Ep. 39: My Sheet Music Transcriptions: Oriol López Calle

Episode Description:

My guest today is Oriol López Calle, the founder and CEO of My Sheet Music Transcriptions.  He tells the story about how he turned his side job transcribing music into a remarkable company that has since delivered more than 30,000 transcriptions to clients.  This conversation is full of important lessons for anyone starting a business, transcribing music, or using notation software.

Featured On This Episode:
Oriol Photo
Oriol López Calle

Episode Transcript:

*Episode transcripts are automatically generated and have NOT been proofread.*

Oriol, welcome to the podcast.

How are you doing today?

I’m good.

Thank you.

How are you?

I’m doing well.

Tell our listeners where you live.

Right now, I’m in Terraza.

It’s actually a city near Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain.

Well, I think you’re our first guest from Spain on the podcast.

So add that to your list of accomplishments.

Achievement unlocked for sure.

Well, I wanted to talk to you because most of the listeners to this podcast are either self-publishers or composers who publish with the traditional print companies.

And transcribing is a major part of that process for everyone at some point.

It’s something we all do.

Probably everyone listening to us right now has some experience transcribing, but it’s not something we really talk about that much.

So I’m excited to dig into the topic a little more with you.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, could you just start by giving us your background as a musician and how you came to form your company?



So right now I’m 30 years old, right?

So I began studying music when I was six.

I am a classically trained pianist.

And by the age of 16, I decided to go to the dark side and study jazz a little bit.

And I was more into, you know, events, weddings, playing in a big band, playing with a jazz ensemble.

And by then I became some sort of a jazz pianist.

So I studied jazz, of course.

And this was all my formation, my musical background is about that.

I studied, of course, composition.

I was an arranger, but I never did the whole professional degree or the bachelor.

I don’t know how you guys call that in America, right?

But the thing is that I studied aerospace engineering, actually.

So I’m an engineer.

I’m not a 100 percent professional musician.

And that, I don’t know.

I mean, you know what I mean?

I don’t have a master’s.

I’m not a doctor.

I’m not an incredible performer.

But I just happen to be, yeah, a transcriber and an arranger and a sheet music nerd for some reason.

So here we are.

That’s my background.

And I play in local jazz venues all the time, but I’m not even in the Barcelona scene or not even the Spain scene at all.

So just a very, you know, jazz pianist, that would be the thing.

Let me interrupt you with a question before you go on.

When you get your degree in aerospace engineering, do they also teach you business skills?

Because I know a lot of musicians complain that they never learn about the business side of things.

Do you get that from other degrees or is that a problem that everybody faces?

So we had the first year we had the business subject and I was kind of good at it, but it’s not like they teach you business skills or business development necessarily.

But I do think that having studied engineering has helped me greatly at achieving what we’ve achieved so far because you get to know, well, not you don’t get to know, but you get to sense and improvise and have the skills to run a company.

You have the spreadsheets, the taxes, numbers, organization skills needed.

So I think that engineering helped a lot in that regard, but I didn’t necessarily have a business training per se.

So yes and no would be the answer, right?

Well, and I’m just asking because there’s a difference between the business skills needed to be an individual musician, a freelancer.

It’s a much different set of skills to own a company and have employees and do all of that stuff that you’re doing.

So you’ve taken two big leaps.

Not only are you jumping into music, but also into entrepreneurship.


I mean, hey, I didn’t ask to be here would be my response to that.

Well, tell us how you got here then.

I’ll stop distracting you.

You can finish your story.

I mean, I love it because it’s like, oh, you’re running a company.

I was like, I’m a transcriber.

I started transcribing 12 years ago when I was 18 at my parents’ house.

After finishing my aerodynamic subject, I had some beers with friends and at night I had to transcribe.

I had to do my stuff.

I was being requested some random sheet music by people that were watching my YouTube channel.

And I was studying engineering while transcribing.

And eventually the transcribing thing got on and got out of hand.

And it grew and I had to hire people and this company was formed with this.

But it’s not like I wanted to start a company or I had this vision or entrepreneurship vision to, you know, oh, let’s set up a company that transcribes music.

So it started organically.

And all I wanted to be was a musician and study engineer.

Because, you know, your parents tell you to, hey, study something that is, you know, just to have a future.

The backup.

Yeah, the backup thing.

