What is the app that writes down music as you play?

Music transcription apps analyze audio input from live performances or recordings and attempt to identify and write down the musical notation for the melodies, chords, rhythms, and lyrics. This technology uses sophisticated audio processing algorithms and machine learning models to “listen” to music and translate it into sheet music notation or tablature. The core benefit of these apps is enabling musicians to easily obtain sheet music and tabs for songs just by playing them. Rather than needing to seek out existing transcriptions or tediously notate music by ear, musicians can use intelligent transcription apps to automate part of the process.

Some of the most popular and capable music transcription apps today include AnthemScore, Transcribe!, SmartScore, Capo touch, Soundslice, Chordify, and others. While the technology is still imperfect and requires some user input for best results, these tools can save musicians immense time and effort compared to fully manual transcription. They empower musicians to quickly preserve their ideas as notation, learn pieces by ear, analyze recordings, and more. Beyond assisting musicians directly, music transcription apps also enable listeners to engage more deeply with music by seeing the underlying chords and gaining insights into how songs are constructed.

Notable Apps

Some of the most popular and capable music transcription apps include:

Shazam – This widely used app can identify songs just from a short sample. It matches the clip against an extensive audio fingerprint database to find a match. Shazam also provides song lyrics and links to streaming services. However, the app does not actually transcribe or notate the music.

SoundHound – Similar to Shazam, this app identifies music from short samples. It can also recognize humming and singing. SoundHound provides extra features like synchronized lyrics display and integrating with streaming services. However, it also does not transcribe the notes or chords.

Musixmatch – Primarily focused on song lyrics, Musixmatch integrates with popular music services to display synchronized lyrics. The app also includes audio recognition like Shazam to identify songs. However, it does not transcribe or notate the music itself.

While these apps excel at music identification and lyrics display, none of them actually convert audio into musical notation. For that more advanced transcription capability, dedicated music notation software is required.

How Music Transcription Works

Music transcription apps and software use advanced audio fingerprinting technology to identify songs and transcribe the musical elements. Audio fingerprinting works by analyzing the unique characteristics of a song’s melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre to generate a digital “fingerprint” of the audio. This fingerprint is then compared against a database of known song fingerprints to find a match.

Once the song is identified, the transcription software extracts the notes, chords, tempo, key signature and other musical information through digital signal processing techniques. The app listens to the audio, detects the pitch of notes and instruments, and converts this into musical notation. Advanced machine learning algorithms “listen” and improve at identifying notes and transcribing elements accurately over time.

The end result is a musical score generated automatically from the audio that musicians can then edit or export to sheet music. This technology allows transcription apps to convert recordings of live performances into sheet music notation quickly and precisely.

Overall, audio fingerprinting combined with machine learning provides the core technology behind how modern music transcription apps can listen to audio and generate musical scores automatically.

Transcribing Chords/Melody

There are a few apps that can transcribe chords, melody lines, and full sheet music from audio recordings. One of the most popular is Melody Scanner, which uses advanced audio recognition technology to identify chords and melodies. It can transcribe pop, rock, jazz and other genres into MIDI files or sheet music. According to their website, Melody Scanner claims over 90% accuracy in transcribing chords.

Another option is ScoreCloud, which can transcribe polyphonic music with multiple instruments into full sheet music. It can identify chords, melody, rhythm, and individual instrumental parts. ScoreCloud uses artificial intelligence to continually improve its transcription algorithms. In tests, it achieved over 85% accuracy in transcribing various genres.

These apps allow musicians to easily convert recordings into editable sheet music. This is useful for analyzing compositions, learning new songs, or creating covers. However, transcription accuracy depends heavily on audio quality. Live recordings or low-fidelity audio can reduce precision. Nonetheless, automated transcription tools continue to improve and provide a convenient way to generate sheet music.

Uses for Musicians

Music transcription apps have many useful applications for musicians. They can help musicians learn new songs and analyze compositions. When learning covers, musicians often slow down songs to pick out the notes and chords at a manageable tempo. Apps like Transcribe+ provide tempo slowdown functionality along with the ability to isolate different instruments and vocals. This makes it easier to learn the separate guitar, bass, vocal, and drum parts note-by-note.

Musicians can also use transcription apps to analyze songs and understand their structure, chord changes, and melodies when writing their own music. The transcribed sheet music acts like a map of the song, allowing deeper analysis compared to just listening. Understanding the music theory behind hit songs in one’s genre can aid songwriting. The ability to slow songs down also makes it easier to learn advanced solos note-for-note when developing technical instrumental skills.

