I know that I have recently done a podcast episode about how to effectively transcribe a solo, but it has occurred to me this past week just how important this process is to the aspiring jazz musician. I have been churning out transcriptions lately and I can actually feel myself getting better with each one I complete. Transcription is ear training, technique, and vocabulary all combined into one activity. This is why I think more and more every day that transcription is the most important part of anyone’s practice routine.
How often should I transcribe?
The answer is: every day! Transcription is like lifting weights. You can’t expect to get stronger unless you’re doing it often. It’s an amazing feeling when you can string together a couple of weeks of transcribing every day. It starts to feel like your ears are getting bigger and you can hear things you never thought possible.
I’ll make another reference to lifting weights. Once you start to see some results from exercise; your clothes fitting better, less jiggling, you want to exercise more. Once you feel your ears getting bigger, it makes you want to transcribe more and more, then your ears get better and better!
The more you transcribe, the less difficult and less time consuming it is.
That first solo you ever transcribe is like torture! It feels like it will take days (and sometimes it does!). Many musicians get turned off from transcribing before they even complete one solo. The key is to get through those first couple and they start to build on themselves. This is especially true if you do multiple transcriptions of the same artist. You will eventually feel like you know what they are going to play next. That’s a wonderful feeling!
Bottom Line: Get to work!
You’ll only get better at transcribing by doing it. What may seem like a frustrating and tedious process will get easier, but only if you actually do it! So make a promise to yourself that you are going to transcribe one, easy solo this week and see the benefits that can come from putting the work in!
I have talked to countless world famous jazz musicians and they all say the same thing; transcribing is THE most important thing they do to keep improving and keep their ears in shape. Take it from them and improve your playing today!