And eventually the backup thing became the main thing.

So yeah, I don’t know.

I was a musician when I was 18 while studying engineering and I was doing gigs.

I had a YouTube channel with some performances, some piano covers.

I like jazz, so I have some very cringy piano covers.

I say cringy because I totally hate them now, 12 years after, right?

Well, that’s how it goes.

And people were requesting sheet music from it and I was like, yeah, why not?

Let’s transcribe that for you.

And eventually songwriters and composers reached out, hey, can you help me with this?

Can you help me with that?

And I went on transcribing for years until I had too much volume.

And I asked for some friends’ help and I had a talented pianist that wanted to help, then somebody to help me answer emails.

And I don’t know, it grew more and more and more organically, bootstrapping all the way up until here.

And now we are allegedly one of the largest transcribing services in the world.

We have about 45 employees working full time on transcribing, organizing digital marketing, project managing, working on B2B projects, business developing.

So it’s been quite a ride, I would say.

I mean, that’s wild.

That’s wild.

In the beginning, how were you finding your clients?

Did you have a website at that point or was it just word of mouth?

I did not find them.

They did find my YouTube channel.

They liked the performance.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That’s amazing.

They would send me an email to literally oriol.lópez.gmail.com or something along those lines and I would reply, work on the transcription for literally 20 bucks.

Those prices have changed since.

I’m sorry.

I mean, it was a teenage kind of business.

It’s the teenage dream, right?

So I don’t know.

And since I eventually put together a website, that’s true.

I mean, I had the, I don’t know, I wanted to put together a website to organize things and have a contact form, some information beforehand because you always get asked the same questions.

And then we went on and improved the website, the customer service attention, the everything.

We put together the structure, right?

I think something a lot of musicians struggle with is knowing when to ask for help, right?

When to bring in other people to collaborate on projects.

Can you talk about that thought process and when did you know, okay, it’s time to bring in other people and it’s going to be worth it for them and for me to jump on this together?

When I realized that I can’t be good at everything and that I do really need help with some very complex jazz transcriptions, when I get requested orchestral stuff that I’m not confident enough to do, basically when you have too much volume, you need to outsource, you need to delegate.

I’ve prioritized a lot having a good personal life.

I mean, I like doing sports, I like playing, I like performing my instrument, I like playing the piano, and I don’t want to be 14 hours per day in front of a screen transcribing.

Plus, transcribing is a very time-intensive and dedicated task.

I mean, you cannot transcribe for more than four or five hours at all, right?

So there’s a point where you have to just ask for help.

And if you can, I thought, why not ask for even more talented people to help me?

Gather all the best musicians you know, the best people around.

And right now I have the confidence to say that everybody in the company is a better transcriber than I am.

And everybody who does a task or carries out a job at My Sheet Music Transcriptions is better at it than what I would be at.

So that’s the, I mean, my primary focus is to hire or to be surrounded by people who is even better and better and brings a lot of value.

That’s the way I see it.

And I’ve always been like this since the beginning, I think.

Well, I think especially for the younger composers listening, that’s a really important lesson to learn.

If somebody asks you to do a job and you’re not comfortable with it, you say yes, and then you go find someone who is, who can help you.

That way, you can still build those connections.

You can learn how to do it rather than just saying no and losing that business.

Oh, yeah.

And learning along the process is key.

If you work with people who know more, you will eventually learn how to do it, and you may be able to do it at some point.

But yeah, learning along the process is a good lesson.

So take us behind the scenes of a typical job.

Let’s say I call you up and I want a transcription.

What’s everything that happens on your end?

Oh, wow.

So we receive an email from you, probably a contact form, and it’s going to go through our customer service protocol.

It’s going to be received by one of our customer service support guys.

We have seven people doing this job right now, and we are going to listen to the song.

We’re going to see what instruments you asked for.

We’re going to see if we have a specialist available to work on it, and we’re going to get back to you with an estimation of the time that it takes to be transcribed, hence the price, and then the estimated turnaround time.

Also, the formats, if you want finalized, I believe you’ll use new score or whatever.

We can talk about that later, I’m sure.

That’s going to be assessed by the team, and then once we agree on the conditions, we can of course talk about it.

If you’re a composer, let’s see how the template is going to look.

Is it going to be a blank template with your logo, do we need a copyright footer for your own works, whatever is needed?

