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I'm just now finishing up a transcription of the Main Theme from Skies of Arcadia, and I was wondering if anyone else around here transcribes game music. By "transcribe" I mean arranging and notating the music as closely as possible to the original recording rather than writing a remix based on the original.

As I thought might be the case, the Skies of Arcadia Main Theme is effectively a string quartet piece. It's damn hard sometimes hearing the inner voices of a chord, but I've gone through the whole piece and found four distinct and continuous string parts. I never took notice of the "viola" part even though, back in the day, I waited multiple times at the title screen, basking in the sweetness of this song. Now that I strained to identify this viola line, which is sometimes gorgeous, I think that I appreciate the whole piece even more now.

If you haven't tried transcribing, you might like it. We could even start an OCR sheet music team and get sued.

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Transcribing can be immensly satisfying once you get pretty good at it. I made some powertabs of a few vg songs, mostly FFIX. I'm particularly proud of the Dali theme and the Vai song. Here's my user page:

http://www.powertabs.net/profile.php?id=1721

You're right in suggesting that transcribing songs can make you appreciate them more; its sometimes very interesting to learn the theory behind whats happening in your favourite tunes.

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Transcription club would be a good time :)

Sometimes its nice to listen for the chordal progression in the pieces to help with the inner voices. If you can notate the melody and figure out what the bass line is, you can figure out the inner voices just by what notes of the chord you have left.

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I've been trying to avoid copying by instinct. When I can't distinguish a part from the others, I've had thoughts like "well, it would sound nice if it were playing these notes." If I'm rearranging it, that seems like a good opportunity to be creative. But since I'm trying to faithfully represent what I hear, I've listened to the same three seconds of a piece over and over with my ear to the speaker until I hear the part I'm looking for. If I can't hear it, I might get it wrong.

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I feel like I'm back in aural skills class.

What exactly does "ear training" and "aural skills" entail? I've read these phrases but I don't know what they mean.

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What exactly does "ear training" and "aural skills" entail? I've read these phrases but I don't know what they mean.

Both pertain to learning how to hear specific intervals so you can identify notes. Also rhythm identification. Honing of these skills makes transcription and arrangement much easier. Plus create some of my most hated classes that I have to take.

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The arrangement of Katamari on the Rocks I did for marching band (with Rainman DX's help with percussion) is pretty close to the original. Pretty much all of the stuff I've done could be considered transcription, with the exception of a pep band piece I wrote once that took the Water level music from Sonic Rush and gave it a "Louie Louie" vibe.

I really need to get back into that game, but I haven't done anything since I arranged Snakes on a Plane for marching band back last January.

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Transcribing is pretty much what I do with most of the hundred or so MIDI songs I've posted to VGMusic, as well as a few "real" songs. I've learned so many musical techniques that way and I'd never be the decently-skilled composer I am now without all that transcribing.

Right now I'm trying to do the Majora's Mask "Calling the Four Giants" theme. It's got so many vox layers forming beautiful stereo chords that it's a real challenge for me.

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So, fellow transcribers, how would you go about transcribing the guitar part in "Chrono Cross ~ Time's Scar"? I have the first 17 measures where there is only guitar, flute, and bass playing together. Then at 1:00 it goes nuts in a really beautiful and confusing way. Specifically the guitar part switches to strummed chords that I can't really hear well. Any clues?

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transcription can be satisfying, but tough work, especially for the perfectionists among us.

i have some degree of perfect pitch, and it helps oodles, but chords and whatnot still get me all the time. and sometimes i have to crank up the volume to hear "wtf -is- that note" and later i discover that i really shouldn't have been playing it that loud at all. whoops.

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So, fellow transcribers, how would you go about transcribing the guitar part in "Chrono Cross ~ Time's Scar"? I have the first 17 measures where there is only guitar, flute, and bass playing together. Then at 1:00 it goes nuts in a really beautiful and confusing way. Specifically the guitar part switches to strummed chords that I can't really hear well. Any clues?

Can't really hear the guitar part very well on the YouTube video because of the low bitrate. A higher-quality sample of part of the section in question is available on Wikipedia.

The guitar part is basically doing the same thing as the string part that comes in after it. After much EQ'ing and channel isolation, I'm of the opinion that the guitar is not playing chords. Just single notes. There may be two guitars playing the same thing, actually, because its present in both left and right channels, and it sounds different on each. That would also explain why the sound is fuller than you'd expect from single-note playing.

Or maybe the guitar has resonator strings in it.

Anyway, here's what I came up with. I'm not sure what it does after the chord progression changes, since the Wikipedia sample doesn't go that far.

scarsoftimegtrfm5.jpg

edit: The guitar in the left channel is tuned several cents lower than the guitar in the right channel, so I think that's what's up with the fuller sound.

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At first I thought you were crazy, but now I hear it; it's really subtle.

I still think that I hear chords, though. What else could be making that strumming sound? There is definitely a slow strum at 0:58, and I think that the guitar is doing something percussive underneath those subtle melody notes.

Edit: I think I hear the guitar playing an E each time it plays one of the melody notes. It's brighter than the bass, which is also playing E, so I can distinguish the two.

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I create MIDIs of game music, and I pride myself on their accuracy when compared to the original tunes. I can't say if that counts, but if you can import reasonably good sheet music out of them, the result could be the same. It's all great composition training.

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At first I thought you were crazy, but now I hear it; it's really subtle.

I still think that I hear chords, though. What else could be making that strumming sound? There is definitely a slow strum at 0:58, and I think that the guitar is doing something percussive underneath those subtle melody notes.

Edit: I think I hear the guitar playing an E each time it plays one of the melody notes. It's brighter than the bass, which is also playing E, so I can distinguish the two.

Took another listen, and I think you're right.

Here's my revised theory. DADGAD is a common Celtic guitar tuning (says this site, anyway), and this tuning makes everything work. And it would make sense, given the Celtic influences in the soundtrack. The starting chord sounds like it may be open fifths/fourths (E and B), and it's really easy to finger that on all the strings with the Celtic tuning. It also makes it easy to play the line I came up with in my last post on two strings at the same time, and I think it would be easy to hit the low E whenever the bass does. The repeated Ds could be played on all three of the top strings.

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That's fascinating. I wonder if the guitar playing the first minute is tuned that way. I'll have to play around with that tuning.

This brings up an interesting point: do you need to know how to play an instrument to properly transcribe music written for it? I was thinking that it may be important for "polyphonic" instruments such as pianos, guitars, and accordions but less important for instruments with a single clear note, like a flute or trumpet.

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This brings up an interesting point: do you need to know how to play an instrument to properly transcribe music written for it? I was thinking that it may be important for "polyphonic" instruments such as pianos, guitars, and accordions but less important for instruments with a single clear note, like a flute or trumpet.

I guess it could be important, mostly in cases like this where it's unclear exactly what's going on. Helps you know what at least would be possible to play, and then you can work from there. In a lot of cases, I think it would be sufficient just to have an academic knowledge of how an instrument is played (e.g. range, performance limitations) without actually being able to play the instrument.

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I create MIDIs of game music, and I pride myself on their accuracy when compared to the original tunes. I can't say if that counts, but if you can import reasonably good sheet music out of them

Speaking of which, is there a community that collects and archives readable videogame sheet music? I've turned a few midi files into readable form as PDF files... (clicky)

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I would say to listen for the harmony and listen to the bass line - those will be your two biggest pylons for finding out what the guitar is doing. "Time's Scar" is in Em, right? I don't think that it moves outside of the key too much so just listen for the chords that naturally fall within the key, that'd be how I'd tackle it.

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