Transcribe! is an assistant for people who want to work out a piece of music from a recording, in order to write it out, or play it themselves, or both. It doesn’t do the transcribing for you, but it is essentially a specialised player program which is optimised for the purpose of transcription. It has many transcription-specific features not found on conventional music players.
It is also used by many people for play-along practice. It can change pitch and speed instantly, and you can store and recall any number of named loops. So you can practice in all keys, and you can speed up as well as slow down. There is some advice about play-along practice in Transcribe!’s help, under the heading “Various Topics”.
And it is also used for speech transcription. With its support for foot pedals and its superior slowed-down sound quality, it is an excellent choice for this purpose. There is some advice about speech transcription in Transcribe!’s help, under the heading “Various Topics”.
Conventional music players (whether hardware such as a CD player or an iPod, or software such as Windows Media Player or iTunes) are really designed for people who want to listen to whole tracks. They are very inconvenient for transcribing music as they are not designed for this purpose. If you copy the recording to your computer’s hard disk as a sound file then you can use Transcribe! instead. Transcribe! offers many features aimed at making the transcription job smoother and easier, including the ability to slow down music without changing its pitch, to analyse chords and show you what notes are present, and the capability of adding markers and textual annotations so you can easily navigate around the track. Transcribe! also has a piano keyboard displayed on screen which you can click to play reference notes.
It is important to understand that Transcribe! does not attempt to do the whole job, processing an audio file and outputting musical notation or midi – this would be nice, but is a currently unsolved research problem. The spectrum analysis feature is very useful for working out those hard-to-hear chords, but you must still use your ear and brain to decide which of the peaks in the spectrum are notes being played, which are merely harmonics, and which are just the result of noise and broad-spectrum instruments such as drums. If you have never worked out even a simple piece of music by ear then Transcribe! will probably not help you (see How to Transcribe), but if you do sometimes work out recorded music by ear then Transcribe! can make the job a lot quicker and easier.
Features of Transcribe! Full
- Depending on version, Transcribe! reads audio from many different types of audio file and audio CD. It also has a “Record” facility for recording from analog sources such as cassette or vinyl. It displays the audio waveform and allows you to scroll around, place markers for sections, measures and beats, and easily play or loop from any point.
- Transcribe! can also display the video synchronised to the audio for many video files.
- Loops and positions can be stored and recalled. There are many keyboard shortcuts and you can configure these as you like. You can configure Transcribe! to respond to pedals of various types so as to keep your hands free : start and stop playback with your feet!
- There is extensive and readable help accessible from within the program.
- The “spectrum” feature displays the strength of the various pitches in any chord or note you select, in the form of a graph – a wavy line over a piano keyboard graphic. The heights of the various peaks in the graph indicate the strength of the note above which the peak appears. This is not a magic bullet for analysing chords but it can be a very useful source of information.
- Transcribe! will perform “note guessing” and “chord guessing” – that is, it will attempt to interpret the spectrum information for you, marking the notes being played on the piano keyboard, and attempting to name the chords (in standard form such as “Am”, “E7#9”, etc). Note guesses can be displayed in “piano roll” form, showing the guesses over time, aligned to the waveform view.
- Transcribe! supports Automation (or Scripting). You can run Transcribe! automatically from commands in a file, perhaps to process a number of sound files, saving them at different altered speeds, or to instruct Transcribe! to play various sound files with various effects.
- Transcribe! offers various audio processing effects (Slowdown, Pitch Change, EQ filtering etc) intended to help with transcribing. These effects all run in “real time”. This means there is no pre-processing or other waiting, the processing is performed on-the-fly while playing and you can instantly hear the effect of changes to EQ etc. For instance if you press the half-speed button while playing then playback simply continues, at half speed.
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