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  1. #1

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    I ask this question because now that I'm done school, there are many people in my circles who are harping for me to get a job. And the job that they want from me are those 9-5'ers desk jobs and ordinary jobs. The only jobs that have appeal to me are only found in Hollywood and Nashville relating to music.

    Anyways, if anyone has been reading some of my posts on this forum; you would find posts where I display my addiction to transcribing. I aspire myself to become a composer, whether it's writing songs for artists or film scoring, that's what I really want to do if I have my way. Right now in composition, I am very good at writing jazz ballads, but I am still working on expanding to other writing styles in jazz. But lately I am beginning to discover that I have a passion in transcribing. For me transcribing is fun. I enjoy it. I can do it all day 24/7 365 days a year. Its my passion.

    When I was a small boy, I enjoy solving jigsaw puzzles. I began with 10 pieces, then it gradually turned to 1k pieces as I became an older kid. Because of time and change, I don't have the time and chance to solve jigsaw puzzles anymore. However, my brain is still working the same way and I found an alternative to jigsaw puzzles with transcribing.

    I got so much fun at transcribing that I'm already beginning to transcribe voicings, bass lines, and accompaniment. I would love to do a job related to transcribing. I don't care if I am not paid that much, what matters is that I love what I'm doing.

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  3. #2

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    There are certainly professional transcription services, often they are composer/arrangers looking for additional income that uses their skills. Usually, customers might be busy musicians whose composing is more performance based and organic, and rather than writing or laboring over a score, they might just record their music and hire a transcriber to write them some charts for sharing or hiring other musicians. That's the way I'd roll if I was in a hurry.

    After Miles went electric, his composing method was often about long jams on ideas, which he would record, and if there was something he really liked, he would send the tapes to Gil Evans to transcribe and arrange for him, creating composed charts for future recording or performing.

    You'd just have to find a customer base for yourself to exploit.


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  4. #3

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    Like several aspects related to musical employment, the internet has also infringed on
    transcription employment by the sheer availability of free transcriptions posted.
    Some are very accurate and others less accurate, similar to tabs available.
    You can find people selling their jazz transcriptions online. I don't know that they are
    paying royalties to the players or the composers, copyright doesn't cover improvisation.
    Still publishers continue to put out some books and I know some of the online educational music education sights are hiring a transcription person.

  5. #4

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    I was a pro transcriber for awhile. It wasn't paying anything to live off of, but it was fun. Mostly rock and pop tunes though, standard and tab. We all had to make videos too. It's out there on Youtube somewhere, the company was called United We Tab

  6. #5

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    Any "job" someone pays you to do is a valid job.

  7. #6

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    How about trying to get some scholarship to study composition? Or work your way through it?

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Sioco
    I got so much fun at transcribing that I'm already beginning to transcribe voicings, bass lines, and accompaniment. I would love to do a job related to transcribing. I don't care if I am not paid that much, what matters is that I love what I'm doing.
    I've not personally met anyone that does this full time, but, have several friends that do this kind of thing as part of their income, alongside teaching, playing gigs, and other stuff musicians do to make a living. If I were in your shoes, I'd reach out to a publisher that publishes transcriptions, and see what they offer. I would guess that most of this work would be done on a contract basis, but, I know very little about this kind of business. I do know that sheet music sales are not really skyrocketing so I'm not really sure how much money there is in this kind of work, but, if it works for you, cool?

  9. #8

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    I have little experience in the music business, but I suspect composing and arranging would be more lucrative than transcribing, especially if you can get a foothold in the movie business.

    John Knowles often talks about his arranging work for Chet Atkins. I think Chet might throw some ideas at John, John would work out an arrangement, play it for Chet, then Chet would rework that arrangement and make it his own. I think John often transcribed the result. But the music business was much different then.

  10. #9

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    It is not clear what you are asking. When older people tell younger people to "get a job", what they mean is "support yourself financially". The usual way for a young person to support themselves, especially without any capital to invest, is to get a job doing work in someone else's business. Are you are asking whether you can get hired by a business that sells transcriptions or transcription services and get a regular salary that will support you, provide you with security, and cover your healthcare needs? The answer is most likely no. I know of no such businesses offering a living wage for people to transcribe music. But you will have to make your own search. Maybe?

    The other way to support yourself financially is by owning and operating a business. Since most people have no capital to invest, their only option is trying to be a freelance professional. But don't fool yourself. You need capital for that too. You have to be able to support yourself while building the business and during lean times. Girlfriends and parents are usually the only source of that capital, and you have to assess whether you can count on that or not.

    Being a free lance professional anything, whether it be lawyer, musician, or dog walker, isn't a "job". It's a business. You are selling one product with limited availability: You. It is up to you to find people who want to buy your services. It's up to you to collect money for those services. It is up to you to actually provide those services. And it is up to you to figure out whether you can find enough people to pay you enough money to cover your costs and make a living.

