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learn: Experience by Gentle Giant

By Anthony Garone

A transcription of this very complex work of genius.

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What are we learning?

This post contains a transcription I did of the intro to an incredible song called Experience by Gentle Giant. This haunting bit of music has remained very close to my heart for many years. It is so unique and identifiable! The musical performance of the entire song is as stunning as the composition itself.

Purchase the song on iTunes 

Or, purchase the album on Amazon 

I tried learning the song a few years ago and was completely confounded. I simply could not figure out how it all worked! Thankfully, there was a generous effort by Rich Goodhart  with a handwritten transcription . It was difficult to believe the transcription was correct when I first looked it over because the sheet music looked too “straightforward.” Sure enough, it was right! The way the ostinato plays around with triplet rhythms… It’s inexplicably cool!

Check out our interview with the songwriter, Kerry Minnear!

I started learning the piece on piano and thought, “I wonder if this is playable on the guitar.” It sure was difficult coming up with something that made sense on the guitar, but I think I figured something playable out. There are some finger acrobatics on the left hand, but it stays relatively in the 7th, 3rd, and 1st positions. Pay particular attention to the left hand fingerings (those are the little numbers aligned with the notes on the upper staff).

Instructional Video

I’ve put together an instructional video that illustrates everything I’m talking about. I play it slowly, then half-speed, then at tempo.

Sheet Music

Soundslice  is an incredible web app that offers HTML5 sheet music without the need for Adobe Flash or any other plugins. It’s super-duper awesome. Check it out!

Here is the score and tablature for the Experience introduction. The time signatures are arbitrarily crazy only because it seems to be how the intro was played. Most of the song is in 9/4 and 4/4 beyond the intro.

Other Performances

Here is the original band playing the song live (skip to 4:20 in the video), which is a bit different from the original studio release. I personally prefer the studio version for several reasons.

Here’s a great performance on the piano. It doesn’t capture the vocal melody, but that’s okay. It’s still fun to listen to and watch!


In case you’re interested, here are the MuseScore  and MusicXML files:

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Check our previous post: Lyla by Avishai Cohen

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