How To Prepare Your Music For Transcriptions

10-25-22 12:19 PM By Kevin Lynch

Music transcribers notate music by ear, or with the aid of special music software, from audio or video files. These audio files, also referred to as source materials, should be of high quality to guarantee accurate, speedy, and cost effective transcriptions. Occasionally, we receive audio files that comprise incomplete songs, music with no tonal center, poor performances, and lyrics that conflict with the script. 

Here are tips for how to prepare your source materials for transcriptions. We geared these tips towards musical theatre but they can apply to all music mediums.

1. Script

Include a numbered running order of songs and character names at the front of your script. This establishes a clear outline for the songs in the show. This further helps you structure the flow of your musical and aides in planning, directing, and choreographing.

Musical Numbers

2. Recordings

The better the quality of audio recording, the more accurate the transcription. Using voice memos, a poorly tuned piano, a singer who doesn’t match pitch or stay in time, makes transcribing harder and can cost more time and money. GarageBand is good to record a clean demo of your song. We recommend using other musicians to help perform beyond your ability if piano / voice is not your strength. You can use us, Kevin Lynch Music Services, LLC, or search online for other solutions. The audio demo should be a clean and accurate representation of the song how you’d like the song performed. You do not need a fully produced studio recording for transcriptions.

3. Get Organized

Take the time to organize your files and digital content. This starts with the script and file naming of your music. Creating “song 1” for your musical as a filename is not clear and can lead to confusion down the road. We like using this system:


  • [SONG NUMBER] - In our number filing system, we use zeros before single-digit numbers, followed by a period and a space (i.e. 01. , 02. , 03.  etc...). This guarantees show order sorting in Finder or your browser window. Renumbering songs in bulk becomes easier since there are a fixed number of characters (4) at the start of the filename.

  • [SONG TITLE] - Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization should be accurate and clear across all files and documents (“wizard & i” vs. “The Wizard and I”). Avoid using special characters ( ; : \ / > & < | { } ~ ` ) in naming your files. This can make it difficult to perform macros and bulk actions with the files.

  • [REVISION DATE] - Include a revision date using dashes, no slashes, after the title and put it in brackets. [09-22-24]. The reason you don’t use slashes (09/22/24) in the filename is that MacOS will convert the “/“ to a “:” and will make locating and doing bulk renaming and changing of the file names difficult.

If you’re still experimenting with song titles and score order, use a familiar or common lyric in the song as the title and opt to use “99. “ as your song number, so it has a placeholder for the actual score number when you make that decision.

4. File Sharing & Watermarking

Protecting your IP (intellectual property) is critical when sharing your materials. Dropbox and Google Drive lets you share and distribute your materials with passwords, link expiration dates, and tracking which gives you the capability to track downloads & who views your files. Another way to protect your files is to watermark them. Audio watermarking software can prevent unauthorized use of your IP. MacOS Preview is an option along with Adobe Acrobat and PDF Element for documents. However, security features set with these applications sometimes won’t apply across other applications. We recommend applying a watermark to a PDF and then re-exporting as a PDF to embed your security features.

5. Non-Disclosure Agreements

Use a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement with the people you share your materials with, so you and the other party are clear on what's allowed to be done with the source materials you share. Agreements lay the groundwork for clear communication & expectations to limit ambiguity and assumptions, but we recommend you consult a professional attorney regarding legal matters.

When looking for a transcriber or sheet music preparation service, make sure you have all your materials ready by following these steps. If you are unsure, call us or email us and we can point you in the right direction!