Notes on the Transcriptions


Music transcribers are faced with many decisions. One important decision is choosing the type of transcription to prepare.

Prescriptive transcriptions are written to follow the player’s idea of how a specific tune goes. Descriptive transcriptions, on the other hand, are note-for-note and nuance-for-nuance transcriptions of exactly how a certain musician played a tune on a specific occasion.

In preparing transcriptions for this site, I’m doing a little of both. Because the YouTube versions of many of these tunes might be the only versions you’ll encounter, I want the sheet music to match the video as closely as possible. However, any number of situations will inevitably occur in which I will need to deviate from the exact notes and chords played on the video.


Sometimes Juan Reynoso or another violinist will play part of a melody differently than the way they taught the tune to me. In the case of obvious mistakes, I’ll write the tune as I was taught. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to see and hear Juan Reynoso play most of these tunes dozens of times, so I have a pretty good idea of how he wanted them to go.

I will generally be sparing in my transcribing of violin double stops in the interest of making the melody clear. By transcribing the note that I have been taught as the melody note, things are kept clear.

In some traditional Mexican tunes such as the well-known Las Mañanitas, one published sheet music version might list the lower of two notes as the melody, while another might suggest that the upper note is the melody. This is because sometimes a player or singer will use a harmony note above the melody note and sometimes a harmony note below. To keep the melody as clean as possible, when I know the correct melody I’m leaning towards prescriptive, simplified melody transcription in these cases.

I will also generally correct guitar backup chords if they differ from the chords I was taught. An example of this occurs in the foxtrot, Elena Y Maria. The chords I was taught and the chords that Juan’s son Neyo plays are different. In my opinion the chords Juan taught me fit the melody better, so I wrote those chords rather than the chords Neyo actually played on the video. Again, in these cases I’ll lean towards prescriptive transcribing.

The violinists of Tierra Caliente made liberal use of grace notes and slides. In most cases, I will try to transcribe the grace notes and allow the player to learn the slides by ear, as writing in all of the slides will clutter the transcriptions.

Naturally, several aspects of a transcription style are idiosyncratic to the transcriber. My goal is to make the basic melodies of the tunes as clear as possible.

To increase readability, I prefer to beam eighth notes in 4/4 time in groups of two rather than four. This takes advantage of a greater number of beams to guide the player as to which direction the melody line is going.

In many cases, as I discovered while preparing sets of tunes for performance, different recorded versions of the same tune can have quite different backup chords. I’ve tried to pick the chords that best fit the tune and the style. However a melody can often by harmonized equally well with different chords. I hope that you take what I’m presenting on this site as a starting point to making this remarkable music your own.

Enough bla-bla! Back to the music!


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