UPDATE: we won a Grammy Award for this album!
I’m writing this from a beautiful recording studio outside El Paso, Texas where I’m spending a week recording Snarky Puppy’s next album.
We’re aiming to record roughly 20 new songs this week.
SIDENOTE: Recently I mentioned my “painter’s tape” preparation method for memorizing 24 Snarky Puppy songs in a week before a tour. I wrote about it here.
Yesterday we tracked an original of song of mine.
Let me tell you how ridiculously awesome it is to have this remarkable group of musicians interpret your music.
1 bassist, 2 guitars, 3 drummers, 3 percussionists, 4 horns, and 4 keyboardists. Each plays their tail off as a soloist, but also is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. The result is a studio full of people caring about the details, shape, and arc of each song. It’s an ideal creative scene.
Memorizing tunes in a hurry
So far we’ve learned and tracked 9 songs in 3 days—without a single note written down.
How is that possible?
The word transcribing means different things to different people. To me, it has nothing to do with notation. It’s about learning music by ear, from recordings, one phrase at a time.
I’m sure any of the 1,000+ people who’ve been part of my online saxophone studio over the past 5 years would tell you I’m a staunch advocate of learning to transcribe. It’s one reason we do a monthly group transcription challenge.
Transcribing: it’s not just for learning solos
The band wakes up each morning—after being in the studio until 2 am—to an email with a couple new songs to learn by lunch time. Everyone learns the music by ear.
Each person has their unique way of doing it. One guy will sit and listen to each song repeatedly in headphones until he feels he’s got the entire roadmap in his mind. Another uses a looping program on his laptop. Some just use play/pause/rewind on a Dropbox file. I’m using an iPhone app called the amazing slow downer. I’m not slowing anything down, it just allows me to create lots of mini loops for each section of the song.
This way I can repeat each phrase ad nauseum without having to keep touching the phone.
Years of transcribing solos gave me a tool that allows me to learn music faster and remember it longer. If transcribing is one of those things you keep putting off, I encourage you to start doing it…yesterday.