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Software for help in isolating instruments in an mp3? (For transcription)

thevisi0nary

Active Member
I am trying to get better at transcribing orchestral scores, but I am just starting off with that and it would be helpful if there was any kind of software that was good at isolating instruments in an mp3 or wav.

I am aware of “transcribe!”, but seeing if there are any better options.
 

aaronventure

Senior Member
That's really a tall order. I don't think there's anything half-reliable like that. You'll have to use your ears, but that's good. If you have sheet music to compare your transcriptions, you'll learn the colors quickly.

IRCAM The Snail is something you could use when there is no sheet music to compare to. So do you best to transcribe by ear, and when you think you got it, screen it with The Snail and see how you did.

The Snail will highlight he loudest overtones but it's up to you to figure out what's happening harmonically from the results it gives you. Have a piano loaded up and once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to work through.
 
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thevisi0nary

thevisi0nary

Active Member
That's really a tall order. I don't think there's anything half-reliable like that. You'll have to use your ears, but that's good. If you have sheet music to compare your transcriptions, you'll learn the colors quickly.

IRCAM The Snail is something you could use when there is no sheet music to compare to. So do you best to transcribe by ear, and when you think you got it, screen it with The Snail and see how you did.

The Snail will highlight he loudest overtones but it's up to you to figure out what's happening harmonically from the results it gives you. Have a piano loaded up and once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to work through.
Thanks a lot, I will check that out. I definitely know it is not feasible to get a clean separation of the instruments, but even having a little bit of isolation helps.

I used to use "Transcribe!" when I would transcribe some densely layered guitar tracks in metal songs, but guitar is also an instrument I'm already familiar with, and it usually entailed dealing with instruments in the same freq. spectrum across the stereo field.
 

aaronventure

Senior Member
In doublings you just can't get any separation. You can get separated notes based on overtone series, but even that is still a wild west, especially in orchestral music where you usually have ambience.

The best any software that I know of currently can do is guess, but a human can do a better guess. Especially one you go through a dozen pieces, and you see the most common doublings and colors.

The Snail works really well in telling you what's going on and displaying it intuitively, so that you can do the reading yourself.
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
Thanks a lot, I will check that out. I definitely know it is not feasible to get a clean separation of the instruments, but even having a little bit of isolation helps.

I used to use "Transcribe!" when I would transcribe some densely layered guitar tracks in metal songs, but guitar is also an instrument I'm already familiar with, and it usually entailed dealing with instruments in the same freq. spectrum across the stereo field.
How about just starting with examples that are not that hard and working yourself up the ladder? There is no such thing as instant gratification. Sure you can try to bypass the learning curve but then simply you don´t learn that much and even more you won´t train your muscles = ears. If dense orchestrations are too hard at the moment, go one step down, if that is still too hard, go one more.
 
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Markus Kohlprath

Active Member
Repeated listening works wonders in this case in my experience. Usually if you listen the first few times in an unfamiliar genre there are only question marks in the mind. Listening again and again of course with a piano under the hands reduces the question marks one after the other and trains the ability to focus the ear on certain instruments or frequencies like following the viola through a dense passage. I think this is an important procedure to go through and takes time and practice as does almost anything you do in music. I’m yet to find someone who managed to skip this process and became a master right away. And I would be cautious with tools that provide fast information since you can somehow terminate the learning process. Unfortunately at least to my experience it takes in the beginning much more time and struggle than you might expect or wish. But it pays of.
 

gyprock

Member
When transcribing there are two aspects to consider 1. Extracting the pitch information and 2. The ability to set loop regions and label them so you can quickly isolate sections of the track.

In the old days the latter was done with a cassette player, rewinding, playing, rewinding, playing, comparing, rewinding etc. Most of the time was spent in the mechanical aspect of just hearing the piece.

With programs like Transcribe! (and others) they provide a lot of tools for pitch extraction but where they really shine is in the management of the process e.g. you can loop a single note, a couple of notes, a bar, a phrase a 1,000 times and just sit and play along with your instrument until you've got the melody or the harmony. You can also slow the section down or filter out a frequency band to help isolate what you're interested in.

What I like doing on first playthrough is to tap along in realtime to create bar or section markers to get the overall form of a piece. Then go back and work out the main themes and harmonies. You can create text boxes for chord symbols or other notes and place them above the waveform so you can build up the transcription gradually. You can send just the Transcribe! file to others without violating copyright because the file does not embed the original audio. As long as the recipient has the "purchased" audio, then they can open up the Transcribe! file and continue the transcription.

A lot of the above can be done with Logic or Cubase etc but Transcribe! is cheap, is available for Mac or Windows and is very light on resources. It is small enough to use as a default audio player if you want.
 

marclawsonmusic

Senior Member
You can use an EQ to zoom in on specific frequencies and hear what is going on in just that range. Orchestration is mostly about range anyway, so if you remove some of the noise around the frequency you want to hear, it will isolate that part of the music and then you can just focus on what is going on there.

But really, nothing beats sitting down with a score and listening to / following a piece of music to see what is actually being played. Once you attenuate your ear to the instruments and some common orchestration devices, it is much easier to hear in other pieces. Maybe you can find a comparable piece on IMSLP and use that score to help uncover what's going on in your other piece...
 

MauroPantin

New Member
I think Izotope RX has something like that, but very minimal (like faders with bass, vocals, and band or something like that). I'm not sure it would work for separating instruments out of an orchestra, though.

EQ, and the Spectrotone chart perhaps? You can high pass and low pass specific instruments to do away with the clutter, maybe?

I would strongly advise you to just transcribe without any extra tools. I use "Transcribe!" as well. Over time you'll build a skill, and that skill will let you know instantly what it is you're listening to. If you use a tool you put up a wall between you and understanding the sounds and the orchestration of a piece.
 
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