Transcribing the synthesizer solo from O Ephraim from Finding Gabriel by Brad Mehldau
In this blog post I would like to go over my first experience transcribing a (any) jazz solo. In this case it is the solo from “O Ephraim” from the Album “Finding Gabriel” by Brad Mehldau. I will mention some challenges I was facing, provide the download link to the solo transcription pdf and provide more thoughts from a point of view of a classical musician.
Screenshot of the transcription process (inside MuseScore)
Importance of transcribing
As I mentioned in the preface, this was my very first transcription of a jazz solo, or any bigger fragment for that matter. During my studies as a classical pianist at my conservatory I always looked up to the jazz students, who could easily transcribe such complicated fragments of music. Complicated in a rhythmical, harmonic and melodic sense, mind you.
What classical musicians can learn from jazz musicians
So why exactly do I think, that it is beneficial to be able to make a transcription (and no, I do not have perfect pitch)?
Being able to transcribe rhythm, arguably improves one’s ability to perform and understand difficult rhythms, like syncopations etc.. Being able to transcribe beautiful melodies makes one appreciate, as an example, the beautiful chromaticism, the shape of the melody and much more. And last but not least being able to quickly hear, place and understand complicated chords structures (which very well do exist in classical music as well, take Maurice Ravel or Alexander Scriabin as just two examples).
Part of the beauty of being a musician, is the awareness of all the things that are happening around us - awareness, understanding on a deeper level and utilization in performing/improvizing, arranging, composing and much more.
Why I picked this solo
I picked this solo, because as soon as I heard it (and I am a very big Brad Mehldau fan, by the way) I was incredibly amazed by some things happening in this solo. Naturally, I wanted to explore what going on there, so I started searching for a transcription or sheet music, in order to try to recreate this on the piano.
Since I did not find any, I understood that the only way to get what I want is to do it myself.
Solo transcription from “O Ephraim” by Brad Mehldau pdf file download
You can find the link to my transcription of the amazing solo right here (pdf download). Additionally, you can watch here the YouTube video where I have synchronized the sheet music with audio.
Suggestions are very welcome and you can always contact me to get in touch.
More thoughts about Jazz, Brad Mehldau, transcribing and Art in general
As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, I admire the culture (coming now mainly from jazz musicians) of transcribing music in order to learn and be inspired. This not only good for rudimentary qualities of any musician, making one to get up close and personal with the music, but also good to be able to appreciate the musicianship of those who came up with new ideas.
On the wtfbach podcast Brad Mehldau talks about the ‘magic’ of his profession (or any other musician for that matter) as being an input/output situation: First you let as much as possible in (=input) (listen to performances you like, transcribe, explore, read etc.) then something magical happens in the brain and after that you get an output (in form of a performance, composition or “art” in general), which is surprisingly not a copy of the input, but something distintcly personal and individual.
This is the magic of art. Hence, the beginning of art is often (arguably if not always) imitation. And isn’t imitation the greatest show of flattery there is?