We agree on all that, and then it goes to our team of transcribers who work, all of them remotely and locally from Barcelona, most of them.

All of them are in Barcelona, some of them in Central Europe, a couple of them in the US, and then it’s done by our transcribers, they return it to us.

It goes through proof editing.

We have some kind of a QC kind of a protocol system to assure that quality control is always good, and then it’s sent to you.

After that, we have a revision process and we can work together to make the sheet music as beautiful and as satisfactory as you want.

That would be a normal, regular request that goes, everything goes well and everyone is happy.

Of course, there are a lot of ramifications from that.

I mean, it’s a pretty streamlined process, I got to say.

It has to be because we do 1,500 transcriptions per month.

If it’s not, dude, I would be nuts by now.

I mean, that’s crazy.

What are the most common styles of music you’re asked to transcribe?


I mean, 1,500 is a lot, but-


We do everything, educational stuff, public domain, orchestral stuff rearranged for ensembles, also piano vocal stuff for auditions is very common, also songwriters and composers needing vocal lead sheet transcriptions to register songs or just to play them with a band, horn arrangements for songwriters to rehearse and put together an album or play live.

Jazz transcriptions, people love jazz.

If you’re a jazz player, you know that you have to transcribe your own solos and get to know those Oscar Peterson licks yourself and not get somebody else to transcribe it for you.

But hey, we still receive a lot of-

I’m glad you said that because-

I got to be honest, if you want to learn that solo, you’re going to learn what’s behind the solo and what’s the thought process of the performer if you actually transcribe it yourself.

Breaking News, it’s super hard, it’s super time intensive, and it’s going to drive you crazy.

But we do receive a lot of jazz requests as well.

And as a jazz lover myself, I love to assess jazz projects, have jazz sounding around the office every day.

I don’t know, it’s a very musical project, and we like that as well.

I don’t know.

Would you say that most of the people requesting transcriptions are amateur musicians, professional musicians, students?

I mean, what’s the breakdown in your client base?

I’d say 50-50.

50 amateurs and 50 professionals who have the skills but don’t have the time to transcribe or work on that project.

We work with publishers, labels, we work with sheet music publishers, we work with music educators who hire us to streamline their processes, help with scaling the content, creating more digital transcriptions for play-alongs, MIDI, karaoke, whatever.

And then also amateur musicians who don’t have a clue on how to play that song, and they just request it to you so they can play at home when they return from work with their daughters and sons.

I mean, it’s a very familiar environment as well.

I want to play this with my son.

He plays the violin.

I just want to play the piano with him.

And then we have an audition or even church service stuff for next weekend.

Can you transcribe this hymn, this thing for us to play at church?

I mean, there are multiple situations, like day-to-day situations for amateur musicians we help them with and also professional musicians getting some help from us, you know, to work on the creative side of things and be a musician and be a performer, and not necessarily a full-time transcriber.

We are the transcribers, you do the music.

As an arranger, something that really bugs me is when artists don’t have sheet music of their songs available.

Drives me crazy.

I’m sure you agree with me.

I’ve sort of begun a personal quest to convince songwriters that it’s worth their time to have their sheet music out there.

That’s part of the reason I started the podcast, because sheet music in general is not something that people in the music industry, unless you’re really involved in that or unless you’re involved in education, that’s not really something that’s a focus.

What would you say to an artist that was on the fence about whether or not to make their sheet music available?

Commercially, I think having sheet music available is a great way to spread the word about your music.

That’s the way I say it.

Actually, we always say that sheet music helps the music live on in a way.

So commercially, I would say that fanbase, the audience in general wants to play sheet music at home with violin, with a piano, piano vocal, S-A-T-B, whatever.

So people want to be playing your music and not everybody.

I would say 99% of the musicians out there won’t be able to play your songs by ear.

The same way you actually compose by ear, they won’t be able to play it by ear.

So sheet music is a good, solid start to playing the songs and the way to build up stuff on top of it.

So that’s the way we say sheet music.

And in terms of arrangements, it’s very good to have the sheet music of the vocal line, of the piano compendium and the chords in order to be able to arrange horns on top of it, strings on top of it, and have your music professionally available to the musicians that surround you because that’s like the base.

Well, I would assume that most of the songs that get requested from you are songs that do not have the sheet music available.

