Jennifer Batten Explores Transcribe! — A Powerful Program to Learn New Material

I have worked with a lot of musicians during my career and am always surprised when they turn up to a rehearsal and have not learned a tune correctly.

Depending on your listening environment, your ears can easily play tricks on you.

You can think you heard notes that are either not there, or are actually overtones, or even notes that are being played on a different instrument than yours that you believe are your own instrument.

The discrepancies are especially apparent during rehearsal if two or more instruments are supposed to be playing the same single note line together.

So it never ceases to amaze me how few musicians use or even know about the computer-only app called “Transcribe!” from (Mac/Windows/Linux). What it is first and foremost is a slow downer for audio AND video, but it does so much more.

There are a lot of cheap slow downer apps for tablets and smart phones, but they don’t begin to touch the power of this program.

When I have a new gig booked with 10 or 15 new songs to learn, I drag every song into Transcribe! and listen down at least a few times before I begin to figure it out with my guitar. Then, I will make section markers (S) which I can custom name “verse,” “chorus,” “solo,” for instance and maybe add measure markers (M) as well, for areas I need to slow down and work on. Then you can zip from marker to marker with shift + right or left bracket.

Watch my quick start tutorial here:

SPEED/PITCH: On the app’s main page you will find preset speed buttons as well as a speed slider and pitch change slider.

LOOPS: It’s easy to zoom in, (⌘ + →)(Apple’s command key would be ‘Control’ key for Windows) see the downbeats in the waveform and then click and drag to make a perfect loop. You can also store multiple loops for later recall with a simple shift + click in the “misc” window. (To zoom out ⌘+ ←)

KARAOKE: Having the ability to slow music down without changing the pitch can be a godsend, but there are a few other things that you can do to hear even more clearly. At the top of the main window there is a button called “FX” that will toggle in the detail window where you can for instance activate karaoke mode. What that does is remove the center of the stereo spectrum where the lead instrument or vocal is. That is especially useful for singers who can then experiment with the pitch slider to see what their most comfortable singing range is for a song. Karaoke mode is also great for any lead instrument to practice playing along with the track, or just a section of the track. You can toggle karaoke on/off as learning the tune progresses. You can also export your minus one track and send it to bandmates to work with.

EQ: You can click on EQ and for instance instantly remove the bass from the audio with the “bass remove” preset. Now, what you have left is the ability to hear only the drums and rhythm guitar and/or keyboards so you can hear chords more clearly. You can also alter individual frequencies to really zone in on what you want to hear.

So I urge readers to get this app as you will find that it is one of the best virtual coaches available, and will help immensely with accuracy.

  • By learning a half a dozen shortcuts it will help you to easily dominate this program in a hurry. Here are a couple more:
  • To make a loop full screen = ⌘ + F
  • To make the entire song fit in the screen equals ⌘ + G

When you are playing along with a track, make sure your guitar is a little less volume than the track you’re learning. That way you are not masking what is really there and will hear discrepancies to correct easier.

Music is learned best when taken in small chunks, slowly. Your brain records everything (including repeated mistakes), so play slowly and perfectly, then speed up in small increments.

You can also drag a video into Transcribe!, and, for instance, see where a players hands are on the neck, and slow down what their fingers are doing!

I’ll be digging into this app plus multiple other subjects in 15-20 min chunks, during my summer USA tour called “Jennifer Batten’s Self-Empowerment for the Modern Musician Experience.” Find out more at

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