Guitar Transcriptions - A basic guide for doing your own transcriptions.
How did I learn how to do my own guitar transcriptions? Well, back in the day, I read magazine articles from some of the best guitar transcribers around (Wolf Marshall, Andy Aledort, just to name a couple). They discussed using record players and half-speed tape machines to slow songs down to help figure things out...especially fast, single-note lines that were fairly common place back then.The thought of using these tools really didn't appeal to me. And the music software used to print the high-quality sheet music in the magazines and songbooks was way out of my league. So for a long time I wasn't into it.
Now the playing field is totally different. One look at Harmony Central's website and you can find any number of tablature editors and software that helps slow songs down. So it's easier than ever to get into transcribing guitar music. I've transcribed a few things...the most ambitous being Dream Theater's "Beyond this Life" and there is no way I would have been able to do it without some tools I found at Harmony Central.
The first tool I found was Powertab Guitar Transcription Software. This is a very impressive piece of software that made putting tablature into a professional looking piece of music unbelieveably easy. And best of all it's FREE shareware, even though I think he could sell it for $50-100. Very well designed, great interface, easy to use...what're you waiting for...go get it!
The second tool I found was called SlowGold. This one cost $49.95 for the full version but you can also do a trial version that lets you access the first two songs on the CD you are doing guitar transcriptions from. I can't say enough good things about it. It slows your songs down to 10% of normal speed without losing pitch! Granted it's impossible to discern the notes at this speed, but being able to slow down to 30% is very useful...particularly when figuring out some of Petrucci's faster lines. But unless you are serious about doing some of your own transcribing, I recommend not purchasing SlowGold.
Now some pointers for doing your own transcriptions:
1) Find a quiet place where nobody will be able to bother you for a while. And lock the door!!
2) Get a good set of headphones.
3) Make sure you're comfortable.
4) Get your guitar and tune to the album/song you're working on. Take your time here...you should be as close to the album as you can get to make things easier.
5) If you're using PowerTab and SlowGold, I'd spend some time with the software just to get familiar with it before you attempt anything.
Depending on the song you're trying to learn, there is obviously a varying amount of concentration that you'll need. The song "When I Come Around" by Green Day should only take about a day (given your experience level) to figure out (if that!); whereas "Beyond this Life" took me about 2 weeks going at about 6-8 hours a day!
Whatever songs you want to figure out...you should do all of the things I mentioned. It will make things a lot easier.