There is a song I know from childhood, and I'm in the process of transcribing it from memory. I can write down the pitches (I use numbered notation), and I can transcribe the rhythms except when the notes become too fast for me.

I was able to transcribe both the pitches and rhythm of a traditional local song, "Potong bebek angsa", that uses only relatively slower notes, but the one I'm working on now has parts that are too fast.

What means can I use to transcribe these faster portions, or how can I train myself to be able to do it?

Again, I can get the pitches, but how do I determine their rhythmic values?

  • 1
    We're... going to need a lot more detail to be helpful. 1) What kind of numbered notation are you referring to? 2) Does that notation system encompass a method to write "sixteenth-notes"? 3) This question mentions transcription, measurement, analysis, and is tagged composition. Which is the task that you wish to accomplish? And 4) Sixteenth-notes are simply notes that are half as long as eighth notes. If you can handle eighth notes, what do you think is stopping you from understanding sixteenth notes? Please edit your question to provide this information and other relevant details.
    – user45266
    Aug 27, 2021 at 8:55
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How can I slow down a YouTube video I'm trying to analyze or transcribe?
    – Aaron
    Aug 27, 2021 at 9:26
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    Are you having trouble finding the pitches, the rhythm, or both? And are you able to slow the music in your mind? Or can you sing it slowly?
    – Aaron
    Aug 27, 2021 at 9:55
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    Working from memories from long ago is not going to be productive. Judging by your shortcomings described in the question, you need to use at least a recording that won't chop and change, as memories often do.
    – Tim
    Aug 27, 2021 at 10:16
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    Searching for “potong bebek angsa” I find many recordings (and a few notated sources!). Better to work with these than rely on memory for now. Aug 27, 2021 at 10:43

2 Answers 2


There are a lot of things to unpack here. If you only want the notation to a song, ask someone to do it for you or purchase the sheet music. If you want to develop the skill to transcribe yourself, reverse the process and train your ear:

I suggest you visit your local Protestant church and steal a hymnbook. Or, ask to borrow one. Then each day, sight sing the S, A, T and B parts AWAY from the piano to one or four hymns. Did I mention you HAVE TO DO THIS AWAY FROM THE PIANO? Hymns are pretty easy to sight sing. It may be hard at first but it will get easier. By the time you get through half the book you will start to notice that when you hear music, you will just know what the notes are.

For example, in the standard hymnbook, look for ODE TO JOY and you would sing for the Soprano, 3345543211233 22. For the Alto, probably 5555567855578877 and for the Bass, 888855543321555.

You may want to go to a Protestant church that still sings hymns and during the hymn, sing the S for a verse, A for the next, T for the third and B for the fourth. If the choir or soloist sings something, find the One from the introduction and try to figure out the melody. Again, it will be difficult at first but will get easier.

As far as hearing what a blizzard of notes are, study music theory. By knowing what scales, chords and arpeggios sound like from the aforementioned ear training, you will hear fast notes and just know what they are. But you can't be satisfied with just Ionian and Aeolian modes. You have to study all the modes and other scales such as whole tone, chromatic, pentatonic, diminished . . .

Above all, sing EVERYTHING. Play one of the aforementioned scales or modes and SING them to get them in you. Get them in your voice, brain and ear. Then when you hear them, you will just know what they are. Just like hearing someone speak a foreign language and knowing what it is because you trained your ear to the dialect. ¿Comprender?

Another analogy would be like studying Latin. Then when you hear a word you never heard before, you will just know what it is because you know Latin roots. For instance, aqueduct = water + to lead. Air duct = air + to lead. Abduct = away + to lead. Adduct = toward + to lead. Like spreading your fingers out and back.

Knowledge is power and music theory is the vocabulary and alphabet of music. Not just about dots on a page to be matched to a key. That is just dog and pony tricks. Remember, shortcuts only cheat yourself.


Obtain some software that slows down music playback. Windows Media Player will do. Set a section of the song to loop playback. When you've worked that bit out, loop the next section...

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    The comments reveal that the OP is trying to transcribe a song he recalls only from memory, and presumably can only sing so inflexibly from memory that he cannot sing it slowed down. Perhaps the OP also needs to record himself sing as Step 1?
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 27, 2021 at 12:37

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