Transcribing A Familiar Melody by Ear

Transcribing a Familiar Melody By Ear

Harry Levicky
[email protected]
St. Teresa of Avila

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments
Notation Software


Middle School


General Music


GM Keyboards with headphones interfaced to Computers
Notation software such as Finale or Sibelius


40 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students have a basic understanding of notation and operation of the notation software program used.
Students have learned a melody that will be transcribed by either singing or playing it on classroom instruments.
Students have notated rhythmic and melodic patterns in standard notation.

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 2: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 3: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.
MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 5: Reading and notating music.


Recording or sequence of the song “Mary Ann”
Staff paper


Students will transcribe a familiar melody by ear

1. On staff paper

2. Into a notation software program

3. Transpose tonality

4. Create an original percussion part


This activity would be developed in one 40 minute class.

1. Review some melodies that the students know well by either singing or playing the melodies with the students.

2. Sing or play the melody of the song “Mary Ann” while the students transcribe it onto staff paper. Give the students the key and starting pitch.

3. Have the students take their paper and input it into the notation program either by point and click or step time. Students should check their work often by “proof listening”. If there are errors they should identify and correct them before entering more notes of the song.

4. When students have completed the notation of the melody and determined that it is correct, they should create a simple percussion part that would fit with the melody.

5. Students should copy and paste their notation onto a new page and then transpose the melody an interval of a fifth.


Teacher would use a checklist to assess how many of the criteria were followed and executed –

1. Students were able to transcribe by ear a familiar melody both onto staff paper and then into a notation program.

2. Students were able to identify and correct any errors in the transcribing process.

3. Students were able to create and add a simple percussion part.

4. Students were able to copy, paste and transpose the melody.

Follow Up:

If the lesson was successful have students transcribe melodies with more difficult rhythms and intervals.
If the lesson was unsuccessful have students drill on listening to familiar melodies by singing and playing them back to the instructor as a “call and response” activity. Continue to try and improve their transcribing by ear ability with short phrases and then gradually increasing the length of the phrase to be transcribed.

Items to Purchase:

GM Keyboards with headphones
Notation software

When budget should be submitted:

Budget proposals should be submitted by January for the following school year.

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