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I am trying to transcribe 'Fine and Mellow' by 'Jose James' and at 3:25 the piano plays a short solo. I am finding it difficult to transcribe this however as even slowing the song way down it still sounds like a big mush of notes.

Is the pianist using a particular technique that may be useful to learn about first before attempting to transcribe that part? Is it structured in a way which I cannot hear which might help lay the foundations before trying to get the exact notes?

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  • Do you mean 'transcribe' instead of 'transpose'? – Karlo May 21 '18 at 18:42
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    Yes I do, apologies – dippynark May 21 '18 at 18:42
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There are a few techniques that will be helpful for transcribing this solo:

  • Repeated notes: the most common way to deal with these is to rapidly change fingers on each repetition. Which fingers you use is largely up to your own ease of execution, but you can find some discussion at Proper repeated note fingering on piano?. Practice slowly to get comfortable with the motion, and then gradually, over time, increase your pace. Since the left hand isn't busy here, you have the option of using both hands.

  • Crush: the trill-sounding bit is called a "crush" (formally: Acciaccatura), in which two or more notes are played nearly, but not quite, simultaneously. In this case, it sounds like three chromatically adjacent notes. For this, you can practice playing them simultaneously at first, to get the hand position, and then either play them at a slow pace individually, gradually speeding up as you're able, or play them like drumming your fingertips on a table. In fact, drumming your fingertips on a table would be good practice. Practice in both directions: finger 1 to 5 and finger 5 to 1. Another useful exercise is to play the notes simultaneously and quickly release each note in succession. For example, say you want to crush d-d#-e. You would play the three notes together as a chord and then release the d and then the d#. This, too, should be practiced slowly at first and then more quickly as it becomes possible. Note that between the first crush exercise and this one, you're practicing both the attacks and releases, but separately from each other.

  • scale: The final flourish sounds like either a blues scale or pentatonic scale, just played really fast. The finger-drumming exercise above will be helpful here, and again you might be able to split the scale between two hands. When playing the actual transcription, hand/finger position will be crucial. Make sure all of your fingers are resting on their respective notes before you start playing the scale. Otherwise, any adjustment you make to find a note will slow you down. You also may need a thumb-turn or two. In that case, there are two hand positions: before the thumb turn, and after the thumb turn. Practice moving from one position to the next but without playing the actual scale. The goal is to get all of your fingers to their new position quickly and accurately.

As a final thought, the soloist here is likely not attempting to play exact notes or rhythm; rather it's an overall effect that is being sought. IMO, it's not necessary to produce an exact transcription. Rather, figure out the distinct pitches involved and the rough rhythm, and seek to achieve the effect even if it's not an exact duplication of the recording.

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Perform the repeated notes, just the pitch, and treat them like a trill, that is either played with both hands or with one hand holding vertically and pulling the fingers down the keys (like a karate hit) - but don't break the piano.

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