Overall, music transcription apps give musicians a useful tool to learn new material accurately and analyze compositions they wish to emulate or get inspired by in their own playing and songwriting.

Uses for Listeners

Music transcription apps can be incredibly useful for listeners who want to learn more about songs they enjoy. For example, if you have a melody stuck in your head but can’t seem to figure out the name of the song or artist, these apps allow you to hum, whistle, or sing the tune and will provide song matches based on the melody.

According to The Best Music Transcription Software and Common Uses, the song identification feature in apps like Transcribe+ uses “advanced algorithms to detect pitch, notes, rhythm and timbre” to find likely song matches from an extensive database. This makes it easy for listeners to satiate their curiosity and rediscover forgotten songs.

Listeners can also use transcription features like tempo adjustment, pitch shifting, chord detection, and isolation of specific instruments/vocals to better understand and appreciate aspects of a song they may have missed previously. Slowing down fast solos, learning the chord changes to play along, or listening to isolated vocal tracks all allow fans to connect more deeply with their favorite music.

Overall, automated transcription technology provides an incredibly useful listening tool for any fan curious to unlock a deeper understanding of songs across all genres of music.


While automatic music transcription apps have come a long way, there are still some significant challenges and limitations to the technology according to experts on Quora. Key limitations include:

  • Difficulty transcribing complex chords and polyphonic music with multiple melodic lines.
  • Inability to convey dynamics, articulations, phrasing and other expressive elements.
  • Trouble with distorted sounds, background noise, and ambient hum that garbles the input audio.
  • Restricted harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary for notation, missing nuances in timing and microtones.
  • Confusing ornamentations like grace notes, slides, vibrato and tremolo during transcription.

In summary, while very useful, automatic music transcription still faces challenges with handling complexity, noise, and expressiveness compared to what a trained human ear can discern. Apps continue to improve but currently work best for monophonic melodies without much background interference.

Privacy Considerations

Music transcription apps need to access your phone’s microphone in order to listen and transcribe what you play. This means they could potentially record and store private conversations without your knowledge. According to this report, some transcription services like Otter.ai retain audio recordings and use them to improve their speech recognition algorithms.

Other apps like Transcribe+ claim to anonymize recordings and limit employee access. However, there is always a risk your private data could be exposed in a security breach. It’s important to carefully review an app’s privacy policy before granting microphone access.

In the future, privacy-focused transcription apps may allow listening and transcribing without ever transmitting your recordings to a cloud server. This client-side processing could reduce privacy risks. But for now, caution is warranted whenever letting an app listen to private conversations through your phone or computer’s microphone.

Future Directions

These transcription apps are likely to become even more powerful and user-friendly in the future. Based on emerging technologies and trends in audio transcription according to https://www.legaltranscriptionservice.com/blog/future-audio-transcription-emerging-technologies-trends/, accuracy and speed will continue improving as AI and machine learning algorithms advance.

Transcription apps will likely leverage large datasets to train algorithms, enabling them to better understand complex musical elements like chords, melodies, rhythm, and more. As noted by https://klang.io/blog/best-ai-music-transcription-tools/, integrating music theory rules into models can also enhance transcription accuracy. Apps may also expand compatibility across more instruments and genres.

In terms of features, we can expect continued integration with notation software according to https://www.plugintutor.com/the-future-of-sheet-music-the-best-notation-software-2023/. This will enable seamless workflows from recording audio to exporting polished sheet music. More interactive features like editing transcriptions, manipulating midi, and custom sharing will also emerge.

As algorithms, datasets, and computing power progresses – transcription apps should provide an increasingly effortless and integrated experience from inspiration to final musical score.


Music transcription apps can play a useful role for both musicians and listeners. They provide a convenient way for musicians to transcribe music they are composing without the painstaking manual effort of writing it down. This helps them preserve their creative ideas by safely writing down the chords, melody, harmonies, and structure of a song. It also allows musicians to transcribe music they hear to analyze it and learn from it. For listeners, these apps help them identify the chords, melody, and structure of songs they don’t know, find the song name and artist, and can provide a deeper appreciation for the music they enjoy. While the transcription process is not yet perfect and still has some limitations, the accuracy and scope of these apps continues to improve over time. Music transcription apps appear poised to become an increasingly vital companion for musicians and listeners alike to better store, process, understand, and share the music they are creating and consuming.

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