Software review: Transcribe

Transcribe software for Mac Os, Windows an Linux

If there is one activity I cannot recommend enough in the process of learning an instrument it is transcribing (now you know why the software is called “Transcribe”). Transcribing is the act of figuring out a tune or solo or lick by ear. One can in fact state that in the years before all those studying aids like youtube guitar lessons and downloadable guitar tabs existed, most musicians learned a great part of their craft by copying their favourite tunes by ear.

And most still do. You can learn a lot from tabs and youtube guitar lessons, but one thing that is not trained this way is your ear. And is music not about what you hear?

I still remember the days I transcribed music from cassette tape. One thing was frustrating though: many licks where just played to fast and my hearing couldn’t cope with the speed. At the time, there were even taperecorders that could slow down the music by half. Annoying detail: the music was than also played back sounding an octave lower. Hardly convenient…

Enter the computer era we live in today. One can use software to slow down recordings. You could us free software like Audacity. Audacity is essentially an audio editing app. For a free program it does it’s job remarkably well, but it is not intended as a transcribing program, and it shows. An audio file slowed down to half it’s speed by Audacity sounds really bad.

Slowing down an audio file (or video file) will always degrade the audio quality. In fact the program is “inventing” data to fill the gaps. It does this by guessing what would sound right or good based on the original data. How well it does this depends on the stretching algorithm, the quality of the code…

Audacity does this just ok-ish. Transcribe does this better than any other audio software I have tested. Period!

It’s GUI (user interface, what you see on screen and use to do the job) and functions are also designed with transcribing in mind.

Transcribe main screen

Amongst the most useful features (that I use extensively) are:

Markers:

You can use markers to mark (duh…) places you want to go back to or where sections (like verse/ chorus/ bridge/ solo) start. You can name/ rename these (like: nice lick no 1).

Looping:

You can drag a passage you want to loop (play over and over). You can store your loops in the program.

EQ:

With the built- in graphic EQ you can emphasise or filter out frequencies to highlight what you want to hear.

Tuning:

Some recordings are not “in tune” (especially when ripped from vinyl, cassette or video tape). With this function you can tune the file.

Multiple file types (Video!):

Multiple file types can be opened, not in the least video files. Video files stay in sync with the slowed down audio. How neat is that!

Export sound file (with options, like export a file for each section):

You can export the slowed down file to wav. This is very useful to provide pupils with a slowed down version. Most young pupils are not in a position (or inclined to) to buy/ install the software. I generally try to generate as little or few roadblocks to get people study and play the instrument.

Karaoke function:

Shifts the fase of the right and left channel by 180° so instruments (identical sounds) that are panned centre (same information left and right) are cancelled out. A lot of solo instruments and voices are mixed that way.

For music teachers:

As a music teacher I also use Transcribe in the “classroom”. It is very convenient to slow down a tune on the spot if it is too fast for the pupil to play along to. Also: jumping from one section to another is very easy with the marker function.

I am will not get into every function of Transcribe since you can download a fully functional 30 day demo to see if  Transcribe suits you.

If it’s good enough for Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck), Levi Clay, Pat Metheny etc…It is certainly good enough for me!

Transcribe for Windows

Transcribe for Mac

Transcribe for Linux

Hope this helps,

Hugo

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