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I have been having a blast transcribing pop songs to piano, but I have some trouble hearing the bass clearly. Even when I use EQ, the notes from the bass guitar don't feel very distinct. Is this just a matter of inexperience? (I have only been transcribing for about 4 months.) Or do I need some headphones that are a cut above my gaming headset, the Logitech G430s? How important is a quality set of audio equipment when attempting to transcribe? If it is important, what qualities should I be looking for in headphones? Wide or narrow soundstage? Are the audio needs similar to mixing or producing perhaps?

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  • Related question: music.stackexchange.com/questions/103584/…. The second answer has some information about Trascribe! mention in @LaurencePayne's answer.
    – Aaron
    Aug 24, 2020 at 0:34
  • I've always found it easier to pick out sections when listening over the monitors rather than headphones - though I guess if you're on a laptop or a weeny pair of desktop speakers that's not going to be much help.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 24, 2020 at 7:24

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Your Logitech G430 headphones seem to have several features that aren't much concerned with accurate musical rendition! Can you turn them off and just listen to straightforward 2-channel stereo with no 'enhancements'? You don't need expensive headphones, but perhaps the 'gaming' features of these are getting in the way.

I suggest you also invest in a playback program with looping, slowdown and other features useful for transcribing. Perhaps the one called Transcribe! It's not expensive.

But, listening to 'The Road To El Dorado', I agree the 'in-between' notes will require a lot of concentration. Maybe you're hearing it just fine. Loop it and slow it down, a few bars at a time. You'll get it!

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There are some software packages that might be useful although most I know of are very expensive (for the amateur musician) and their core function is not transcribing.

Generally in pop music it should be possible with practice to hear the bass line both any chord roots and any specific harmonic or melodic lines in the bass. It sounds more like additional practice and ear training would be more helpful than additional software.

Do you have any examples of a piece you are struggling to transcribe because you can’t make out the bass?

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  • I am working on transcribing the soundtrack to The Road To El Dorado, starting with the introduction by Elton John, youtube.com/watch?v=YIF1UtS21IQ. While most sections seem to just be 1-5-1 in the bass, I can't make out some of the notes in between. Aug 23, 2020 at 22:07
  • The comment below is good advice too. I can hear that the mix in that track is quite muddy (to my ears) with the bass drum and bass guitar taking up a similar frequency range. I can hear what it’s playing but can understand why it might be hard to hear! As per below, slowing it down will likely help you to pick out the bass notes.
    – Raagjazz
    Aug 23, 2020 at 22:29
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It might be that you are looking at the wrong thing in audio equipment. With audio equipment it can be the most amazing and expensive thing on the planet! If the source of the audio file is not great, then no amazing equipment is going to sort out an inferior file. Just youtube alone, it is great, but the audio quality is not necessarily going to be amazing. There might be better services like a physical CD or Spotify or Tidal (or other streaming services).

One technique in equipment used is adjusting the balance or panning of the left and right. Often a certain part of the audio like the bass might be panned to the left. And then also using EQ. But in inferior quality audio, a file that has been compressed, this clarity might be absent.

Aside, the Eldorado is particularly challenging with bass and percussion: a lot going on.

A case of a copy of a copy is not (always) a copy: not all tracks of the exact same music sound the same.

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