Transcribing Music (for Worship)

tran·scribe  (trn-skrb)

tr.v. tran·scribedtran·scrib·ingtran·scribes
1. To make a full written or typewritten copy of (dictated material, for example).

I've transcribed a few worship songs, and shared them here.  I cannot tell you how much transcribing has improved my musical skills.  If you play instruments, or casually know a few guitar chords and want to grow your skill from your bedroom, begin to transcribe a song that you really connect with.  Here's a little of my story with transcribing.

It started when I began playing music, and playing worship songs.  My dad brought a 28.8kbs modem home from work in the early 90's, and I began to find new, fresh tunes for worship leading via the internet (I was 12-13 at that point).  It was a lesson in patience as the chord sheets and tabs wipe-loaded down the computer screen.

Problem was, I noticed that some of the chord sheets that musicians were loading on random websites didn't sound right when I played them.  Yes, I had just started playing, but it just didn't sound right when I did finally play the correct chords.  Thus began learning to transcribe.

Currently i'm working on transcribing "Your Great Name" so I can lead it for worship.

My method (typically? is there a typical? not with my personality!):
1. I hear a pop song, or am led with a song in worship, and something about the songs moves me to look deeper into it, learn to play it.
2. I look for it online (YouTube, iTunes)
3. I look for chord sheets on tab websites (ultimateguitar, for example)
4. I attempt to play the song with chord sheet, making mental notes of mistakes.
5. I modify the chord sheet (almost 100% of the chord sheets need a little help)
5. I transcribe the song fresh, with no (or very little) prior knowledge from the chord sheet.

You can't trust everything on the internet.  But, reminded me how important transcribing is to growth about a year ago: Transcribing article at

When I began transcribing, I wrote down many incorrect chords for the key I was playing in, I wrote the chords over the wrong lyrics and it took me make these mistakes.  It was entirely frustrating.  Almost as frustrating as twisting my fingers for guitar chords.  (G to D switch almost had me playing piano full time).  It is hard to figure out each chord, it takes aural training...and, for me, it was not natural.

To transcribe, I would figure out the key that the artist played it in.  In the case of "Your Great Name" - it's in Bb (yikes).  So, I would figure out the chords in that key.  To make it more difficult, there are actually two different versions of this song - so I've listened to both (both in Bb still) - and figured out which feel I liked better for worship leading.  There are trace differences between the original and Natalie Grant's pop radio version.  

I figure out both versions (or all versions - there are many for pop songs!), add which little tweaks I like from each version -and- voila!  I have a transcribed version of "Your Great Name" that is useful for me to lead worship/prayer.

It is still difficult, and still takes me a lot of work to finish a song (and discipline!) - but the result I am often happy with.

Let me know if you have been or are trying to transcribe, and let me know about your journey.

That's all for now...


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