Hello, I’m a full time transcriber and wanted to share these tips on transcribing that helped me when learning. This was authored by Russ Elton (Trivium’s official transcriber) and he helped train me until I was ready to transcribe on my own. I‘ll also answer any questions any of you might have regarding it. I’d figured this would be better as a new thread as it is pretty long.
- You need Amazing Slow Downer and/or RiffStation. These apps let you slow songs down w/o affecting pitch, add vocal remover, separate the audio by channel, change pitch to whatever you want [so you don't have to retune your guitar], etc. They are fundamental and will help you a lot.
- This may seem obvious but when you're trying to find a note, play along with the note until the two notes blend into each other. Just like when you're tuning your guitar and you hit the 5th fret on low E and open A ... if they aren't matching, you'll hear the in/out sound of the dissonance. Once they're both in tune, you hear it blend into each other perfect. The same will happen when you tab. I wasn't kidding when I said I started out by slowing songs down note for note ... I had them VERY slow so I could do this trick.
- If you think you have the riff down but it doesn't sound exactly like the studio when you play it, then you're probably missing something. In the past I would think maybe it's the tone, or maybe another instrument is making it sound different .... but I'd eventually find the mistake and then it would sound perfect. With few exceptions, if what you're playing doesn't sound quite right then it's probably not.
- Search for videos of the original guitarist playing the riff/solo. The closer to the date of the studio album the better because even pros will forget or play things a little differently as time goes by. Keep in mind things could be different live due to positioning if the guitarist is also singing or something. AND, some guitarists do multiple takes in the studio so when in doubt, go with the studio if you definitely hear an open string or slide, etc.
- Until you get the ability to pick out separate notes in a chord, first try to find the main sound [root] of the chord. If the chord is x54, you should be able to hunt around and hear that x57 sounds pretty good. But then, as I mentioned in point #3, try different chords based on that D note until it sounds perfect. Try x53, x54, x55, x58, etc. Over time you'll be able to hear that higher note and not have to guess as much.
- After you've figured a riff out, listen to it again near full speed and follow along with your tab. Sometimes when you listen slow you may miss things that are obvious when they're near full speed. One example for me was in Metallica's "Dyers Eve". There's a part between riffs where, because I had it very slow, I heard 5-6 notes descending in a scale pattern. After speeding it up, it was just a slide down the A string. Usually this trick will help you with positioning though. Something like a 3-4 note pattern that repeats sounds more obvious fast.
- It can be harder to distinguish notes as they get pretty low, like the first few frets on a 7-string. Sometimes it helps to change the pitch +5 semi-tones and listen again.
- For positioning, listen for things like a note ringing over the next few notes or little shift sounds/slide noises/quick pull-offs, etc. A lot of times that helps lock something in position and then you can work backwards from there (i.e. if this is definitely in the 15th fret position, then previous lick is probably close to that).