Jul 21, 2009

Deciphering Your Favorite Songs

Before I begin, I wish that I could give you some sort of formula for transcribing guitar parts from songs, but I really can't because its done on intuition and from focus. Plus, I have no idea what song or what type of music you may be interested in tackling.

However, I am well aware that many guitar players, both young and old are out right intimidated by the thought of, or word of "transcribing".

As someone who continues to do it to this day, I have learned quite a bit about doing so, and have been proven time and time again that there are tricks that can aid you. I will do my best to help you, but first, why should a guitar player learn to transcribe music?

First, in my opinion, the ultimate goal of any musician should be to find their own voice, and throwing away the tabs and buckling down will unlock the whole world for you. Everything that I teach by way of videos, article lessons, or even rants was born from trying to figure it out on my own. I can't even begin to emphasize this, and words cannot describe.

Second - even if you simply wish to play pre-written songs for the rest of your life, learning them the old fashioned way makes things like soloing, and improvising a total synch. If someone puts you on the spot in front of a bunch of people and you are expected to learn a song right then and there, as that person is playing it, it will be no problem anymore.

So now we begin...


The first thing is where DO you begin? most people could listen to one note, and they can't picture where its at, and so they assume that its going to be anywhere, and yet it is in one
specific place as expected.

If you do the math, you've got 6 strings, and on a full 24 fret guitar, 2 octaves per string. Let's take a random note. Say G#. On the low E string alone there will be 2 G#'s - remember, two
octaves per string. Now you've got 6 strings - 2 x 6 = 12. So you've got 12 of each note on the guitar - pretty cool.

Even if your guitar doesn't have 24 frets, thinking like this makes playing so much easier.

Now, let's imagine the fretboard as being divided into 4 sections.

We'll say that from frets 0 to 6 are section 1, 6 - 12 are section 2, 12 - 18 are section 3, and 18 - 24 are section 4.

There is a HUGE difference in pitch when a note like G# is played in section 1, 2, 3, or 4. Its the same note, but the sharpness grows as you move on up the neck. By the way, we're not just sectioning off one string, we're handling all of them.

I don't expect you to get it right away, but playing around with this mindset could very well mean that you will be able to go to the correct area of the fretboard, even if you don't have
perfect pitch and know what note it is that you are trying to find.


Since man does not sport monstrous hands, nor 13 fingers on each hand, you can pretty much assume that the next set of notes will be in close proximity to the one that you first found. The first note by the way gets it started. In my opinion, if you can find the very first note of a guitar solo or melody, you can crack the code for the entire thing.

You should put a LOT of emphasis on that very first note and remember where its at, because if you get lost - this is your starting point again.

The next question to ask yourself is, are the next notes higher or lower, and how much so?

Let's say that you've come to the conclusion that the next note is lower. Even if you have to do half steps, or one fret at a time to find that next note - do it. Once you find the next note, again - lock it in. Go back and play those 2 notes over and over again. We'll worry about the mechanics
of how the notes are played/expressed later.

Even for me, if I encounter a song that's pretty fast and hard to keep up with I will tend to have trouble, but you and me both have a secret weapon. The pause button on our computer or CD player. where ever you are at in the song, hit the pause button immediately after the part that's got you hung up. Don't let those other sounds interfere and throw you off. One block at a time.

Though this process might seem confusing now, if you take my advice of breaking it down, over time it will tend to happen on auto pilot. Hope this helps - best of luck.

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