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Author Topic: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned  (Read 724 times)

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Jesse Smith

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A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« on: June 17, 2018, 03:25:28 AM »

For the "Everest tunes" theme of the month, I have been working on learning John Kirkpatrick's "Shreds and Patches" (off of his CD "The Duck Race"), and I've spent a lot of time listening to the record and trying to transcribe bits of it. Well, I have his "Jump at the Sun" tunebook, which includes notation for the basic melody line, but I've been trying to figure out exactly what's he's doing in the basses and for ornamentation. Anyway, here are a few little tricks and shortcuts I've discovered:

1) Programs like Audacity let you slow down a recording without changing the pitch, but as you slow it down it gets increasingly distorted and choppy, which can make it hard to sort out exactly what's happening. But, you can also use Audacity to slow down both the speed and pitch accordingly (just like playing a 45 rpm record at 33 rpm). It turns out if you slow down a tune by 50%, you get the exact same key but an octave lower, and for whatever reason, the algorithm for changing both speed and pitch preserves the quality much better than changing the speed only. So if you don't mind listening to the tune an octave lower, just play it at half speed and it will be much easier to hear the ornaments and quick bass notes, etc.

2) John Kirkpatrick's "twiddle" ornaments, at least in this tune, are simply adding the next button up on the row and then going back to the note, sometimes as a triplet, and sometimes just so fast it becomes just a sort of grace note "zing". So for example, when playing a pulled A on the G row, he will play A-C-A. When played at speed, these actually sound a lot more complex and sophisticated than they are!

This leads to:

3) You can tell which row a phrase is played on by listening to the ornaments! For example, this tune (in the key of D) has a bar that goes A-G-F#-G-A-F#. The natural way to play it is on the D row, but JK plays it on the G row (I think to help manage the bellows, since there's a lot more pushing in the rest of the tune). I discovered this because he plays a twiddle on that last A, going A-C natural-A, and the C natural is of course only available on the G row!

(Later in the tune JK overdubs a "melodeon solo" on a Hohner four stop in D, and I could hear that when he does the same "twiddle" in the same phrase, he goes A-C#-A, because now he only has a D row. When these grace notes happen so fast, it doesn't really matter the precise harmony!)

4) Another way to tell which row a phrase is played on, is by realizing that on a Hohner Pokerwork the pushed D chord is voiced differently from the pulled D chord. So if you listen closely, you can hear that on the above line, the chord changes to the lower-voiced pulled D. I don't know how universal this is across melodeons, or even across Hohners, but it is standard for the Pokerwork and the functionally identical Erica.

5) Slowing down the tune and dropping it an octave can really help pick out the bass line. On this one, I originally thought JK was not playing any bass notes at all, but only the chords on the offbeats, but when you slow it down you can tell that it really is just your basic oompah pattern; it's just that he's clipping the bass notes so short by barely touching the buttons. But when slowed down you can usually hear the tiniest blip of a bass note, implying that the hand motion is the familiar oompah.

Maybe these are well-known tricks to many of you but I hope they will be useful to other potential or actual relative beginners who are just starting to try to transcribe tunes or learn by ear from a recording.

What other tricks and shortcuts have you found for working out tunes from a recording?
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 03:31:13 AM by Jesse Smith »
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2018, 08:49:41 AM »

Jesse, I have an iPad and the only app I've bought is 'Amazing Slowdowner'
There's a free version or the full fat one which I think it cost me ~£7. I'm not sure if it's available on other platforms.

With AS, you can slow it down without it getting distorted.
You import a tune from your iTunes library.
You can loop phrases to enable you to practice those tricky bits.
It also allows you to change keys in half tone steps. I've learnt the occasional Norwegian tune probably played on a GC and tweaked it so it sounds like it's on my DG.
All in all it is excellent and a bargain in my opinion.

If I see a YouTube video, I can record the sound track using Audacity and save it as an MP3 or 4 sound file. Add this to your iTunes and you can pull it into AS as above.
Amazing Slowdowner is just so good!
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Pete Dunk

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2018, 10:31:23 AM »

2) John Kirkpatrick's "twiddle" ornaments, at least in this tune, are simply adding the next button up on the row and then going back to the note, sometimes as a triplet, and sometimes just so fast it becomes just a sort of grace note "zing". So for example, when playing a pulled A on the G row, he will play A-C-A. When played at speed, these actually sound a lot more complex and sophisticated than they are!

