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Transcription Software for Analog Musical Instruments

William from Milwaukee, WI asks:

I am looking for a music program that can hear my clarinet and transcribe the music as I play.

Recording and transcribing MIDI instruments like a synthesizer or electric drum kit is relatively easy, and there are a lot of software options for doing this. However, analog instruments like a clarinet pose a different challenge altogether. They require a far more sophisticated program because of the need to interpret live sounds as opposed to a series of stored electrical impulses. So, it can be done, but there are fewer options available to musicians like you. Here are few options you should definitely consider.

1. Sebelius 6 [1] – The latest generation of Sebelius includes a version of AudioScore that lets you record and transcribe audio via a microphone that is connected to your computer. You are then free to manipulate the note length, pitch, and tempo just as if it was an original MIDI input.

Of course, Sibelius does much more that transcribe analog audio. This music notation software is a favorite with music teachers and composers the world over because it is packed full of useful features that make creating your own musical scores a hassle-free experience. Unfortunately, this means that it is not cheap. Expect to pay around $600 for a Mac or PC version.

2. Intelliscore [2] – A cheaper option is Intelliscore’s Ensemble or Polyphonic software. It converts MP3, WAVE, AIF and AAC files to MIDI, but also converts live audio from an instrument like a clarinet. The Ensemble version allows the recording of multiple instruments at one time, while the Polyphonic version only supports one instrument. Once the software has recorded your music, it converts it to MIDI and can open it in the included Anvil Studio notation software so that you can edit it further to suit your needs.

Intelliscore is only available for Windows computers. The retail box version of Ensemble is available for $169 ($149 download), while the Polyphonic version costs $119 ($99 download). Trial versions are available on the Intelliscore website if you want to put this technology to the test yourself.

3. AudioScore Ultimate [3] – If you like the AudioScore features included with Sibelius, but you don’t need, or want to pay for, the additional pro editing tools, you can buy AudioScore as a standalone product.

It has the same functionality as the Sibelius plug-in, but comes at a lower price. AudioScore has a built-in metronome, allows you to create a printable score, and also lets you export your files for editing on other notation software products. You can buy AudioScore direct from the manufacturer for $249, and it can be installed on either a Mac or PC. Again, a free demo version is available if you want to try before you buy.

So, it is possible to record and transcribe audio from your clarinet, but the technology available to do this is not cheap. Hopefully one of these products will match the features you are looking for with the budget you had in mind.

~Jonathan Wylie