5 Tips To Transcribe Any Solos You Wish To Learn

jazz guitar transcriptions miscellaneous practice and mindset Feb 13, 2017

Guest Post by Alanna Sharp

Have you dreamt of playing the world’s best jazz solos? Do you drool with envy anytime you hear Joe Pass?

While you’re far from alone in wanting to learn how to play and transcribe these solos, there’s only a number of ways to execute the process correctly. And there’s no doubt about it, transcribing solos is essential to learning the language of jazz.

Do you want to sound like Miles Davis or anyone of the greats? If so, start transcribing solos by any of them by ear! Since it’s definitely not easy to transcribe by ear, here are five helpful tips we came up with to get you started.

You can get our poster that summarizes the 5 tips we talked about today:


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Tip #1: Listen to it until you can sing it!

Download the song (legally ;-)), throw on the vinyl, or crank up your CD player and start blasting the solo you want to transcribe until you can sing it. No really, I mean that.

Don’t underestimate the power of repetition within your brain. The goal is to burn the music into your mind and ears so you don’t hesitate once you begin playing. Once you’ve memorized it, you’re halfway to playing it.

Tip #2: Learn the chord progressions

Chord progressions are crucial in any piece of music. Solos help you expand your mind and push the limits of what’s possible.

As you begin to tinker with chord progressions, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to come up with ideas to play over each chord. Learning chord progressions in any song helps to visualize the solo and the location of the lines in a space. Before you know it, you’ll start playing like one of the pros!

Tip #3: Break it down

One of the best ways to make the most out of your practice time is to use the scotch-tape method. Break down each part of the transcription and tape it wherever you will see it daily.

While you definitely want to put yourself on the right track, you certainly don’t want to rush it. Remember: this isn’t a competition and you don’t have to be in the first place to get the prize.

Take your time and explore how each solo speaks to you and the story it tells. Give yourself some space to experiment and explore each solo until you get it right.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to “cheat” a little

Cheating isn’t such a bad idea, at least not when you’re trying to learn how to transcribe solos!

One recommendation is to use software to slow down the most difficult parts of the solo you’re attempting to learn. Pro tip: check out the software called “Transcribe!” for extra help. Slowing things down helps you identify the chord progressions, notes, and intervals that are being played.

In some cases, you have to hear things slowly to get the ‘meat’ of the tune. Don’t worry, all the greats had to have things broken down to them before they became the players we know them as today.

Tip #5: Don’t try to learn it in one practice session

I know you want to start blowing it like all the great jazz guitarists but have some patience with yourself. It’s going to take far more than one practice session to learn how to transcribe your solo.

Again, learning how to play this instrument is a personal hobby, not something that you have to race towards to finish. In fact, the more time you take to do it, the better you’ll be at it.


Transcribing solos is far from easy, but if you choose a solo that isn’t too technically demanding and has all the right licks included, I’m confident you’ll find it to be a fulfilling and lifelong lesson. Use these five tips to get your transcribing off on the right foot.

Do not forget to get our poster that summarizes the 5 tips we talked about today:


Get Your "5 Tips To Transcribe Any Solos" Poster
Join our Community here.


Alanna Sharp resides in beautiful Austin, Texas and works as a full-time Freelance Writer. She helps businesses, magazines, and content curators. She has been typing her heart out for the past five years and has used her creativity to enhance hundreds of websites, blogs and storefronts.


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