music transcription

A New Twist to Ear Training

If you're looking for a way to spice up your ear and rhythm training, try music transcription. Several weeks ago, my student K, a seven-year old beginner, walked in with a CD to share with me. On it are three Indi pop songs he would really like to learn. They are quite catchy. He asked if I would be able to transcribe the notes for him as no sheet music is available.

The thing with these catchy foreign pop songs is that the rhythms and harmonies are rather complex. Polyrhythms are quite common. The harmonies aren't your standard I-IV-V-I progression. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Remember S? He's my talented 12-year-old student who fell out of music last month? He's doing all right now. I assigned him a quick study several grades below his current level. Last week, I also paired him up with the student who comes after him so he can coach her on a song.

Back to K's catchy tunes. To my surprise, I have discovered that S has near to perfect pitch. The discovery inspired me to enlist S to help me transcribe K's Hindi pop songs. Today, I tried the same exercise with G, another talented 10 year-old intermediate student. He enjoyed the project immensely. I have since decided to ask all my intermediate and senior students to "assist" transcribing K's songs.

I doubt any of my students realize that I'm asking them to do rhythmic and melodic dictation, two activities associated with transcription. I didn't learn these until university so I want my students to start while they're young. For the time being, they just know that it's a cool application of ear training, that they are learning about the music of a different culture and helping a junior student.

Someone will definitely have to perform one of these songs at an upcoming recital.

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