Cutting a note with the note above and back again (d-e-d) is an ornament called an upper mordent, using the note below (c-B-c) is a lower mordent. The picture shows how these mordents would be written in a piece of sheet music.
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Helena Handcart

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2018, 11:12:20 AM »

You mean Upper Mordent and Lower Mordent aren't actually villages in the Cotswolds?  Who knew  ;)
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Pete Dunk

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2018, 11:56:47 AM »

Some people 'round here could do with a Nether Wallop!  :|glug
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 12:35:45 PM »

think I'll cross the border northwards into Dorset and go to Little Piddling and 'ave a larf  ;D
Or could use an inorganic oxide to fix a stain, ah, but that's mordant....
OK, will go back to my sunday slumber zzzzzzzzzz

...but I have learnt something, thank you to Jesse for accurately highlighting JK's twiddles, and poor old Pete for a sensible definition.
Unlike ours...……..
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Dick Rees

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2018, 01:13:53 PM »

2) John Kirkpatrick's "twiddle" ornaments, at least in this tune, are simply adding the next button up on the row and then going back to the note, sometimes as a triplet, and sometimes just so fast it becomes just a sort of grace note "zing". So for example, when playing a pulled A on the G row, he will play A-C-A. When played at speed, these actually sound a lot more complex and sophisticated than they are!

Cutting a note with the note above and back again (d-e-d) is an ornament called an upper mordent, using the note below (c-B-c) is a lower mordent. The picture shows how these mordents would be written in a piece of sheet music...

Edit:

I prefer to think in terms of ARTICULATION rather than ORNAMENTATION.


« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 08:19:18 PM by Dick Rees »
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AirTime

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2018, 03:01:47 PM »


What other tricks and shortcuts have you found for working out tunes from a recording?

Go to youtube video & type ss after the www.  It will bring up a page called "savefrom.net". Click on "download video in browser" & it will download the clip.

On my Mac I can then open the clip in Quicktime Player 7 . Go to "Window" menu & open A/V controls window . In this you can shift the pitch to another key & you can slow the tune down (without altering the pitch) up to 1/2 speed.  This allows you to play (almost) any tune in any key & slow enough to make it much easier to reconstruct the tune.

There is no A/V window available in my later 10.4 version of Quicktime player. I'm not sure about other versions, but I believe you can still download Quicktime Player 7 from the net. 
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2018, 03:15:54 PM »

Using Windows 10 and Edge, if you click the settings wheel, bottom right, you should get an option to slow down the video but you loose sound definition, if I recal.
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Jesse Smith

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2018, 03:19:37 PM »

Cutting a note with the note above and back again (d-e-d) is an ornament called an upper mordent, using the note below (c-B-c) is a lower mordent. The picture shows how these mordents would be written in a piece of sheet music.

Yes, but here it's not just the note above. It's the note from the next button up in the same direction, which can be anything from a major second to a fourth, depending on the buttons. Would that still be called a mordent?

It's entirely an artifact of the Richter tuning layout and I would say a characteristic part of the melodeon's distinct sound.
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Jesse Smith

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2018, 03:22:07 PM »

Jesse, I have an iPad and the only app I've bought is 'Amazing Slowdowner'
There's a free version or the full fat one which I think it cost me ~£7. I'm not sure if it's available on other platforms.

With AS, you can slow it down without it getting distorted.

Oh, I'll have to try out the free version. I assumed it would have the same distortion that Audacity or Windows Media Player have when changing the speed but not the pitch.
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Pete Dunk

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2018, 03:50:36 PM »

Cutting a note with the note above and back again (d-e-d) is an ornament called an upper mordent, using the note below (c-B-c) is a lower mordent. The picture shows how these mordents would be written in a piece of sheet music.

Yes, but here it's not just the note above. It's the note from the next button up in the same direction, which can be anything from a major second to a fourth, depending on the buttons. Would that still be called a mordent?

