Jazz Piano Transcriptions - Transcribing

The key piece of software I use is Transcribe!, which takes in many types of source file (cda, wmv, mp3, etc.) and displays a frequency response plot above a working keyboard widget. Moving a pointer through the music results in various keys being highlighted on the keyboard as they're sounded, so in principle you can merely write the tune down in your favourite notation package - I used to use PrintMusic! 2011, and here's what my laptop screen looked like:

Well, the principle's fine, but what is ever that simple?! Notes sound on after they're played, and harmonics are picked up, both of which must be taken into account when reading the current set of frequency peaks. You have to track the notes as they appear on the display, and compare to what you're listening to. Fortunately, Transcribe also slows down the music (without changing the pitch, of course) to help you with this. For sources of low quality, you'll also sometimes find that low and high notes aren't picked up. You can increase sensitivity, but noise and harmonics will then be worse. Anyhow, mostly, this is an incredible system, and with practice enables mere mortals to access music that jazz pianists take ages to pick up. The SeventhString website has lots of details on this.

A couple of my transcriptions were done (in the 90s) the hard way: Sony Walkman with cassette recording of the music, digital piano headphones over the top, and notes picked out individually. Not recommended!