Author Topic: Best way to hear music for the purposes of transcription  (Read 346 times)

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Offline nhill40

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Best way to hear music for the purposes of transcription
« on: January 06, 2019, 12:08:35 am »
I have been working very hard and, I think, steadily improving at playing strictly by ear...but I'm wondering if anyone would have any advice on what they find to be the most effective way to really hear music at the level of detail/understanding required to be able to replicate what you're hearing.

Though I've listened and enjoyed music my entire life, I've never been what you'd call an audiophile.  I am relatively ignorant when it comes to speakers, headphones, etc and have never really accumulated anything resembling "nice" audio gear.

When trying to learn a song and really hear the various parts - bass, rhythm, lead - what do people find to be the best approach?  I understand that there is likely a bit of variation for personal preference and probably also some variance based on the type of music being learned, but I would much appreciate some tips.

One of my go-to setups (though I'm a bit skeptical it's really the best way to listen) is, I think, probably a bit strange.  I plug one of those Vox "amPlug" AC30 mini amps into my guitar, plug my smart phone into the "aux" jack of the mini Vox (via a 3.5 mm cable) and then plug my over-the-ear headphones (a ~$30 Audio Technica set) into the "phones" jack of the min Vox.  Then I just fiddle around with the output volume of my smartphone until it's in decent balance with the guitar and then start strumming away.

It seems to work ok, but I'm not sure I hear the bass very well...I'm wondering if my job would be made easier with some nicer headphones and/or introducing an EQ between the source of the music and my ears.

Offline Majik

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Re: Best way to hear music for the purposes of transcription
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 12:48:07 am »
You definitely don't need high-end stuff to transcribe.

However, I tend to agree your current setup could be limiting the quality of the audio, which might impact on your ability to hear stuff well.

Does the bass sound better if you listen to the music with your headphones directly connected to the smart phone? If so, then the Amplug is impacting the audio quality. If not, then you might want to get some new headphones, although you needn't spend a fortune.

The other thing to check is that the phone itself isn't limiting the quality, or that you aren't listening to low-bit-rate MP3s which can sound poor.

To give you an example of what I use: I use the Transcribe! program on my computer, listening to it with fairly cheap Sennheiser PX-200-ii headphones (this is not a specific recommendation for these headphones, just an example of what works for me). I also have some Sennheiser HD 500's that I use for more casual and critical listening, although I don't really use these for transcribing.

Despite the noise coming out of the audiophile camps, modern digital audio technology is actually very good (if you avoid low-bitrate MP3s). The biggest issue tends to be badly mixed/mastered music. But if you get a decent copy of a song in a decent format (256k or better MP3/AAC or a lossless format like FLAC or WAV) then you only need relatively modest equipment to be able to resolve it enough for transcribing purposes.

My gut feeling is, if there is an audio quality issue in your case, it's the Amplug causing it.


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Offline nhill40

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Re: Best way to hear music for the purposes of transcription
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 02:50:16 pm »
Thank you for the tips!  I'm very glad I read your tips before taking my hunt for nicer headphones (or whatever) any further.  After incorporating some of your tips, my "cheap" set of over the ear phones are more than adequate.  I've taken to using Transcribe (which I already own but, for whatever reason, wasn't using!) and the sound quality is much better and, via the EQ, adjustable.  Live and learn.

The amplug does not seem to have an effect on sound quality.  At least for my purposes, based on my testing, it seems to be forwarding along the "aux" input very faithfully to the headphones.  I think the core culprit was using YouTube, Amazon Music, etc as a source.  Those seem to be fine options for getting music for casual listening, but should not be counted on for delivering the kind of sound quality required to hear the nitty gritty details required for picking up songs by ear.


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