How and Why to Transcribe Music

By: Verbit Editorial

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Recent studies show that the average global consumer spends over 18 hours a week listening to music. Listeners may access their tunes via different platforms, apps and devices depending on their preferences. Some folks may play music on an analog device like a vinyl record player, while others may prefer to listen on a mobile device through a streaming service like Spotify or YouTube Music.  

Individuals of all backgrounds enjoy music of various styles and genres, but different consumers may need to engage with music and other audio content in unique ways. Audio-only content presents accessibility challenges for individuals with some disabilities, such as those who are hard of hearing or those with auditory processing disorders. It may be surprising to some, but it’s possible to improve the accessibility of audio content – including music – with the help of assistive technologies like transcription. Let’s discuss some ways you can transcribe music to make it more accessible to listeners and fans with disabilities.  

What is music transcription? 

Transcription refers to the process of converting audio to readable text. Transcripts are often created from video content to streamline messaging and improve accessibility for those requiring additional support to engage meaningfully. Several types of transcription are available depending on the type of content and how you want to use the final transcript.  

Music transcription deals specifically with creating readable versions of pieces of music to provide a written representation of the auditory elements of the song. Transcribing music in this way allows other musicians to understand the composition of a song and to play their own versions, should they choose to do so. A musical transcript is more or less a formula that allows other musicians or fans to recreate the composition of another artist.  

Is it easy to transcribe music? 

Music notation is a process that creates a visual representation of the actual notes of a song. Notating music requires a high-level understanding of musical concepts, including pitch, rhythm, tone and more. Individuals generally need to study music and music theory to generate musical transcripts with accurate notation.  

Transcribing only the lyrics of a song requires less music-specific training, and a professional transcriptionist or transcription service can create these transcripts. Transcribing a song’s lyrics can allow listeners with disabilities to fully engage with the recording. However, a lyric-only transcript will not represent the song’s tone, style and tempo.  

How do you make music transcripts? 

If you are hoping to transcribe a piece of music but do not have the music education necessary to support your goal, you’ll need the support of a professional. Some professional musicians offer clients a music transcription service in which they will listen to a song’s recording and notate the lyrics and musical structure for future use.  

Alternatively, users may employ automatic music transcription solutions to complete music transcription online. These platforms use music transcription software programs that allow you to upload an audio recording of a song for transcription. Many of these sites implement specifically formulated artificial intelligence software that recognizes musical elements and notates them in a written format. These AI music transcription services should ultimately provide users with readable sheet music of their composition for personal use or for sharing with other musicians and fans. It’s important to note that artificial intelligence software – while highly advanced – is not without its flaws. These automatic music transcripts may still contain errors that you will need to flag and correct down the line.  

How long does music transcription take? 

The duration of the music transcription process can vary significantly depending on several factors. For instance, longer compositions will take more time to transcribe. Furthermore, the specific transcription method will substantially impact the turn-around time. An individual human transcriber will likely require more time to complete a transcription project than will online or automatic transcription solutions.  

However, automatic music transcripts often contain a number of transcription errors. As a result, these transcription projects require additional time to review and edit as necessary.  

Is it legal to transcribe music? 

It is perfectly legal to transcribe your own musical compositions. However, it is not legal to reproduce or rearrange any other copyrighted musical work. If you are seeking to transcribe another writer’s work, you should first ensure that sheet music for the composition in question is not already available. In the event that the sheet music is already available for purchase, asking a transcriber or transcription platform to create an alternate version or arrangement may constitute copyright infringement and could result in legal action.  

If sheet music for the composition in question does not exist, you will want to ask the composer for permission to transcribe their piece. The same is true for musicians hoping to write a new arrangement of an existing piece. It’s necessary to first contact the original artist to consult them and ask if they’re amenable to the changes.  

Not looking for sheet music? 

If you’re not interested in creating comprehensive sheet music for your piece and are instead just hoping to provide listeners with an accurate transcript of your song’s lyrics, Verbit’s platform offers a wide range of convenient solutions. Verbit’s transcription service uses a combination of artificial intelligence and professional human transcribers to create readable versions of an array of audio content like music, podcasts, audiobooks and more.  

Verbit offers different transcription formats supporting audio content across multiple platforms and devices. Verbit’s platform also provides music captioning solutions that offer an on-screen, readable representation of music that plays during video content. These music captions can also be a valuable resource for individuals who are hard of hearing, have auditory processing disorders or other neurodivergent conditions.  

Verbit’s proprietary process can deliver accurate final transcripts and captions in rapid turnaround times. Once uploaded to popular media hosting platforms, these transcripts improve accessibility and even boost the SEO ranking of the content.  

In addition to music transcription, Verbit offers services like call transcription, meeting transcription and real-time transcription for live events and other communications. Verbit’s assistive technology solutions improve accessibility for a wide range of content offerings and boost the efficiency and efficacy of internal and external communications. Reach out today to learn more about how Verbit’s software platform can help improve your content’s reach while supporting critical accessibility standards and guidelines.