So your company in its existence is proof of my point that people want this music.

And just like artists have no problem hiring a mixer to mix the album, or a producer, or an engineer to do the session, hiring somebody to transcribe and engrave the music is just another part of that process, in my mind anyway.

It is to ours as well.

And also, you mentioned engraving, also manuscripts have to be digitized in order to generate parts from full scores.

So there’s a lot of reasons why one would like to have a digital sheet music available for your own projects or for other projects you might be playing on or working on, for sure.

So I have a deep philosophical question for you.

Let’s go.

At what point does it stop being a transcription and start being an arrangement?

Maybe it’s a legal question.

I don’t know.

No, I don’t think it has to do with the legal side of things.

It is very subjective thing and the objective thing.

That note is wrong.

That time signature shouldn’t be 6 to 8.

It should be 3 to 4 the way I hear it.

Is it G flat?

Is it F sharp?

Those kind of questions, music notation-wise and music-wise are…

We have very intense discussions at the office when talking about certain projects and when we receive feedback from a project, maybe there’s a lot of…

30% of our team are actually originally musicologists, by the way.

So you can imagine.


Transcription versus arrangement, that’s something that we certainly ask the customers before starting a job because we need to know if it has to be a one-to-one thing or if there can be some creativity involved and have an arrangement going.

So yeah, philosophical question without an answer, I’m afraid.

Well, I tend to think anytime you are taking music and doing it in a different format, if it’s a piano vocal, but the original was guitar and vocal, even if you’re not trying to change the song, in a way, you’re making an arrangement.

Yeah, it’s an arrangement.

Yeah, we would call that an arrangement.

But what if you have a piano vocal and the piano part is actually coming from a piano reduction from an orchestral part or.


It’s a messy topic sometimes.


I cannot hear the bassoon notes or the horns that the orchestra playing.

Okay, my lady, that is because we only have 10 fingers as a pianist, and this is a piano reduction and a piano vocal.

Then this is considered subjective or objective arrangement, or is it a one-on-one transcription?

It’s very hard.

Again, the criteria plays a big role here.

You just have to trust the transcriber’s criteria, and if you don’t like something, just let us know and Proof Editing will take care of it.

We have our Proof Editors who will help with the revision process.

Actually, do you know how do we call the people who help you with the reviewing process and actually provide a conversion from Sibelius to Finale?

Do you know how do we call them internally?

We call it the wizardry team.

They are the wizards because somehow, in a way, they do the magic to please the customer, the customer success team.

They take the Sibelius, they put the finishing touches.

Nobody knows how, nobody knows why they have their scripts.

We have a lot of automation as well.

And the wizardry team, it’s two people right now.

You send a problem to them, and it comes out solved.

So they just do some Wingardium Leviosa stuff, and the problem goes away.

So yeah, we have an internal magical department that takes care of all these processes, which is funny.

You’re the Ministry of Music.


When you’re transcribing, do you have a process that you go through that you find to be helpful?

Is it always tempo first, then key, then bassline, then melody?

What’s the order that you do everything?

Actually, we would have to ask every transcriber because everybody has its own ways of working.

Actually, if I recall correctly, I think we have some blog posts explaining the ways that each transcriber works, because maybe the guitar guys work in a different way than an orchestrator, and compared to the horns guy, it’s different.

So in general, what I used to do, because I unfortunately don’t transcribe anymore, but what I used to do on the hundreds of transcripts inside it, generally it’s listening to the piece first, getting the feel of the tempo, getting the time signature, of course, key signature, and then maybe working on the melody, the main melodies that you hear, if we’re talking about a piano arrangement, right?

So maybe a bit of the right hand at the beginning.

Then if the left hand has a lot of patterns and it’s easy to copy-paste, you just go on and work on the left hand patterns.

And then just go on as you please.

You can always loop a section and work intensely on a section.

If it’s too hard, you can jump to the next one, leave the hard section for another moment.

Maybe it repeats after, and then you get more used to it.

But in general, every transcriber is going to have a different method, and all of them work if the quality of the sheet music at the end is good.

Of course, at the end, slurs, articulations, dynamics, layout is very important.

I see very good transcribers outside of My Sheet Music Transcriptions who are very good transcribers at the notes, like rhythms, pitches, but then layout, presentation is definitely not acceptable.

