By Ron Gorow
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Ron Gorow and wife, Judy Kerr, author of Acting Is Everything



Ron Gorow has been in the music business in Hollywood for over 40 years, working in film, TV, records, live acts and publishing. He is a member of Professional Musicians Local 47, Recording Musicians Association, International Association of Jazz Educators and ASCAP. He has consolidated his experience as a composer, orchestrator, arranger, copyist, music engraver, score proofreader, musicologist and teacher to develop the techniques presented in Hearing and Writing Music.



Ron has taught seminars in Los Angeles, New York, Boston (Berklee College of Music), London, Paris and Switzerland. Future seminars are planned for Scandinavia and Australia.

If you would like to attend or sponsor a seminar or workshop anywhere in the world, contact the author for current information.


by Robin Gee

Q: "Why did you write the book?"
I wrote the book to answer the question "How do you hear?" first asked by Herb Alpert, whom I worked for since the beginning of his career in the sixties. Many musicians asked me the same question. They wanted to become more proficient at notating their own music. It was not an easy question to answer, although music transcription is not mysterious-anyone can develop it. Eventually, I began to put the technique into words. A few pages grew over twenty years into a complete ear training and music preparation course, which covers all aspects of the production of music. I taught composition and orchestration privately and at the Dick Grove School, always encouraging students to develop their transcribing skills. Knowing what you are hearing and the ability to notate it is the path to composition, orchestration, arranging and improvisation from the heart.

Q: "Can you describe the process?"
Hearing and Writing Music departs from traditional dictation ear training, in that you transcribe real music instead of exercises-music of your own choosing-so you are propelled by your passion or curiosity for the music. This makes your first transcription experiences rewarding, rather than tedious. It also compels you to make compositional and orchestrational notation choices as you transcribe, so it's much more than identifying notes. I've helped musicians improved their speed and accuracy, even those with many years of transcription experience.

The book takes you from simple to complex music in a short time and prepares you for any style of music. You transcribe from memory, then from recorded music, ultimately from your creative imagination. You are freed from using an instrument, increasing your speed and portability. You don't need absolute pitch, in fact, you're better off without it. The book has over 400 pages, containing the fine points of hearing and writing through the elements of linear phrases, counterpoint, the language of chord symbols and ultimately, hearing and writing full scores. It takes you through the complete process of notating and preparing music for live performance, recording or publication. The pros and cons of computer notation are discussed.

In the reference section, you'll find many resources-music professions, organizations, books, locations, websites-for composing, orchestrating, film scoring, microtonal music, alternate tuning, esoteric and exotic instruments, as well as study plans for self-training or the classroom.

Q: "Why not use a keyboard or other instrument?"
First answer is speed. Some of my students who transcribe as part of their work, have increased their transcription speed more than double after getting away from the keyboard. Music jobs are usually on a time crunch (deadline) so a fast transcriber is valuable to the project, whatever that may be. On a more creative level, when you are composing, orchestrating or arranging your own music, the faster you can transcribe your thoughts into notation, the freer you are to stay in a creative space. Our goal is to notate music directly from the ear to the staff, without consciously thinking of note names.

Second answer is portability. Using only a pencil and your ear, you can transcribe or jot down an idea anywhere, anytime. You simply notate in any key. Later, when finalizing or orchestrating, you can choose the optimum key, depending on the register of the vocalist or instrumentalist for which it is intended.

Let's analyze the process of transcribing with a keyboard, or other instrument. From your source - a tape or disc- you listen to a short phrase then play it on your instrument then notate it as you played it, note for note. Let's look closely at what you just did. You listened to the phrase. You re-created it on your instrument. In order to do this, you have to memorize the phrase then play it back in your inner ear as you translate the tones into the notes you are about to play. When you play the instrument, you are hearing the phrase again. If it sounds the same, you have verified that your note choices were right. Then you place each note on the staff, perhaps looking at the keyboard for note identification.

Now let's eliminate the middle step, the instrument. You listen to the phrase from the source. Again, you memorize the phrase and play it back in your inner ear but instead of playing on the instrument, you go directly to the staff. You've already decided what the notes are. The only thing missing is the aural verification of the instrument. If you know your intervals, you don't need to hear them; you can verify your choices simply by listening as you read your notation. The instrument is just a psychological crutch, verifying what you already have perceived. Some students, in order to break this habit, had to move their work into another room where there were no keyboards. If you have to walk to another room to verify a note, you will soon learn to trust your ear!

Once you eliminate the middle step, you not only save time-enough time to double your speed-you have solved the portability problem. All you need is your music source, pencil and staff paper, and a tuning fork to get started on the right pitch.

Q: "What's new in the second edition?"
In the second edition, we have added new material including Creativity and Productivity, Working in the Music Business, and outlined a plan for developing and consolidating your techniques into an integrated craft. There are updated resources for your investigation into all areas of music, as well as expansion and clarification of material in response to reader's questions and comments. We have enjoyed hearing from readers around the world. We are always available via e-mail to help readers get through the material and move into a creative and productive mode.



 © Ron Gorow  2002