Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

Transcriptions & Brad Mehldau

I got an email about 2 weeks ago from someone in Europe (I can't remember where - Denmark, I think) asking me for a copy of my transcription of Brad Mehldau's Goodbye Storyteller (for Fred Myrow) (listen to the piece below), a solo piano piece from his incredible album Elegiac Cycle. After some searching, I found that unfortunately I never entered it into Finale or Sibelius. Also, I did that transcription at least 7 or 8 years ago, and I've moved 5 or 6 times since then, meaning the chicken scratch manuscript is packed away somewhere. I know I still have it, because I've seen it since moving to the flatlands, but I have yet to dig it out. Stephan, if you're reading this, I'm looking for it, and I need to enter it into Sibelius before it's even worth sending out. My apologies - it might be a while yet!

But this got me thinking: what else have I transcribed that I haven't touched in a long time, haven't entered into Sibelius, or could revisit with some more musical maturity? I found my transcription of Mehldau's Bard (opening track from Elegiac Cycle), and I took some time over the past 2 days to re-enter it into Sibelius, with a better understanding of harmony and notation software. I need to proof it (some things sounded wrong on the playback, but it's too late to worry about them tonight), then I'll be posting a PDF of that transcription. I'll probably post a lead sheet to his Song-Song, and also look for The Bard Returns in the relatively near future. (In case you're wondering, yes, I went through quite the Mehldau phase for a few years. I'm over the obsession now, in fact I haven't listened to him deeply in quite a while, but I'm slowly incorporating him into my playlists.)

It also made me think about how much I enjoy transcribing piano music. Yes, it can be a painful process, and at times I want to throw my then-Discman/then-iPod/now-iPhone at the wall, but I also find it very rewarding. In a way, it's like solving a puzzle, working with what I hear (or think I hear) and what I know (music theory) and making the pieces fit. (I feel that same way about music theory in general, but that's a conversation for a different time). The Mehldau tunes were tough, and I'm sure I'm going to have to revisit Goodbye Storyteller to complete some illegible lines and things I mussed up, but I also like listening to some Taylor Swift or Five for Fighting, as two recent "commissions" have required me to do, and get down what's going on. If nothing else, it helps me keep my ears open and also gives me the opportunity to connect with musical minds on a level that's different than playing through a Beethoven Sonata.

With all this in my head, I'm thinking about things that I'd like to transcribe next. Working on big band charts and vocal tunes is nice, but they require at least one more person to perform, so I'd like to do something that I can do on my own, even if it's just in the practice room. If you have any good solo piano tunes (jazz, classical, etc.) to suggest, comment below.

And listen to Goodbye Storyteller (for Fred Myrow):

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