And we believe that this plays a very important role as well, because it doesn’t only have to be good, it has to look good, right?

So that’s a way, a key thing that we tried to prioritize.

And then at the end, maybe take a couple more listens once you finish to make sure you didn’t leave anything out would be my kind of process when transcribing.

But of course, hey, whatever works for you, right?

Do you transcribe?

What would be yours?

Can I ask you that?


I like to start with the bass notes.

I like to just have something there for the whole song, just to have the structure so I don’t get lost visually.

And then I go back and I fill in things from there.

But yeah, I typically start with like, okay, what’s the tempo?

What’s the time signature?

Figure out what key we’re in.

I sort of set up the document.

I’m in finale, so I set up the finale document, and I have a couple of templates that I use.

So that part is pretty quick.


And then for me, a lot of the time, what I’m transcribing is piano music.

And so having that lowest note in the left hand there sort of helps to, it’s like a guidepost as I’m listening to the rest of it, just to see where I am.

I’m a very visual person and very rhythmic, so I would say the bass notes first, and then almost the rhythms are next most important, I think.

It’s interesting.

I found that I can pick up the rhythm right away, and then I have to go back a couple of times and check some of the notes, especially with faster stuff.

I know there’s six, eight notes here, and I got the general shape of it, but I don’t have that amazing ear where I could just sort of pick out a thin air, like, oh, G, B, C, F sharp, you know?

Also, chord symbols.

If you’re into jazz or pop, chord symbols usually help a lot to have the structure and something in place, then you transcribe the chord symbol, and then you transcribe the rest of the notes because you already know the harmony.

Or the other way around, you transcribe the notes first and then the chords.

Well, now you’re asking me the deep philosophical questions.


Because there’s a hundred ways to spell every chord symbol, especially if you’re transcribing jazz, and you have to assume what’s left out and what’s put in.

I mean, there’s so many different ways to voice a chord.

There’s not really any way to know for sure, at least once you start thinking about extended harmony.

Yeah, 100%.

That’s why, I mean, if you transcribe the basic chords, not without the upper structures, you should be good to go most of the time.

But what then if people are looking for the upper structures and they didn’t ask you that?

So it’s always a hard topic.

When to go the extra extra mile or when to leave it at something practical and useful.

That’s also very challenging and tricky when you’re transcribing for somebody else, right?

Well, and I find it hard with piano music especially, but maybe even more so with guitar, figuring out what’s the overtone and what’s the actual note itself.

Oh, really?

Well, if it’s a wide chord, sometimes it’s like, well, what are those notes in the middle?

Sometimes it’s not entirely clear.

Yeah, it’s happened before.

You’ve got guitar, they’re played on six strings, and the middle ones sometimes get lost.

At least to me, I’m a trombone player by training.

And so my ear does, I can pick out the second flute part in an orchestra thing, no problem.

And then you hand me a guitar transcription.

Because my brain isn’t trained to listen for that.

It really does take practice and a lot of it.

And obviously, that’s the correct answer.

How do you get better at transcribing?

You practice.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions?

I’d say you can manipulate or play around a bit with the original audio by looping it, making it slower.

In general, I think that having a good tool to scroll through the audio, up and down, left and right, is key.

Are you talking about scrolling through the waveform itself?

Not necessarily, just the song itself, the music itself.

Imagine transcribing from Spotify.

It’s not like the arrows don’t work.

You can loop a section.

It doesn’t work.

So it’s better to have the audio, put it on, I think this is a software called Transcribe, or on a DAW, on Logic.

Just put it on Logic and play around with the audio on Logic, and then it will be easier.

Have everything in one screen or maybe two screens, and the setup is going to be very important.

Of course, headphones and just patience and practice.

There’s of course a lot of tips and tricks you can have.

Shortcuts would be one as well for the music notation.

We can talk about that if you want.

Do you prefer transcribing with headphones?

Myself, I do prefer transcribing with headphones, but it can get more intense in a way.

Once you’ve gone through the same passage 25 times, you’re going to dream about it.

I can guarantee that.

What software tools do you use?

You mentioned a couple in that last answer, but Transcribe was one that I’m familiar with, Logic is one I’m familiar with.

Anything else that our listeners should know about?

Not really, because right now, in the next years, I’m sure there are going to be some other AI-powered solutions that assist the process and try to pick out nodes and help with this and that.