No, sorry my error, but you didn't indicate a bellows direction and I made an incorrect assumption. No excuse really as you do mention A - C - A in the next sentence!
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2018, 04:27:44 PM »

Jesse: yes try the free one first.
I think it only allows 30secs of the tune o be used, or something like it, whereas the full one allows all the tune to be used in the app.
It has no distortions whatsoever when slowed down, it's clear as a bell.
Certainly over here the full version is cheap at £7 for me, and as said, worth every penny, cent or dime  ;)
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2018, 07:18:46 PM »

You mean Upper Mordent and Lower Mordent aren't actually villages in the Cotswolds?  Who knew  ;)

 ;D ;D ;D
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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2018, 07:49:12 PM »

Now, before hordes of respondents berate me for whatever, let me make it clear that this is purely my personal feeling and in no way intended as any kind of advice. 

Right, now having got that clear, I cannot see the point of reproducing any tune with exactly the ornaments and idiosyncracies used by any previous performer of same - including the composer. It seems to me that tunes in the traditional idiom are "given" to us as players as bare bones, to be interpreted according to our own abilities and inclinations. While I might acknowledge the dedication and technical ability of a player (in any genre) who can reproduce in detail the performance of a particular tune at a particular time on a particular day by a particular musician, I still can't help feeling that a personal interpretation by that player would be of far greater interest and probably of greater integrity than a slavish copy. I don't know about the UK, but here in Cyprus we're plagued by "tribute acts", which may be technically very close to their originals but totally lack any kind of - well, commitment, I suppose, or maybe "edge"or "soul" is closer to what I'm getting at. 

What seems to me to be important is to capture the spirit of the original - yes, you need to get the notes of the tune right, but the decoration, phrasing and dynamics should reflect the performer, not the originator of the tune.

Please feel free to disagree; I won't be offended (even if I think you're wrong!); just my personal feeling.

Perhaps I should add that I am in awe of the OP's perspicacity in determining which treble row or bellows direction is being used. Me - I just play the tunes.........

Graham

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Jesse Smith

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2018, 10:25:12 PM »

Right, now having got that clear, I cannot see the point of reproducing any tune with exactly the ornaments and idiosyncracies used by any previous performer of same - including the composer. It seems to me that tunes in the traditional idiom are "given" to us as players as bare bones, to be interpreted according to our own abilities and inclinations.

Graham, I don't disagree at all! However would you also agree that traditional music has always been passed down in some way from master to student? Traditionally this was a face to face process, and now in the age of recorded music it can be done by the careful study of recordings. I've only been playing for seven months, and I don't think it is inappropriate at this point to really dig deep into a tune and figure out how it works. If I were able to attend a Kirkpatrick concert, I would be watching his hands as closely as possible. Since I can't, I am listening to his records as closely and analytically as possible.

My goal is not to slavishly imitate the recording but to learn from it so I can incorporate these techniques and style into my own playing. I certainly have no intention or desire to become a "tribute act"!
« Last Edit: June 18, 2018, 12:46:44 AM by Jesse Smith »
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2018, 11:10:45 PM »

You sound like another person who would benefit from John's DVDs. He shows exactly how he does stuff like twiddles (posh people call articulations). I reckon you'll find both DVDs  are jam packed with stuff you will find useful.
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Greg Smith
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Jesse Smith

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2018, 12:49:23 AM »

You sound like another person who would benefit from John's DVDs. He shows exactly how he does stuff like twiddles (posh people call articulations). I reckon you'll find both DVDs  are jam packed with stuff you will find useful.

Yes, I've had those DVDs since the beginning of the year and they are terrific. I've rewatched them a couple of times over the year and each time I get more out of it as my increased experience allows me to understand the more advanced topics better.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2018, 01:35:55 AM by Jesse Smith »
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Thrupenny Bit

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2018, 08:03:52 AM »

I agree with Graham's viewpoint and like Jesse I too like to know how an ornamentation is achieved so that I can use it if I feel a tune fits.
To me, it's all part of 'getting into the skin' of a tune and understanding it, rather than just  replicating the dots.....
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Thrupenny Bit

I think I'm starting to get most of the notes in roughly the right order...... sometimes!

Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: A few transcribing tricks I recently learned
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2018, 08:31:30 AM »

Jesse made the point that a twiddle, might be to the adjacent second  and back (eg, ABA), or it might be to the third (eg, AcA). Is it still described as a mordant if it visits the third?  It's not something I've ever thought about before but I'm intrigued.

Then there are rolls (:)
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Greg Smith
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