I've been taking lessons in composition for a couple of years now, and one of the only things I've had any difficulty with is converting difficult passages i've improvised and decided to include, into the piece itself. I have no problem with the pitches of the notes, articulations, dynamics etc. however the exact rhythms/note timings , i just can't quite figure out past the second bar.

I'll attach the passage i'm trying to notate as a youtube video here:

Any advice on tackling writing this down would be greatly appreciated, as I'm not even quite sure about the time signature in some places, to begin with it feels like 6/8, but actually tapping that rhythm to work out all of the note lengths and write them down gets quite difficult for me.

I believe it starts something like this (Image removed because i'm not allowed to post more than 2 links :( ) ; (N.B. This piece is in D major and i've written this half way through the manuscript on sibelius so that's why it looks like that) but even after this single bar it gets quite frustrating to have to keep on going back to the piano to find out where a single note fits in, and I haven't really got very far with this part for a few weeks (just been writing other parts instead)


EDIT: Spent a few hours today fiddling with the rhythms, time signatures etc. and haven't really got very far, and I'm still not sure what the time signature even is, as I've rewrote it like this: enter image description here but the second bar still doesn't sound quite right when i play it back on Sibelius... Like how I'm playing the first two right hand chords in the second bar faster than just 2 quavers, but if i shorten them in Sibelius, then the notes in the bass don't fit any more.


I've bought and successfully connected a MIDI cable to my PC from the electric piano, and I've got it to work, and as I expected, what it writes is largely gibberish, but I'm sure is in some way useful (Because, of course, the note pitches are still correct)(n.B i've changed what notes i'm playing a little but the rhythms have remained no less difficult): enter image description here

Obviously the rhythms are written incorrectly so I was wondering what would be the best way to maximise my ability to make use of this?

2 Answers 2


My first suggestion would be to slow down the music to half speed, if you haven't tried that already. You can do that with a YouTube video by clicking on the settings gear icon and selecting the speed. It might make certain passages a little clearer to hear what note is being played when. For instance, I'm noticing that the first note is probably a pickup note, and the right hand arpeggio is on the downbeat of the first measure.

I'd also consider that the piece isn't being played strictly to tempo in all places. There does seem like there might be some liberties being taken with the performance. The only suggestion with that I can make is to listen for the "feel" of the phrasing, and do your best to identify where phrases start and stop. In this kind of music they're more likely going to be at the beginning/ends of measures.


I would start by ignoring the left hand, and figuring out how to notate the right hand part on its own. From about 0:20, it seems to have two beats in the bar (a quarter note, then four 16th notes). Before and after that, there seem to be a lot of irregular tuplets (5:4, etc) so figure out where the main beats are and fit the rest of the notation around them.

Software like "Transcribe" from http://www.seventhstring.com/ can be useful. You can "mark" the beats on the audio recording by tapping the tempo (which doesn't have to be regular) and then move the markers around till you get something which matches the way the music sounds. When you are happy with that, you can work on the details of how to notate each individual beat in the score, without losing track of the "big picture". "Transcribe" can also help identify the pitch of notes, if that is a problem.

Of course computer playback of your notation in strict tempo won't sound anything like the original.

  • I've downloaded Transcribe and played the music back very slowly, but i'm having trouble actually tapping the beat at all, because the arpeggios syncopate with the right hand quite a lot, and i'm not sure if the measure starts when there's a new chord in the right hand, or when i start a new arpeggio on the left, and not to mention it feeling like the time signature changes a couple of times. Would it perhaps be worth it to buy a MIDI cable and write directly into Sibelius with that, (even though I know it's usefulness will be rather limited) ?
    – Cubbs
    May 29, 2016 at 15:56

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