But so far, what we’ve experimented with, it’s so not reliable yet, it’s just so much easier to transcribe from scratch.

So anytime a customer sends our way, hey, I used this random server to put together this XML file.

Can you start a transcription with that stuff I’m sending you?

We’re like, dude, this is hopeless.

I mean, it’s way easier that we start from scratch.

That’s the way we’re working out.

This doesn’t mean that in the next years, we’re not going to have more tools and more assistance by AI-powered tools, for sure.

That’s something I wanted to ask you about.

Do you have any sort of inside knowledge on what’s coming on the AI front?

I mean, there’s a lot of things happening.

We have core detection happening in academia.

We have audio stem separation by companies like AudioShake, Moises, right?

We have…

How do you call that?

When you slow down a song and the quality remains intact, right?

So we have this kind of…

You have a lot of technology going on at the moment.

And I think that at some point, AI is going to be able to help at transcribing.

But music notation-wise, like writing precisely and exactly what is going on in a music notation-accepted way that is not MIDI-powered-ish.

You know what I mean?

It’s going to be hard.

Because right now, the tools are trying to find a way around going from MP3 to MIDI.

And then from the MIDI, once we get to the MIDI, you just kind of throw the MIDI at a score without even splitting the hands properly.

And then the way it looks, it’s the way the sheet music is going to look like.

And that’s a big no, right?

Because it’s not going to be playable.

It’s not going to be musician-friendly.

So that last step to make it music notation-friendly is the step that is missing currently.

And I don’t know how many years it’s going to take.

But I assume it’s going to eventually happen, right?

Do you see your company evolving then when that happens?

I mean, give it five, ten years, and the robots will be transcribing everything.

Will you shift to be more of an engraving house or a notation service?

Or do you see it going some other way?

For sure, we will certainly adapt to whatever comes, and we will go hand-by-hand with companies who power this and who incentivize this.

But I’m not sure on what will happen exactly.

By no means we will be like, oh no, humans are always going to do it better.

No, I mean, we’re going to embrace it.

We’re working together.

Actually, we are developing our own automation tools, our own solutions in-house.

We’re putting together some ways to improve our workflow.

That’s, of course, quite internal.

But I don’t think that robots are going to be transcribing 100% of the content that we’re transcribing right now because there’s a lot of fine-tuning, arranging, simplifying this song for this very customer.

Orchestration-wise, it’s very far at this moment.

So I think that in certain transcriptions, melodic, horns, vocals, lyrics, we’re close to that in the next years.

And for other stuff, I don’t see it happening at least in 10, 15 years.

But of course, I could be wrong and time will tell.

We’ll see how this episode ages.

I know.

Maybe in two years, it’s so bad and I’m canceled.

Well, if it happens, we’ll have you back on.

You also publish a lot of music.

So in a certain way, you’re also a publishing company.

Tell me more about that side of the business and how important that is to your process.

I’ve seen a lot of your arrangements on MusicNotes, for example.

I’m sure there are other places as well.

So you’re not just transcribing, you’re also publishing.


Since we have a quite relevant music tutorials channel on YouTube, there we publish some transcriptions that we like.

For our music community, we also have a Discord.

And of course, in the best possible licensed way, we partner with MusicNotes, which are great guys and great partners of ours.

We publish our best arrangements or at least the arrangements that we believe that people are going to like the most on their website.

And it’s under our signature artist catalog.

But this is not really the core of the business, though.

It’s just like a side thing to monetize content that we think that people are going to like on our music community.

So we put together those arrangements just for the community.

But the core of the business remains to provide tailored custom services to both B2C and B2B customers.

And right now, as we speak, we’re privating more into helping companies in music tech, music education, and in general labels, publishers.

We want to help them scale their content and not necessarily working on a song by song basis, but with large chunks and large batches of music.

That is our priority right now.

So yeah, publishing is good, but we remain loyal to providing the exact sheet music and services that businesses need, not only on sheet music, but also MIDI files or XML or scrolling sheet music, anything digital, because now everything is going to be digital, right?

Well, since you brought it up, all of your music that you transcribe is digital, right?

So do you have thoughts on ways musicians can use digital music effectively, apps or programs, or I don’t know, like the shift from paper to digital is something I’m very interested in, and I see a lot of people still sticking with their paper, you know?

