Want to jump straight to the answer? Our choice for the best Music Transcription software is Sibelius by Avid!
Musicians are often asked to do more than just play the music that we are given: we are asked to transpose music to fit our instrument’s key; we are asked to re-arrange music for ensembles with different instruments; we are asked to prepare music that was hand-written decades ago for our ensembles.
Thanks to our years of dedication and hard work, we are capable of these tasks, but they are incredibly labor-intensive and, often, not a good use of our time, or our skills.
We can use the notation software of our choice, like Forte, Sibelius, Finale, as we long for something to give us any assistance. Thankfully, there are programs out there to help us out.
Top Music Transcription Software
What To Look For When Choosing a Music Transcription Software
Most transcription software checks off similar boxes: interactive virtual piano keyboard included to compare pitches to imported file; analysis of audio, shown through waveform; and features to help you transcribe, such as slowing down the tempo of the audio without changing the pitch, or looping specific sections so you can play along.
This list includes programs with these features and more, like onboard notation software or direct analysis of live instruments or vocals.
A free version is available for all these programs, and most have “tiered” subscription types or flat rates for purchases. These suggestions range from as low as $5/month to $149 for full licensing.
Compatibility – System Requirements
Every software recommended in this article is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Writing down the music that you hear, digitally or using old-fashioned paper and pencil, is a bittersweet tradition for musicians. Often, the ability to transcribe is considered a rite of passage for performing musicians, or for composers writing out the music that they “hear”.
Using software to help with the process is a huge asset, and isn’t by any means a loophole; you will still need to use your ear somewhere along the process, and it’s beneficial to observe how waveforms represent sound in the studio world.
Your Skill Level
The concept of running a transcription is inherently simple: the user imports an audio file; the software analyses the rhythmic and melodic functions; the clearest notes and rhythms are presented and are ready to be manipulated if needed.
These programs are made to be user friendly so that you can spend more time and effort on your part, whether that is playing the music, transcribing it further, or teaching it.
The 5 Best Music Transcription Software
Like most choices in music technology, take your time to find the right program for you. There are free trials and limited access subscriptions if you aren’t completely sure if you’re ready to commit to a specific piece of software.
Though most transcription programs have similar features, some will have parts that will be better suited for your needs as a musician.
Many musicians consider this the best and fastest possible way to transcribe music.
Sibelius is produced by Avid (who also created Pro Tools). If you are both a composer and producer, the combination of Sibelius and Pro Tools is perfect for your studio and creative space. Not only is it easy to write, but it is extremely easy to share with others so they can try your music on virtually any device!
Who’s it for? It is perfect for composition and collaboration. You can use this in classroom settings as well as professional settings seamlessly.
Skill Level: Like Pro Tools it will take some learning to get the hang of it from the start. But it is extremely intuitive as well as having many resources for you to learn from.
Compatibility: Mac and Windows
- You can import score data from other transcription programs
- You can practice and perform your music with the Avid Scorch App
- Sharing on the Cloud is easier than ever!
This choice is aimed toward the true art of transcribing, rather than having software automatically do the work for you.
Transcribe! has a simple concept; allow musicians to loop sections of audio files, and use an onboard piano to help with accurate, easy, transcription. It also allows users to import video files, so you can isolate the audio while still watching the video simultaneously; this is helpful if you’re learning a guitar part and want to see where on the guitar the performer is playing the part, for example.
Who’s it for? Performers who need to learn music for their gigging lives can get a lot of use out of this program. Of course, teachers can find great uses for this program when arranging music for ensembles or for private lessons.
Skill Level: This software is simple to use right “out of the box”. Once you import an audio file, it automatically brings up the main transcribing window.
Price: $39 (deals for purchasing multiple copies are available)
Compatibility: Mac, Windows, and Linux.
- Makes for a great teaching tool for students learning to transcribe by ear
- Enables efficient practicing for performing musicians who need to learn songs by ear
- Contains an onboard piano keyboard so you can match notes more easily
“Like Google Translate for Music”. This is a quote that describes ScoreCloud quite well. Similar to a translation program, ScoreCloud listens to what you play, or sing, and converts it into music notation. Simply setting up the session so your clefs and time signatures are appropriate will enable a successful transcription.
Who’s it for? ScoreCloud can be useful in many different scenarios: the songwriter who wants to create “charts” for musicians; a composer needing simple ways to get their ideas from the instrument to the page; and of course performers and teachers can use this tool to sharpen their skills as well.
Skill Level: This software is very straight-forward and user friendly; suitable for beginners and experienced musicians.
Compatibility: Mac & PC, and offers compatibility across multiple devices.
- Transcribes Vocal Melodies
- Transcribes Polyphonic Piano Parts
- Transcribes single line melodic instruments (guitar, wind instruments, etc.)
This program has a very interesting process: you can select an audio file, and it will analyze its notes, time signature, and give you a MIDI to use to edit the spacing of the notes precisely.
There is a visual appeal to the layout that makes it stand out from its competition; the wave forms of the processed transcription also appear behind the MIDI roll, similar to a standard auto-tune window.
Who’s it for? To transcribe mp3s, or other common audio file types, can prove useful for many types of musicians. Teachers especially may find this useful if students are interested in learning a song that doesn’t have reputable sheet music available.
Skill Level: The interface may seem a little confusing at first. However, if time is invested into navigating the software, it can be as simple as any other program to operate.
Compatibility: Mac & PC, and offers compatibility across multiple devices.
- Customize Your Playback Instrument
- Link to Your Music Notation Program (Sibelius, Finale, MuseScore)
Soundslice has an abundance of features. It seamlessly syncs notation with real recordings, or video. A slice can have multiple recordings — backing track vs. full mix, or multiple camera angles, even different performances of the same piece.
Simply search their catalog to see what has already been transcribed and synchronized with audio, or begin your own transcription using the intuitive editor, which helps you analyze the pitch of the audio, and the rhythm, while you use the notation software within the editor.Who’s it for? Music teachers can appreciate the flexibility with transposing parts after the music is transcribed. Composers and arrangers can also scan any hand-written sheet music and have it converted to a notation file (XML).
Skill Level: It helps to be familiar with music notation software, like Finale, Dorico, Noteflight, etc., when working with this product.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac OS, though it is a web-based program so there is no need to download any software.
- Innovative music editor allowing you to analyze playback and notate easily
- Adjustable audio tracks help you learn the transcriptions at your own pace
Transapp has a simple, yet engaging interface, that keeps the priorities of the program in view at all times. Simply importing a song will launch you into transcribe mode, where you can observe the waveforms and the piano, which highlights the most clearly detected notes for you.
In a fully-instrumented song, there are bound to be some “misfires” with any transcription software, but Transapp allows you to adjust the input EQ so the track that you wish to transcribe is heavier in the mix.
Who’s it for? Teachers, songwriters, gigging musicians, composers.
Skill Level: Novice users will find the layout of this software intuitive and easy to operate; it is suitable for users at any skill level.
Compatibility: Mac, Windows, and Linux
- Visually appealing interface
- On board piano that detects most salient notes
Always in Style
There is definitely a lot of excitement involved when technology comes to our rescue. Myriad plug-ins have been made to give us access to top-notch studio resources. Even the modern DAW was designed to enable the everyday music to write and record their own music.
Transcription software is constantly evolving, and has continued to gain impressive features through its progression.
It is wise to remember that, as musicians, some of our most valuable traits lie in the amount of skill we have in the music we play. Transcribing your music forces you to fellowship with it, and form an intimate relationship with your instrument and the music from within. The act of transcribing music, with the aid of transcription software, is something that every music should be involved with to better understand the elements of music.