Learn, how to transcribe!

Hello everyone! Today I’ll explain how I transcribe anime music. And in order to do this, I’ll show you an example of my transcribing process.

(if you only want the Sankarea OP – Esoragoto sheets: just jump to the bottom of this page)

How to transcribe (anime) music – a guide by Animenz

Requirements:

  1. an absolute pitch or at least a relative pitch
  2. a notation software (there are some free notation software you can download, but the really good ones are commercial, so you have to buy it. Or pirate it…)
  3. a piano or keyboard
  4. and last but not least an ounce of inspiration and creativity

To start with the transcription, you naturally have to listen to the music piece you want to transcribe. Most TV-size openings/endings are short (roughly 1-2 minutes), so listen to it at least five times to grasp the basics of the music.

The first thing I notate is the melody. But before I start with this, I have to name my sheet and provide some information about the piece like key signature, time signature, and tempo. Just make use of your ears if you want to determine key signature etc. To determine the tempo, use a metronom. For the rest: google.

It should look like this:

Then I’ll proceed with writing down the melody. Most j-pop music have a typical Cross-rhythm with lots of dotted notes.

Notice that the first note is a upbeat. So you have to add an upbeat-bar.

As soon as I have finished the basic melody, I add the chords. Simply listen to the piece and figure out which tone is the bass. In this case, it has only basic chords like D-major, G-major, b-minor, A-major and e-minor. I usually notate triads.

Proceed like that with the whole sheet and – congratulations! You have finished a basic sheet of your piece. But of course I am far from being satisfied yet with this sheet.

Therefore, I have a  four sacred principles I always comply with. They are called variation, details, transitions and original ending.

1. Variation

I always use many different accompaniments for the left hand in order to make the sheet more interesting. Usually, my accompaniments adapts original rhythm of the music piece.

For example, here are my six different accompaniments of the d-major chord (in order of appearance)

It’s only six of countless possibilities

I also vary the melody in the right hand. Usually I make use of additional octaves or thirds. Or simply paraphrase the melody.

2. Details

My transcriptions always include some “details”, or in other words –  melodies which is played in the background.

For example, the very beginning of the piece Esoragoto starts with the voice, a d-major chord played by a guitar… and a very high pitched melody in the background played by a synthesizer. In order to play this “second voice” I have to relocate the right-hand melody into left hand but one problem remains, however:

The red framed chord is impossible to play and if you use an arpeggio it sounds strange. So my only option is to modify the second voice a little bit. The goal is to create an alternative which should be both playble and similar to the original.

3. Transitions

I often add some transitions between passages. Usually I write transitions if a musical theme is changing. (for example if the chorus begins) Or if there’s a change in the key signature (for example, d-major changes to c-sharp major).

I also tend to write short transitions between very long notes to fill in the gap (usually a whole note).

In Esogaroto, I wrote a short transition before the the first verse repeats…

… and a short transition before the chorus begins:

In my opinion, transitions makes the music flow better, but that’s probably a matter of taste.

4. Original Ending

This is the only principle that does not always have to be present. Since I mainly transcribe TV-sized OP/ED, the music sometimes ends abruptly or it don’t end on a tonic chord. There are different ways to handle this: Either you add a entirely “new” ending or you just “reuse” some parts of your sheet. For example, here is the original ending (TV-size opening)

It’s not a big problem though if you would leave it like that, but I prefer to end it in tonic in order to give the impression the music has finished.

In this case, I simply reused the beginning of Esogaroto and made only minimal changes  to create a alternate ending.

Alright everyone, that’s enough for today (I have spend four hours captioning and writing this post and I am really tired now).

Thank you for your attention, and I hope after reading this post, you get a better insight in the working methods of me.

Animenz

-= Download the sheet and the midi file here =-

[Esoragoto]       (difficulty: average)

Finally…. I….. can… rest… now……. zzzzZZZZZ…

31 thoughts on “Learn, how to transcribe!

  1. Pingback: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT | Animenz Piano sheets

    • I believe he has an absolute pitch, people having it are quite lucky, but not only lucky, because you need to improve talent and learn to use it as well.
      My opinion is even those, who were not born with an absolute pitch can get the relative pitch through a lot of education and practise.
      Maybe you won’t be able to transcribe any music piece smoothly, I believe so you’ll be able to make fine transcriptions with relative pitch too.
      Even if you want to work as a musician you’ll be fine with a relative pitch, if you don’t want to be a composer that is.

      Ps: Thank you for the awesome pieces, Animenz!

  2. Thank you for your hard work making this post~ I’m sure a lot of people appreciate it like I do ^^ ♥ Arigatou Gozaimasu!! >w< ((I'm looking forward to the K Project Anime OP you're currently in the process of transcribing ^^))

  3. How do you practice listening to the pitch? How do you know which note it is when you listen to the original one? Anyway i could improve this? Thankyou for making this post.

    • Go to youtube and take some relative pitch practice/test. Relative pitch is being able to start from a note and recognize notes played after that (perfect pitch recognizes any note without a starting note you can’t get this unless you are born with it). Best way to be good at it is try some songs you love (catchy is best).

      You do not need to know the original one in the end it doesn’t really matter it will sound good. But you do have to be in the right octave.

      • It’s not that few people are born with absolute pitch. You can learn it just like you learn colors, it’s just that most musicians acquire it at a young age as children tend to learn most things quicker.

  4. I’m quite interested in the playability part. Generally, what spans of chords and what hand-jumping veloicities are playable?

    • He uses Sibelius, but that costs an arm. Free one is Finale 🙂

      Though, there are other means to getting it without selling your arm….*cough tpb*

  5. Can I ask, what is the transcription software that you use? Thanks! My software has no support for Japanese font, and this software wasway back in 2005 according to Wikipedia.

  6. Thank you so much Animenz! You are amazing!!! You don’t know how long I’ve been searching for a lesson about transcribing anime music! I appreciate this post soooo soooo much!!!! I now understand how to transcribe anime music! You are amazing and KEEP ON PLAYING!

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    I LOVE YOU FOR PUTTING LEN’S PIC THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  8. You lost me in the perfect pitch, I’m like half deaf (I’m not deaf but I’m not good at hearing, sometimes people have to repeat the same thing because I can’t understand). But thanks for the advice!

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  11. wow, my problem is when i heard music i can guess the pitch but, usually sometimes when i guess a note (e.g do in do=c, the right one is do in do=a and sometime wrong octave) always like that … what should i do so i dont make my mistake repeated in the future???

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