We need a Wikipedia for music transcriptions

December 8, 2011 |

Transcribing the improvised solos of the greats is a core part of jazz education, but it's rare that people share their (often hand-written) notes on, say, exactly what Clifford was doing in that second chorus of "Step Lightly." (Let me know if you need that one. I might still have it.)

Part of the point of transcribing solos is the fun and frustration of working through a recording yourself. But it would be nice to compare notes now and again. I just posted a pdf of an attempt to transcribe the solos in of my favorite Modern Jazz Quartet pieces. But I'm sure it's rife with errors, and there's no elegant way for people to point them out on these flat images.

This makes me wonder if it would be possible to use the WikiMedia framework for a collaborative music transcription project. There appear to already be some impressive tools like Vexflow for rendering musical notation in Javascript. I don't know exactly how the process of editing an existing transcription would work. Ideally, the "edit" tab would render the notation in a manipulative form common to most notation software, with instant playback and so forth. (I recommend SoundManager 2 for JS audio.)

Like any wiki model, of course, all previous versions of a particular tune would be archived. A pure Javascript rendering of interactive notation would be a major undertaking, but I see no reason it isn't technically possible.