    Having a business selling your transcription services and supporting yourself financially seems a tall order. But then again I would never have thought that you could support yourself posting videos about eating at all-you-can-eat buffets or building Lego sets. But there are people out there doing just that, so who knows?

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP
    I have little experience in the music business, but I suspect composing and arranging would be more lucrative than transcribing,
    Composing and arranging are not lucrative. My composition teacher at Juilliard, a very accomplished composer himself, called composing a "non-career" in front of a roomful of music students. This was 15 years ago and things have not improved. There is a great podcast section by Leo Sidran called "settling the underscore" that is about the modern jingle industry:

    82: Settling the Underscore Vol. 1 - First Impressions — The Third Story Podcast with Leo Sidran

    Summary: writing music for advertisements is a very demanding profession. As with many things, the fun parts do not pay very much, and the un-fun parts are really necessary if you want to make an actual living. As someone who's always been able to write music pretty well on the spot, I've considered doing things like this briefly as kind of a retirement gig or as a break from my regular career, but after listening to the 4 part podcast, I decided my day gig is pretty great.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by BBGuitar
    Any "job" someone pays you to do is a valid job.
    Not according to the folks in this guys circle: "there are many people in my circles who are harping for me to get a job. And the job that they want from me are those 9-5'ers desk jobs and ordinary jobs".

    I assume many in this circle are the ones paying his bills.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald
    Composing and arranging are not lucrative.
    I imagine it is for the folks who make it into the top tier, but it would be tough to get there.
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  14. #13

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    Guthrie Govan did transcriptions for a living early in his career.

  15. #14

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    Maybe back in the day the transcribing business was ok, think of all these sheet music in the stores, guitar mags, etc. If you wanted your Led Zep note for note you had to buy it.

    Today with sooooo much free lessons, tabs, on youtube and ultimateguitar and all of those free sites, who wants to pay? The market shrunked so much I'd think.

  16. #15

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    It was the summer of 1978. I had just turned 18 years old and had sent some transcriptions to Frank Zappa. He responded by putting me on salary to transcribe tons of music, everything from lead sheets to orchestral scores. The bulk of the work was guitar solos, some with their accompanying drum parts. Frank played all the guitars and Vinnie Colaiuta was the drummer. These guys used to take it out to lunch, experimenting a lot with rhythms and odd phrases. My task was to transcribe the stuff the best way I thought possible.


    Steve Vai had a good start in life.

  17. #16

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    I know someone who worked for ASCAP transcribing recordings and broadcasts (I'm not sure of the full details of what he did, but he's retired now). You could look into that (or one of the other rights organizations), but it's a dwindling field because of automation.

    John

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    I know someone who worked for ASCAP transcribing recordings and broadcasts (I'm not sure of the full details of what he did, but he's retired now). You could look into that (or one of the other rights organizations), but it's a dwindling field because of automation.

    John
    Yep, now you can just play the notes into transcription software from a midi keyboard. I'd guess most composers/arrangers either are doing that or will be in the future. Who would be your customers... maybe songwriters who don't know how to read or write music?

    Levi Clay is a youtube blogger who is making a living transcribing and writing guitar instruction books and providing youtube content. You might look into that. You have to be able to draw a big youtube following to make that happen.

  19. #18

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    The Internet has certainly changed everything in the last decade. It seems that the business of professional transcribing in the traditional sense has almost evaporated. Major publishing houses like Hal Leonard and Mel Bay are currently releasing very little in that format. I wrote a book of Chuck Wayne transcriptions some years ago (in Sibelius to save reformatting work) with access to original manuscripts via Chuck's widow, rare photographs, an extensive accompanying text, a forward by Jack Wilkins, etc. Despite highly encouraging emails with the heads of print divisions in the houses mentioned and many others, it basically came to nothing. Luckily, a private benefactor who was an ex-student of Chuck's paid for my time. Even someone like Wolf Marshall (a leading transcriber in great demand during the '80s & '90s who incidentally was highly impressed by my work and instrumental in providing contacts) has diversified into teaching via Skype/Zoom and lecturing at UCLA.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick
    It was the summer of 1978. I had just turned 18 years old and had sent some transcriptions to Frank Zappa. He responded by putting me on salary to transcribe tons of music, everything from lead sheets to orchestral scores. The bulk of the work was guitar solos, some with their accompanying drum parts. Frank played all the guitars and Vinnie Colaiuta was the drummer. These guys used to take it out to lunch, experimenting a lot with rhythms and odd phrases. My task was to transcribe the stuff the best way I thought possible.


    Steve Vai had a good start in life.
    I was going to mention Steve Vai. At the beginning, Zappa told him to invest in his own recording equipment. Having his own recording studio has allowed Steve to be as creative as he wants. He doesn't need to please a Record Label. He owns his own!

  21. #20

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    Let's also not forget that the ability to transcribe directly from audio to midi is getting more and more sophisticated. See Ableton, AnthemScore, and others.

    Human transcription is yet another dead-end job that will soon be made obsolete by technology.