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Topic: OT: Transcribing Audio

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  1. #1

    OT: Transcribing Audio

    Just curious: What is the process of transcribing music like? How accurate does it tend to be? How expensive (generally speaking)?

    I have some old (relatively speaking) audio tracks...they're relatively pristine, relatively short (less than 5 minutes each), relatively 'straightforward': ie four tracks or less, not a lot of block chords, etc.

    What does turning that into accurate, sequencer-ready music cost and how long would something like that take?

    Just curious...i'm not about to hire anyone (yet).

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    You mean automatic transcribing, like an audio version of OCR? I don't think it exists yet for polyphonic recordings, except for one bunch who claims to have transcribed a piano recording- you can try and Google that. It was a one-off machine and cost a bundle IIRC. maybe there's something out I'm not up on??

    WAIT- I read your post more carefully, never mind *g* It was the "how expensive" part that got me on the wrong track

  3. #3

    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    Thanks anyhow...but yeah, I'm asking about a human transcriber. I'm gonna need one eventually...

    Grazi!

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    Image,

    I've transcribed songs in the past for various rock bands. They were usually in the position where they could write their own songs, but they wanted leadsheets created for copyright purposes. These were lyrics, melody and chord symbols. Nothing more elaborate than that. I used to charge $100-$200 for each of these. I don't do this any longer.

    A possible suggestion is to contact a music school in your area, and see if they have a student that has good ears and might be willing to do this.

    I did a quick google search on "music transcribers" and found some there too.

    Good luck,
    Jeff

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    I'm still not 100% clear on what you are asking -

    it appears you have audio recordings that you would like to transcribe and then generate MIDI tracks from that transcription.

    I can't quite tell if the original audio is a stereo recording consisting of four parts, or a four track recording, but I'm not sure that matters too much.

    My transcription process is pretty simple really, I sit down with a guitar or in front of the piano and I just listen a couple of times, then I play along. Some songs will sort of naturally push me in the direction of melody, some will push me in the direction of chords... no real way to guess which is which.

    Anyway, once I have the first part, chords or melody, I generally try to do the other one because it gives me a nice sanity check. Then, if there is a bass part I'll grab that and do yet another sanity check.

    After that I grab everything but the drums, and I'll admit sometimes I cheat it a little, since for pop music I can often guess<G>. After I guess I listen again and refine my guesses.

    The last thing I try to transcribe is the drum parts... just me probably, but I find transcribing drums pretty challenging, so I always leave it for last<G>! (I can't get my own four limbs to operate independently either!!!!)

    I always transcribe to standard notation, using either Finale or good old pen and paper. After I am satisfied that it looks pretty close I'll import it into Sonar and tewak anything that sounds a little off.

    However, most of the people I've done transcriptions for were not interested in a MIDI file, so I never spent too much time on it.

    How long? No clue! Some songs are so familiar, and/or obvious (to me) that I can get a basic lead sheet done in less than an hour. Some songs take me more hours than I care to try to track<G>!

    How expensive... it depends entirely on the source material. Whenever I feel confident that I can do the job in a reasonable time I try to charge by the piece. If I hear something in the source that I know is going to kick my butt then I switch to an hourly charge!

    Hope this helps...

    Bill

  6. #6

    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    Thanks...that gives me a general idea...which is pretty much what I was looking for.

    Thanks again!

    (and if anyone else wants to reply...the audio is classical in nature...which to my mind makes it easier to discern specific notes.)

    Thanks!

  7. #7

    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    Well, I´ve done this a lot.The process is fairly simple: Enter the notes into any decent notation program (Finale, Sibelius etc) and save/export the midi-file.As you probably know, any sequencer can import midifiles.
    The tricky part is getting the notes right.. There´s usually a couple of debatable rhythms and/or pitches.You have to go by the wellknown Ellington quote: If it sounds right (in the sequencer) it is right!
    Oh, and if you´re going to pay per hour, it will be expensive

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: Transcribing Audio

    Quote Originally Posted by imagegod
    Just curious: What is the process of transcribing music like? How accurate does it tend to be? How expensive (generally speaking)?

    I have some old (relatively speaking) audio tracks...they're relatively pristine, relatively short (less than 5 minutes each), relatively 'straightforward': ie four tracks or less, not a lot of block chords, etc.

    What does turning that into accurate, sequencer-ready music cost and how long would something like that take?

    Just curious...i'm not about to hire anyone (yet).

    Thanks!
    You're getting good advice. Transcription by someone who is good will be 100% accurate if the performance is likewise accurate. If someone is playing dotted-eighth/sixteenth note figures like triplets, for instance, there can be slight ambiguity in that. However, even in that case, the context will tend to clarify the intent.

    The other issue is the quality of the recording, but you say this is pristine, so that is likely to bode well. The only traps that exist are when the orchestration becomes so intertwined or complex in instruments of various colors that picking out the lines becomes a needle-in-a-haystack kind of search. At that point, you'd probably get an overall transcription that sounds functionally the same--in truth, there might be some parts that are inadvertently swapping from the instrument that originally played them, and landing in an instrument with a similar timbre. The context helps here, too. If the piece is well composed, then most of the lines should tend to make musical sense by themselves. When the transcribing musician notes that a part is getting strange, in a place where the recording is unclear, then it's a hint that perhaps he's lost track of that part, and that a re-approach to that section might straighten it out.

    I would concur that this will probably cost you some cash. Sometimes one can estimate the cost pretty effectively, but at other times, there's just no way to tell other than jumping in at an hourly charge. You might consider separating out the tasks of making the music MIDI'ed, and just ask for the hand-written score. All you really need the transcribing musician to do is scratch out the parts--you could deal with the rest.

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