Proof 1: Transcribing Steely Dan

Well.. I managed! I took Reeling In The Years by Steely Dan and listened to it a lot, and I mean a lot.. After 3 days of listening and picking out notes, chords and arrangement I was able to start capturing it with midi in Logic. To my own surprise it doesn't sound half bad. Sure the midi sounds are terrible and there's a lot of things that I'd like to improve but the basis is there.

It's been very interesting picking up this song and trying to figure it out. I really enjoy listening to Steely Dan, especially because their arrangements and recordings are just so stellar. It was a very gratifying experience to find out that musically I'm able to accurately transcribe what is being played and that I can hear these things. To me this signals that at least I have some ability as a musician/composer.

However, there's plenty of things I cannot yet explain. For example, I transcribed the drums as a simple pattern that comes close to what is being played but in reality the drums are shuffled and this creates a very nice groove. I am not able to discern exactly how this shuffle is performed and I am just not proficient enough in Logic to accurately model it.

Next to this Steely Dan recorded the track on a tape recorder, the best of tech at the time, and it was not played with a click track. Therefore the piece swings between 134 and 135 bpm which gives it a lovely feel where sometimes we're a little ahead and sometimes a little behind the beat. However for transcribing into exact midi notes this proved a nightmare... It essentially means you have to transcribe every chorus and verse separately, no copy+pasting, since they might differ slightly in speed. I decided to only transcribe 2 choruses and 1 verse, leaving it up to the listener to imagine the other parts.

Lastly, I left the guitar solo for what it was. Transcribing it is possible, on piano, and I got along quite well. However I am not at all equipped to bend, hammer-on or pull-off midi notes to make it sound halfway decent in Logic.

There's still much to learn and I'm very happy with this progress. Further I was thinking of either looking into the Talking Heads or looking at Blues again. I just can't let the Blues songs go...