- This article is about music. For other uses, see Transcription disambiguation page
A musical transcription is an arrangement of a piece of music for a different instrument or instruments. This use of the word “transcription” is almost the same as arrangement, (the word "transcription" literally means: "writing across"). Musicians often disagree about what should be called a “transcription” and what is an “arrangement” . Usually transcriptions are almost like the original, whereas a musician who makes an arrangement may put some ideas of his own into the music.
Another meaning of “transcription” is: writing down music which existed before but had not yet been written down. This could be because it is jazz (which is usually improvised), or because it is folk music, which traditionally is taught from one generation to another by listening and imitating. In the early 20th century some composers became interested in writing down the traditional folksongs of their countries. Béla Bartók and Zoltan Kodaly in Hungary and Cecil Sharpe and Ralph Vaughan Williams in England transcribed folk songs they heard being sung in the villages of their countries..
Some composers have made tributes to other composers by arranging some of their compositions for orchestra. Ravel's transcribed Mussorgsky's piano piece Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra. Webern made a transcription for orchestra of a ricercar from Bach's Musical Offering. In both cases something of the transcribers’ own style can be heard in the new version.
Sometimes transcriptions are made for practical reasons. Mozart made transcriptions of some music from his own operas, arranging them for small groups of instruments so that they could play it for popular entertainment. Stravinsky transcribed some of his ballet music for piano, e.g. The Rite of Spring for piano duet and some dances from Petrouchka for piano solo.
- New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited Stanley Sadie; London 1980; vol 1 p.626