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Transcribing vocal melodies

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Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:19 am

Hi all,

I have a whole bunch of sheets of A4 paper with chords and lyrics on, some of which are ageing - pen and pencil only lasts so long in things like sunlight. First step is to scan them all in so I have a "forever" digital copy on Dropbox, but it would make sense to try and transcribe them into sheet music form for when I want to use a Vocaloid to mimic human singing (I know Vocaloids are no replacement for a human singer but I would like to experiment, hence why I also downloaded a MIDI synth!!!), which would need me to enter in the notes.

Besides all that, Vocaloid or no, it would be good to stretch myself to learn to read music better by transcribing my own songs. I know the basics - rhythm and pitch - I just don't have the practice.

So given I don't have perfect pitch, but I do have a digital piano with MIDI out and a good score editing software (MuseScore) with MIDI input, does anyone have any tips theory-wise to help me work out what the notes I've been singing are. I've tried singing into a tuner but it's not really helping. Plus, the sound I hear in my head, can be different to what actually comes out!

I have the chords and the keys of all the songs of course. I just need to match lyrics to notes!
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby CS70 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:46 am

Melodyne or similar do just that , find the notes you sing so they can correct ‘em afterwards :-)
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:49 am

I have thought of that, and I do intend to buy the cheapest version of Melodyne for precisely that purpose!

However, for now, I have more important things to buy my studio (such as DI boxes), and while it may be harder, I wonder whether doing things without computer help might be better for my musicality!

But good shout out on Melodyne. It's number 4 on my studio to-buy list.

EDIT: When I say "without computer help" I don't include score editing software and MIDI keyboards to be "computer help" :lol:
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:58 am

I just checked my lists..... Apparently downloading the Melodyne trial was on my Christmas break todo list! I completely forgot.... Will give it a bash for a couple of songs and if I like it and feel it's useful, I might be able to persuade my better half ;)
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:53 am

The simple answer is just to learn the tune, then play it on the piano. It's the old way, but it's how Mozart did it! :lol:
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:55 am

That's exactly what I intended to do Elf! But I was more asking if there were any tips for finding the right note on the piano for my vocal?

For instance, are there certain notes in a key that would normally be sung over a certain matching chord? Tips like this will help me learn the notes quicker.

EDIT, For instance would you expect over C Major, to normally be sung C, F, and G? That kind of theory will help me find what the note I'm singing is.

Thanks :)

EDIT 2: C, F and G are purely for example of course. I just gave the major notes, I IV and V.
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:04 am

Follow up: I recall someone once telling me that vocal melodies are usually based around the notes in the chord.

So for a bar beginning with a C major chord, you'd expect C E or G to be sung first.

But I have no idea if that's actually true.

EDIT: But if it was, when trying to find the notes on my piano, it'd give me a starting point.
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:28 am

You're over-thinking it, mate!

Listen to the melody and copy it on the piano keys until it sounds right. Job done!
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:30 am

The Elf wrote:You're over-thinking it, mate!

No change there, then ;) :lol:

The Elf wrote:Listen to the melody and copy it on the piano keys until it sounds right. Job done!

That was my first idea... Was hoping there was some theory I could apply to speed things up! But ho-hum, guess it's the good ol-fashioned way for me: "using my ears"
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:31 am

garrettendi wrote:Follow up: I recall someone once telling me that vocal melodies are usually based around the notes in the chord.
The chord will strongly suggest the notes that will accompany it, but it's not as strict as you seem to want to believe. Try it as starting point with your own melodies and see if it hangs together.

garrettendi wrote:So for a bar beginning with a C major chord, you'd expect C E or G to be sung first.
No, That's not really true. If that were universally the case then music would be even more boring than it is now!

What you're listing are basic guides, but not rules.
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:32 am

The Elf wrote:No, it's not really true. If that were universally the case then music would be even more boring than it is now!

...And I'd be even more trouble than I already am... Still trying to learn to sing to pitch ;)
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby blinddrew » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:27 pm

Here's a little exercise that I remember reading about from Joe Satriani 20-odd years ago.
Take your preferred instrument and play random notes on it, but after each note, sing that note as well. Move around the whole of the fretboard / keyboard atonally. Do that for ten minutes. Then reverse it. Sing a note and then find it on the fretboard. Do that for ten minutes. Then do both at the same time (or try to) for ten minutes.
It's a useful routine for both improving your pitch but also for developing your improvisation skills,
Like all structured practice it's boring and a bit of a chore - but it is effective. :)
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby garrettendi » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:36 pm

Thanks for the tip! I can really use that practice :thumbup:
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:10 pm

All good stuff.

When you're working out the melodies, the pattern of notes should begin to hint at the key you're in. The key will then begin to suggest the chords - it eventually becomes second nature.
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby petev3.1 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:40 pm

blinddrew wrote:Here's a little exercise that I remember reading about from Joe Satriani 20-odd years ago.
Take your preferred instrument and play random notes on it, but after each note, sing that note as well. Move around the whole of the fretboard / keyboard atonally. Do that for ten minutes. Then reverse it. Sing a note and then find it on the fretboard. Do that for ten minutes. Then do both at the same time (or try to) for ten minutes.
It's a useful routine for both improving your pitch but also for developing your improvisation skills,
Like all structured practice it's boring and a bit of a chore - but it is effective. :)

Very excellent advice!

Sing a note, find it on the keyboard, write it in the score, Job done. It will probably be the rhythms that cause you more trouble than the notes in the end. If you follow blindandrew's advice you'll soon start singing more accurately and finding the notes with ease. Or, add a random note in the score and move it around until it's the right one.

I would strongly advise not buying technology to help you avoid learning basic musical skills. It might not be strictly necessary for finding and entering the notes but you may struggle with no knowledge of scales and keys.
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Re: Transcribing vocal melodies

Postby CS70 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:50 pm

The Elf wrote:You're over-thinking it, mate!

Listen to the melody and copy it on the piano keys until it sounds right. Job done!

I've been transcribing stuff since I started playing guitar (around 30 years ago) but I still find that that's simple for easy tunes, but can be a hard for anything a little more advanced. We (I,
at least) tend to hear what we feel is there rather than what it is, especially at speed. Lots of Mozart stuff is that way! A slowdown device is very useful for these (and can be bloody painful to detach your mind from what it wants to hear).

Ymmv of course. Maybe it's just me. :)
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