Wikipedia says; "In music, transcription can mean notating a piece or a sound which was previously unnotated, as, for example, an improvised jazz solo."
You will also hear classical musicians speak of "transcribing" to mean adapting a piece of music written for one instrument to be played on another. Thus when John Williams plays Scarlatti sonatas (originally written for keyboard) on the guitar, these would be called "transcriptions."
Music Transcription is the process of creating music sheets either from music sheets in a different notation, or simply from music alone. A music transcriber is a unique individual who can do this with precision and hopefully a good taste for aesthetics (because music sheets can look cluttered when done unprofessionally.)
If you're a musician and have experience with music sheets, you probably could. It's not an art to be taken lightly however, and may take months or even years to become good enough at it to satisfy.
The effort involved in transcribing music from recordings varies enormously depending on the complexity of the music, how good you ear is and how detailed you want your music transcription to be. If you merely want to write down the chords to a very simple song then if your ear is good you may be able to scribble them down in real time while the music is playing. At the other extreme if you are attempting a detailed transcription of complex music then it can take hours to transcribe a single minute of music.
You probably already know why if you're on this page, but in case you don't... The most common reason is likely because you want to play a tune but you don't have the music sheets for it; you only have a recording.
You'll probably start by looking for the music sheets online. But if you can't find them, then what? And even if you do find the music online, often it will be a disappointment when compared to the version you've been listening to and enjoying. Good musical artists will usually make more out of a piece than the standard published "dots" will show, so you will have to listen to the recording to find out what they're doing. Good artists will embellish chords, add figures and riffs, good bass-line movement, voice leading, and so on.
Another reason may be that you have a special song of meaning to you; the lullaby your mother wrote and sang for you as a baby, or the one you sing to your child. Perhaps the song between you and your spouse. If you can sing it (or even hum it), then it can be transcribed.
Art by Raederle Phoenix of Phoenix's Muse Creations
There are a handful of transcribers on the net, but I personally recommend Andy Pope. Having met him, I can vouch that he's a honest and fun person who pays close attention to detail. He's been in the business of music transcription (and been a musician) longer than I've been alive. His pitch is perfect and he transcribes without any transcription software.
Andy Pope's music transcription is a far cry from another person with some transcription software. It's like the difference between the kid punching in random things in Dreamweaver to create HTML code (that will be full of redundancy, errors and be impossible to edit) and an experienced web coder who sits down with a text box and simply writes the HTML from scratch with no excess code or broken tags.
Andy Pope's Music Transcription
"I've written hundreds of songs over the years for bands or just for fun, but never anything on the piano that called for a full sheet music transcription. When I recently wrote a song for a friend that I needed to transcribe to sheet music, I was at a total loss... That is until I came across Andy's website. Right from the start I knew he was someone I wanted to work with; professional, talented and fun to work with. He turned around my project in record time, and the results were flawless. I've never heard of anyone else who can do what Andy does as well and as fast, and with the level of enjoyment he clearly takes in helping you put your creativity to music. To me, when it comes to music transcription, there's only one name in the book, and it's Andy Pope. "
--Matthew McTighe, Guitarist, Singer-Songwriter
"I contacted Andy to transcribe a song that I want my friend to sing at my wedding in a few months. When I received the final product, I was blown away! The transcription was a perfect match to the actual song. Not only is Andy a truly gifted and amazing talent, but he is also warm, easygoing, and fun to work with. I give him five stars!"
--Shacunda Burton, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Bride-to-Be (7/17/09)
"Andy helped me turn punk rock into a playable piano tune. The wait time was very short, and he updated me every step of the way. He checked in with me in regards to personal preferences about the piece and after he had finished, he even went back and fine-tuned to make the song more easily accessible to my voice range. The result is just perfect! I love playing it. I highly recommend his work."
-- Maryellen Foley: Music Ed Major, Concentration in Piano, Moravian College
"Andy is a first rate transcriber. He works fast, provides excellent results and charges a reasonable fee. If you can only so much as whistle a tune, Andy can turn it into a sophisticated, deftly arranged and eminently playable piece of sheet music! Highly recommended indeed!"
-- Phil Hubbard: Associate Professor of Acting, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"I worked with Andy under a tight deadline to get the sheets ready for a new musical I was working on, Young Billy. Andy worked with my guitar lead sheets to produce piano/vocal parts for the first worshop of the show which was was only a couple of months from the time I first contacted him. Andy was easy to work with and turned the sheets around quickly. I greatly appreciate the work he did and would contact him again without hesitation."
-- Chuck Majewski: Singer-Songwriter, Author-Composer: "Young Billy"
"I hired Andy to transcribe a then unpublished song from a fairly new musical off of a recording I had, so I could use the piece for auditions. Not only did he get me the transcription at lightning-fast speed... But about a year later, when the official published version of the music came out... He had nailed the piece almost exactly as it appeared in print. Truly amazing!"
-- Marc Murai: Producer, Director, Performer
"I had long waited to play an unusual violin solo, having only an old recording. Mr. Pope was able to hear the recording and produce a vivid and professional piece of sheet music. I feel fortunate to have found Mr. Pope to transcribe this obscure piece of music. I'd have no hesitation considering Andy Pope to handle your job. His work is a very special craft, and he has mastered it."
-- Eric Azizia, High School Music Student and Musician
"Andy Pope is the personification of talent, integrity and ability all in one. Not only is Andy's transcription remarkably on point, but he approaches his work with others in the same diligent, careful manner that he gives his very own creations. It would be a mistake to pass up the opportunity to work with Andy, as he is the consummate professional in the realm of music transcription."
--Mitch Maguire, Singer-Songwriter; President, Artistic Sky Music
"I am very pleased with Andy's prompt responses and eagerness to get the job done. Communication is clear and frequent, and he gets the job done quickly! Definitely one of the best customer services I have ever had. I truly recommend Andy for any of your musical needs."
--Jonathan Tay, Singapore