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  • Song Surgeon For Music Transcription

    This is Jon Perez, Composer, Arranger, Producer, and Pianist. I recently purchased Song Surgeon because I needed a Media Player with the capabilities to slow a song down without changing the pitch, loop sections to play continuously, and the ability to alter the equalization. Song Surgeon was exactly what I was searching for! With Song Surgeon, I'm now a Transcribing Expert!

    Here is how I take a song from an audio file and turn it into sheet music:

    I use the Song Surgeon software in conjunction with Properllerhead's Reason 3.0 and Finale's Print Music 2009. The Hardware I use with my computer is a M-Audio Keystation 61es, Alesis power amp/Studio Monitors and Creative computer speakers.

    For this demonstration, I have selected an instrumental Latin song titled "Juanito's Tumbao" recorded by Ritmo Caribe. Click here to listen:

    I first launch Song Surgeon, open the audio file, and listen to detect the Instrumentation, Key Signature, and Tempo. The instrumentation on this recording is Piano, Bass, Conga, Timbale, Bongo, 2 Trumpets, and 2 Trombones. However, the group for which I am transcribing the song for utilizes Piano, Bass, Percussion, 1 Trumpet, 1 Tenor Sax and 1 Trombone. I then launch Reason and load the instruments that I will use for the arrangement.

    The slow-down technology found in these software programs is an extremely valuable tool for musicians. By slowing a song or part of a song down, the notes that are being played can be heard. Not only can the notes be individually heard but the subtle nuances of HOW a note is being played can also be determined. Practice loops can be created for segments of songs that have been slowed down that allow musicians to play along at the reduced speed helping them to master a song or a solo more quickly than they otherwise would be able to.

    The table below provides a quick summary of these differences. The entries in with red text indicate an increased or better feature when compared to the other software program.

    Let's start the transcription with the chord changes. In this case, the Piano and Bass seem to play a repetitive 2-bar progression. To decipher what the chords are, I looped 8 bars and slowed the tempo down to 80%. While the song is playing within Song Surgeon, I use Reason to activate a Piano patch and fiddle on the Keystation until I find the right chords. I then make a handwritten Lead Chart with the Chords and section notes for the Rhythm Section as shown below:

    Now that I have figured out the chords that are on the recording, I then record myself playing them and create a sequence in Reason. I start with the Piano, then Bass, and finally the Percussion. I then copy and paste the sequence accordingly.

    Next, let's transcribe the horns. At measure 9, the Trombones are introduced. It seems that they are playing a 4-bar pattern. I've set a loop around the 4 bars to better analyze the notes. I used the Equalizer to bring out the Trombones and subdue the other instruments. I then use a Trombone patch in Reason and begin to learn the section. After figuring out the passage, I record myself playing the phrase into my sequence on Reason.

    I then follow the same steps with the Trumpet and Saxophone. I use my Tenor Sax to either double as a second Trombone or Trumpet. Once I have completed my reproduction of the song, I meticulously compare it with the original recording. When I am content with comparison, I then choose to "Export Midi File" within Reason. This will allow me to save the data/note entry from my production as a Midi File.

    Finally, I take the Midi File and open it in my music notation software; Finale's Print Music 2009. The program will create a notated score of the production. While I work with the score to add articulations, repeats, lyrics, etc., I use Song Surgeon to analyze such dynamics by looping sections at a time. I now have a Publisher's Quality Score. Click here:

    The task is complete and I can pass out the sheet music to the band or email a PDF file of the sheet music. Now it's time to rehearse the song and Song Surgeon is the greatest tool for rehearsal!

    To Learn More About Song Surgeon, please click here