Can anyone here transcribe?

A bandmate returned my keyboard (I had semi-retired as keyboardist as I took up percussion and vocals for a while). I’m getting back in to the swing of things, but I’m having a problem finding sheet music or song books for some music I would like to play.

I can’t find some of the less popular songs by Oingo Boingo, and I can’t find most anything by Howard Jones.

Specifically, I’m trying to find We Close Our Eyes and Elevator Man by Boingo, and Things Can Only Get Better, Life in One Day, and No One Is to Blame by HoJo.

Is anyone here willing to transcribe the piano/keyboard parts for me? (Or, if you know where they exist on the Internet already, could you link it for me?)

I’m pretty good at transcribing, mostly jazz solos and tunes, but I don’t have time to work on your tunes for you.

If you don’t have a machine with a special, professional-style transport (pause/play/cue/review), a good EQ, and (really more for getting very accurate solo lines at speed, but still useful) tempo control, or a good bit of software with all these features (I use “Transcribe!” exclusively), then I’d go it alone with some simple techniques (should be fine for just working on some pop songs). This assumes you’re already clear on the rhythmic structure of the tune – if it’s complicated, I’d start by making a sketch of that.

  1. Write out the bass line
  2. Write the melody (approximately)
  3. Sketch in the chord qualities (maj/min/dom7/dim) by ear or with your instrument
  4. If needed, transcribe the chorded instruments’ (piano/guitar/horn section) parts to clarify
  5. Analyze the harmonies to correctly identify the chords (e.g., be straight if a chord is really a maj6 or min7 etc.)

I learned a lot about transcribing by reading Reed Kotler’s web pages – the best piece of advice he gives, IME, is to avoid whenever possible transcribing AT your instrument. Use a pitch pipe or harmonica or something – I think the reason most of those guitar tabs you see on the internet are so poor is due to the temptation of thinking “close enough” or “feels good when I play it” (in addition to basic music illiteracy when it comes to naming the correct chords). The exception would be for getting specific voicings which may need some trial and error on a real instrument.

Thanks for the info, Jaledin.

I’m not enough of a musical pro myself to get into transcribing. I can play it by ear and get to what you suggest musicians think is “close enough.” In fact, if I were to perform these pieces in a band, I think that my estimation is close enough. But I don’t know how to turn around and write it down so that I can recognize it again later.

I could spend a few months and work on my music literacy (as one musician friend keeps suggesting to me) and then do my transcriptions myself. Heck, I might be good enough to sight-read by then (something I’ve never been able to do).

I think I see where you’re at – it sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you! Sorry I couldn’t help with the specific tunes you’re working on, but good luck.

Good quality transcribing is tough, painstaking work even with a really good grasp of the notation skills and a lot of experience doing it – I can only remember my first efforts as a fledgling. It was rough, rough work and took over the space of a few years having written hundreds of transcribed things (licks, solos, head arrangements, etc.) to feel more confident about the accuracy of the results.

If you come up with the notes (or most of them) that you’d play when covering one of these tunes, I’d bet quite a few people here would have some fun trying to distill what’s being played into a lead-sheet/head chart type of thing? I enjoy that type of stuff when I have a free moment, and I’m sure others do as well.

Thanks for the additional reply.

Do you have advice for free or cheap scoring software?
Let’s say I put my hand on the keyboard and can imitate the notes being played, and now I want to jot it down. I don’t want to free-hand it (heck, my handwriting is for crap) and would like to do it digitally.

And if I’m going to put it down and share it with people here, it would be nice if it’s in a format they can all see, and comment back on :slight_smile:

I’ve looked into pretty much all of the FREE scoring stuff out there, and I’m sorry to say, in 2004 or so, when I was testing software out, they all bit it pretty hard. I use Cubase SX3 for MIDI and audio but it’s expensive and not a full-featured scoring program like what’s in the higher-end Sibelius or Finale product lines.

Finale Notepad (free) should be fine inputting MIDI in “steps” (i.e., not playing a whole performance, but manually punching in chords using your keyboard/MIDI guitar/whatever). Impossible to get really nicely layed-out stuff with it, but it’s free and pretty easy.

There are some really cool other options, like LilyPond (music lay-out) or some other front ends for LaTeX (?) but I can’t say what the state of the art is in anything beyond the usual mac/windows application.

There is a browser plug-in designed for displaying scores, but I can’t recall it’s name. Is “Scorch” the one?

I usually see stuff like:

RH:C# A#

Or the ever-popular scan and link to jpeg around, though.

heres a link for We Close Our Eyes, not sure if its as detailed as you want but its better than nothing.

Thanks for the link. I had found that particular one before, but as you noted, it’s not very detailed. It’s not sheet music, for one, it’s just something resembling a chord progression. In parts it doesn’t seem accurate, and it’s not even the interesting of the two keyboards.

It did tell me that they play straight chords, though, which helped me figure out some of the fingering.

I wouldn’t even mind buying a song book which happened to contain these - wonder why it’s not out there…