And I’m sure a lot of them print out the music that you send them, but any thoughts on that, on making that transition successfully?

Yeah, I mean, sheet music in PDF is, yeah, you print it out, it’s there, but sheet music in a digital format, XML can be transposed, It can be used to play along a backing track.

It can be used as scrolling sheet music on certain apps out there.

I mean, there are a lot, right?

And yeah, digital formats in general is where we’re going, and especially for music education, where the priority is right now.

And for musicians and composers, also, if you have the right MIDI files and digital files, eventually you will be able to put it on an AI and generate a new song from there, from your ideas, or shape your song in a way that you wouldn’t have imagined, thanks to the fact that you have the digital files ready to inform those systems, right?

And you cannot do that with a pencil and a paper.

However, when you write and if you’re used to pencil and paper, that’s fine, but eventually you are going to have to do the jump and go to the digital format somehow.

Do you see there being a large market for MIDI files or XML files of compositions then?

Like if I decided to write a piece for piano, would there be a market for the file itself?

I’m not sure.

It’s hard to say, because if you sell your XML and your MIDI file, you’re actually selling the editable file.

Well, that’s the problem.

The problem or the good thing?

I’m not sure.

That’s a very good question.

If you were to sell, I don’t know, let’s say that you’re a visual artist and instead of selling, like a graphic designer or visual artist and instead of selling the PNG or the image format of your work, what if you sell the actual like Photoshop or Illustrator raw file?

Would that be cool?

I don’t know.

I mean, I’m asking because I don’t know the question.

So I’m not really sure.

Well, if you gave me a Photoshop file, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

You’d have to have the expertise, but you were just talking about how music XML files are getting used more in education, and I see that as well.

But if I sell my music as XML files, you’re right.

Once it’s out there, anybody can change it and do whatever they want with it.

Maybe there’s something there.

I don’t know.

Maybe you write a piece that’s meant to be altered in a certain way, and that’s part of the appeal.

But it sounds like certainly that’s not something mainstream yet at this point.


The way I see it is that the digital formats are very useful internally as a composer.

If you’re working alongside an education company or with other composers or arrangers to exchange work, but not necessarily useful to make available to the public your work.

So your work can be made available via a recording, a PDF, a book.

And publishers will likely agree with me because publishers usually are not sure about, oh, this digital format, how is it going to look, how is it going to be displayed?

They have so many questions and that’s good.

I totally get that.

So for the public as a composer, when trying to monetize your content, I would still stick to the usual formats that we’re used to, unless somebody comes up with something unusual, which I would very happily embrace, by the way.

Well, if anyone listening wants to come up with a new XML software, go for it.

Let me know.

Shoot me a message.

So I’m sure you and your team live in notation software all day, every day.

So what are your thoughts on the current landscape and the options available to composers?

You’ve got Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, MuseScore.

Are there others that you use?

What do you see going on in that space that you find interesting?

Well, good question.

I mean, we use pretty much all of them, right?

We do have two main teams that use Sibelius and Finale.

And actually, at the Christmas dinners, it’s always one against the other, like, oh, you cannot do that with Sibelius.

Ah, you cannot do that with Finale.

There’s a lot of banter involved.

When there’s a technical problem with Finale, the Sibelius team goes like, ha, you cannot solve that.

But in general, all of them are very good software.

And I would highlight the growth, not necessarily that it’s better, but the growth of the team at MuseCore.

MuseCore 4 has been a great release.

I think it was actually completely redesigned.

UX-wise, it’s amazing.

And right now, I think it’s been updated very recently to 4.2, which is a great version as well that improves even the guitar tabs, which was a bit lacking before.

So MuseCore 4.2 is great.

And of course, open source and free to use.

So no licenses involved in that regard.

Dorico, I’m not that familiar with.

I don’t have anybody in the team that uses it.

We do have a couple of customers that love Dorico, but I would say that it’s a more professional software, maybe less for beginners.

So for beginners, always go with MuseCore.

And if you’re at school, if you used Finale, you’re going to be probably used to Finale.

But if the first notation software that you had is Sibelius, in general, Sibelius users are like the Mac users that are always like, meh, I cannot run an Android or a Windows, right?

So every software has its pros and cons, I would say.

Is there one that you think is more useful for transcription specifically?

