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Snowdin Town

I recently worked through the process of transcribing Snowdin Town by Toby Fox to piano sheet music, by ear. This was my first full-length transcription ever. See the embedded sheet music below, or check it out as a PDF.



Sheet as played by the computer

Doing this involved more work (and more tedium) than I expected. The song’s barely over a minute long! There were several tiny sections where I had to listen to them over a dozen times to get all the right notes. There are roughly three main sections, each containing a repeat or near-repeat. This means there are only about 8–9 “unique” measures in the whole piece. I found these parts much more tedious than the rest. In general, it was fun to e.g. alter a measure to produce the correct second ending of a repeat, but not so fun to pick out a full measure by ear from scratch.

The software I used was MuseScore 3, which I think is rather good (the sheets it produces look beautiful by default) but never really “got out of the way”. However, this attempt went much better than my first attempt transcribing a song. Back then I didn’t know about MuseScore’s concept of “voices”, which are what you’re supposed to use if you want one part of a harmonic line to change with a rhythm different from another part. I struggled against the software for quite a while before finally doing the right search to find voices in the documentation. Even though I now know about them, Snowdin Town only uses a single voice throughout, so would have been a better first song to transcribe.

I tried using a small-key-size plug-in 32-key MIDI keyboard to do some note entry, but it ended up being frustrating. I switched to using it as a standalone keyboard so I could play along with the song, and then afterwards separately input notes manually into the computer. I think having a full-sized piano handy while doing this kind of task would have been pretty helpful (but clearly not strictly necessary).

Snowdin Town was relatively easy to dissect by ear because all the instrument sounds in it sound quite different from one another. The bass and the melody each generally only have one note going on at any given time. There aren’t any accidentals—all chords are diatonic, which makes it easier to guess what they are.

One strange feature of the piece is that both hands spend a lot of time at the upper or lower parts of the treble clef’s staff. Luckily, they didn’t go so extreme that I was ever tempted to use 8va. I also didn’t go overboard with articulations or dynamics, so it’s a fairly plain sheet.

In the opening measure, the higher-pitched instrument in the original should play both the E♭ and the D♭. There’s a bit of a judgment call here, since you could play both keys at once with the thumb of the right hand, but I decided to split the notes across hands since the piano only has one sound, and I thought the nearly-mirrored motion of the hands was actually quite fun to play.

Overall I thought this was an enjoyable activity, although when I try it again I’ll definitely want to figure out some ways to be faster at placing notes in MuseScore. If I could erase about half the tedium, I could see myself transcribing a bunch of more-complex pieces in the future.