Take Downs + Score Sample

A “take down” is simply a transcription of a piece of music. It isn’t plagiarism, but it is copying the work of another artist to examine what comprises their sound. Earlier this summer I “took down” The Sleeper In The Vale and Junkyard Sortie by Spitfire Audio founders Christian Henson and Paul Thomson respectively. The transcribed scores are linked below and were constructed in Finale.

*Read more and view videos below scores

It helped that Christian and Paul had video tutorials (linked below) containing midi screenshots and even a piano sketch of the music. To start I endeavored to list the ensembles each composer used and then created two templates. Once the templates were formatted, I listened to the cues and watched the videos repetitiously so as to orchestrate and populate the score as accurately as possible.

If you have not transcribed music before, I would recommend breaking the piece you start with into 4, 8, 16, or 32 measure segments. Speed will come with practice as will accuracy–both of which are absolutely critical in professional music production. Negligence in your take down practice could result in costly studio time down the road spent correcting note entries or performance marks. I would also recommend having a checklist of things to check for i.e.
Note accuracy (esp. when MIDI from DAW)
Meter changes
Tempo markings
Measure # (i.e. music usually begins at m3)
Idiomatic or intentionally unorthodox voice leading
*Key signature (generally avoid in film music)
Correct ranges (e.g. low A naturals don’t exist on tenor sax)
Even measure & system Spacing
Note collisions
Time codes
Clear Title (and a consistent file naming system)

One temptation to avoid is over notating. Not every flute line needs a big phrasing curve and not every string passage needs bow markings. If a technique or motif is repeated, you could save time with a tidily inserted “simile” marking. Additionally, professional musicians do appreciate music that is explicitly clear, but music with too many expressive or articulation markings can slow a player down and thus slow a session down. . .and this costs $$$ in live studio scenarios. If I may offer a final word of advice it would be this: ask a trusted (professional) musical friend or mentor to look over your first score.

In closing, I found completing take downs in very different styles was excellent practice for me and kicked my Finale skills back into working order. I wish you all success in your scoring endeavors and if you have any questions about the process and standard practices, here are two sources I found helpful in my score production growth.

1) DeBreved blog by Tim Davies
2) OF NOTE blog by Robert Puff

NOTE: I do not promote plagiarism. I do promote artists learning and assimilating more music through their personal prisms for inspiration.