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Transcribing Archives

Ask Damian Erskine

Who Should I Transcribe?

A reader sent Damian a question on the topic of transcribing after getting advice from others he didn’t agree with. Damian offers up his recommendations on how to approach transcribing as one of the important learning exercises in our bass playing.

Creative Bass Lines

Bass Bebop for Beginners: Part 2

Here is the second Parker line as promised – you can put it together with the C-7 F7 line from Part 1 and you get a cool turnaround lick: D-7 to G7 leading to C-7 to F7! So that gives you a nice two bar iii vi ii v line in B?. (And be sure to check out Part 1...

Creative Bass Lines

Bass Bebop for Beginners: Part 1

Today we’re starting with the first part of a new series on bebop bass, a topic a lot of my students are getting into lately. Our goal is to incorporate some great bebop vocabulary on the bass guitar. There is a ton of stuff out there to help you get started. Look for books on Charlie Parker solos, for example....

Ask Damian Erskine

Applying Licks from Transcriptions

Q: I consider myself as a good reader. I can sight read music both in bass and treble clef, and I like to challenge myself with complex etude like those on the Patitucci book or classical pieces. But every time I come across jazz studies, (bebop in particular), I struggle to understand what’s in the mind of the player and...

Ask Damian Erskine

How To Apply Your Transcriptions

Q: Can you give an example of how I might explore using the things I’ve transcribed in some way? I’ve been transcribing a lot this year (as a music student), but I’m not sure how to apply it or get anything from it. A: I spent years transcribing tunes, solos, melodies and bass lines before I ever really figured out...

Ask Damian Erskine

Could I Work as a Transcriptionist?

Q: I have a question and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. Lately I’ve been thinking about a career change. Quick background: I graduated from Missouri State University two and a half years ago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. I’m not happy at my current job, and a part of me has always regretted...

The Lowdown with Dr. D

Working with Printed Transcriptions

Studying transcriptions of masterful performances can provide a wealth of learning material for a musician. Musically speaking, we will gain the most by completing our own transcriptions, entirely by ear, of course. However, there is still a great deal to be gained by working from published transcriptions by other musicians, provided we approach them in the right way. Certainly there...


App Makes Transcribing Easier

If you’re in the market for an app to help you transcribe the songs you want to learn, Transcribe+ aims to help. The app, designed for iPhone and iPad, allows you to import a song from your music library, change the speed and key, create loops, see the music’s waveform and even take notes. A version of the app, with...

Ask Damian Erskine

How To Learn Difficult Bass Parts

Q: I would like to know what is the best way to approach and learn difficult bass parts, for example if I decide to try to figure out the bass solo to Stanley Clarke’s “School days”. A: The best way I’ve found to tackle difficult lines is a three-fold process. 1. Get it in your ears. Put the bass down...

Ask Damian Erskine

Making Transcribing Easier

Q: I have no real problem (anymore) performing publicly with groups/bands, with taking a solo, or with people overhearing me practice (though of course I try to be considerate). But I have an anxiety around transcribing that feels almost like stage fright, and I can’t quite get myself to incorporate it into my daily practice routine. In my mind –...

The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: It Takes One To Know One

How do I play that bass line? Why do I have to use my pinky? Can’t we skip all the theory stuff? These are just some of the questions raised by a student in a recent lesson. Some of these are easy to answer… like the usefulness of the pinky finger (two heads are better than one, four fingers are...

Ask Damian Erskine

Learning Songs Note for Note vs. Doing Your Own Thing

Q: I have been playing bass for a while now and when I play covers, I usually create my own lines for the song (unless it is an integral part of the song, like “Another One Bites The Dust”). I tend not to worry about learning the original bass line. Lately, I have been thinking that my approach may be...