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Transcription Tutorial: Rhythmic Dictation

Rhythmic Dictation

I like to do my melodic dictation in steps, and my first step is rhythmic dictation. This is where I determine the rhythm of a melodic line while disregarding pitch.

I usually start with whichever voice is carrying the melody, since this will give me the most information for determining key signature later. Another good option is to start with whichever voice you hear at the beginning of the song.

Many songs have an introduction of accompaniment before the melody voice starts. In many cases, this will be a repetitive baseline. Once you’ve transcribed it, a large chunk of the song is already done.

Now, if I’m doing my rhythmic dictation handwritten on a piece of paper, I will just draw note stems that indicate the rhythm. If I’m doing it on the computer, I will pick a note, like bottom space f or middle line b (in treble clef), and I’ll write the whole rhythm out all on one pitch. So pick your note and let’s get started! As a reminder, Casino Night Zone is in 4/4 time.

  1. Decide if there’s a pickup note. Listen to the music. Tap your feet to the beat and count out a few measures. You are trying to determine where beat one is. Beat one would, in most cases, be stressed some how. It may be accented, or look for the beginning of a repeating rhythm. Now, go back to the beginning of the music. Are there beats that happen before the first beat one? If so, you’ve got a pick up measure.
  2. Listen to your music again, phrase by phrase. Distinguish note values by counting and subdividing the beats. Notate each measure, focusing solely on getting accurate rhythms.
  3. Repeat this process section by section for the remainder of the song. Don’t forget useful notation shortcuts like repeat signs and codas.

Rhythmic Dictation


What about you?