No, I don’t think so.

I think all of them are great because transcription is just listening to something and notating it immediately, right?

So I would say that all four solvers are great for music transcription.

Then for playback, if you want to listen when your road is sounding, I would say that all of them have very relatively great playback engines.

So I don’t see a major difference there because of course, it’s always going to depend on the library that you got.

If you have native instruments, if you’ve got the default library as well.

By the way, we’re not mentioning Guitar Pro, which is the main guitar music notation software used by the community.

Not necessarily the most professional and easy to tweak and fine-tune software, but it’s widely used by the guitar community, and maybe not so much for composers and educators, but Guitar Pro is very popular as well.

Yeah, that’s a really great summary.

I’m curious, do you track what happens to the things that you transcribe after you send them off, or is that just too much work?

Oh, I mean, that would be too much work, but we certainly receive a lot of thank you notes and videos of people playing the stuff that we transcribe, composers saying, hey, look how my composition sounded these other day that we performed it, or some writers saying, hey, I registered the album, here’s the Spotify link, can you share it on your social networks?

So there’s a lot of stories behind each case, and we like to follow it up.

We don’t necessarily have the resources to track what happens to that piece of sheet music that we transcribe.

We just make sure that it’s not distributed or shared without content on the internet in general.

But again, that’s also very hard to track, and publishing companies actually struggled with this a lot already.

So we would have the same problem.

Well, and the reason I was asking is that you work with so many different people.

I wonder if you have seen anything that one of your clients has done that’s been really successful at promoting their own music that you could share.


We do work with a lot of composers and artists that do covers on YouTube, that have used the sheet music that we have transcribed for them to add a new revenue stream to their career, to their efforts.

And it’s gone really, really nicely.

We work with one, I want to highlight one, which is Gavin Luke.

Gavin Luke is a pianist and composer, and he has a lot of piano music.

It’s rather chill, simple, easy to perform, digest, easy listening piano music.

And eventually, some years ago, we worked with him on dozens of scores for his personal store online.

And he’s been getting a lot of sales from people who want to play his music.

And since it’s very sheet music friendly, that’s the term I like to call it, like sheet music and like musician friendly, because it’s like kind of a plug and play, because if you’re a decent sight reader, it’s like music that sits well on the fingers and it sounds great.

It has a lot of potential.

On the other side, we’ve also worked with people who do covers, like Neil Archer, Lake Ueda, or YouTubers in general who monetize their content and need those transcriptions done.

They publish them on music notes.

Everything is licensed and copyrighted.

They just add another revenue stream again.

They distribute pop songs, piano covers at an advanced level or easier level or professional level.

I think we’ve even worked with Peter Benz, which is a crazy YouTuber that does piano loop covers with crazy skills, virtual music skills.

And even that, because people see it and say, oh my God, I want to play like this guy.

It’s like, yeah, good luck.

I mean, I’m like, well, you’re going to get this sheet music and you’re, I don’t know if you’re going to make it, but still, maybe even for collection purposes, people love to have that sheet music at home.

They like to try it out and it worked great.

So yeah, we have a lot of success stories among our customers, artists, composers and educators in general.

Well, before we go, is there any shameless self-promotion you’d like to give us?

Anything coming up with the company that you want to share?

How do we get in touch with you?

Oh, well, we’re getting to that moment.

I mean, I feel like I’ve told a lot about us already, so I don’t want to push anything.

If you guys want to see what we’re doing, see our brand new website, by the way, redesigned a couple of months ago, it’s mysheetmusictranscriptions.com.

Make sure to leave us an email and say, Hi, hey, I listened to the podcast.

It was fun or MuseCore sucks or whatever comments you have, please send them to Garrett and us.

I’m always up for a chat and exchange some emails and exchange some opinions for sure.

So that’s pretty much it.

You guys know what we do, and we’re more than happy to help your careers.

Also, if you’re good transcribers, we are currently, all positions are covered, of course, but if you’re a good transcriber, efficient, organized, and you respond to emails promptly, please feel free to send us an email as well and offer yourselves as music notators.

We might contact you at some point, but again, all positions are covered for now.

Please don’t insist because people are quite intense sometimes.

Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

This was really fun.

Thank you so much, Garrett, and a lot of success.

And happy 2024, even if this goes out in June.

Same to you.