results were not that good
if you slowed the music down too much.
Transcribe! is one of, if not the, best at slowing down music and maintaining pitch. Not only
that, it has a great interface where you slow down the music in real-time, selecting and changing the speed of the
music as you listen to it. This is extremely convenient. Many other programs require that you process the track
that you are slowing down. The processing results in a new track. So, if you want three separate speeds of the
given section of music, you’ll end up with three separate copies. With Transcribe!, you can listen at one speed,
then listen again at a different speed, and again at a third speed. From a usability perspective, this is
Determining what you are hearing. This is the area in which Transcribe!
really shines. Once you have a piece of music slowed down to the point where you can correctly hear the notes in
question, there are two methods for being able to determine what the notes are. The first method is having a really
great musical ear. If you are capable of hearing music and just figuring out what it is, that’s great. Such well
developed musical ears are relatively rare. Even if you do have such an ear, there likely will be situations where
you will still need a little help. The second method, which anyone can use, is software that is designed to provide
insight into which notes are being played. This was the original purpose that Transcribe! was created to serve and,
in my experience, there is nothing that comes close to doing it as well. With Transcribe!, you can highlight a
section of music and it will do something called spectral analysis on that section. The analysis will tell you
which frequencies are present in the section of music and how dominant each frequency is. You have to have a little
knowledge about how to use Transcribe! correctly. For example, a single note will generate harmonics that will also
show up in the spectrum identified by Transcribe! However, Transcribe! has features specifically designed to help
you understand these issues. After experimenting with it for a bit, you’ll quickly understand how it works.
Of course, Transcribe! will not read your music and spit out transcriptions – no software will.
But if you are looking to give yourself every possible advantage when attempting to transcribe music, Transcribe!
is the program you want. Consider this, the guitar editor at Hal Leonard Music (publisher of countless
note-for-note transcriptions) had the following to say about Transcribe!: "All the editors have it on their office
systems. I use it every time when editing with a recording." It's really that good.
"An amazing tool for musicians with a few really interesting new
Pat Metheny, world-famous Jazz musician
"I use Transcribe! to assist with the process of transcribing. It is a great piece of
software and I would recommend it to every musician."
The late Michael Brecker, world-famous Jazz musician
Conclusion: As I wrap up this Transcribe! review the conclusions are
clear. Transcribe! is a great, unique program that would be valuable to any guitar player. I give it my highest
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