Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond is a member of the Language in Lyrics team.

Sgrìobh mi ‘s a’ bhlog mu dheireadh agam gu robh mi ‘dol a dh’innse dhuibh beagan mun teicneòlas a tha sinn a’ cur gu feum. Seo agaibh e, agus tha mi an dòchas gum bidh e feumail dhuibh. I wrote in my last blog post that I was going to tell you a bit about some of the technology that we put to use when transcribing. Here it is, I hope it will be of interest!

I find one of the most useful pieces of technology, when I’m transcribing, is having the ability to slow down a recording. Here are a some programs and a website for varying playback speed, and transcribing, that I have tried:

Express Scribe: This is a program that I purchased (there is a free version) that allows you to upload an audio file and type into a screen that is part of the program. I liked the speed control and a very nice feature is that when you press play after pausing the audio it rewinds a few seconds which saves a lot of time.  BUT you can’t adjust the font and the type is quite small if you are working on a laptop. Also, if you have the free version it constantly asks you to download other programs. I think there are better options.

oTranscribe: This is a web-based application that we tried at a “transcription céilidh” experiment at Baile nan Gàidheal / Highland Village Museum (more on that in a future post!). It is open source software created by the MuckRock foundation that funds free tools to help journalists, researchers and citizens, and that pleases me greatly!

This is a very clear platform which also nicely slows down audio and rewinds a few seconds when you hit “play” after pausing the audio. (I don’t think I can transcribe without that feature now!)


  • It’s quite simple to upload audio from your computer to the website.
  • The website will save your text every five minutes to your web browser and will keep up to 100 copies (You just have to push the history button on the right side of your transcript)
  • You can use “command” J to insert a ‘timestamp’…this is useful if you just want to move on and come back later to something you didn’t understand.


  • When you exit the page and return you often have to upload the audio again.
  • You have to be careful to copy and paste your work to an offline location on your computer in order to save and share.
  • Initially we found the the keyboard shortcuts were not ideal, for example the stop/start command was the ‘escape’ button at the top left of the keyboard. But since then we realized that you can customize your shortcut keys by going to the settings page

As I discovered, it seems that you have to avoid some of the keyboard short cuts that are used by the operating system, like command b (bold), command w (new window), command o (open) command t (new tab) etc. which limits the characters you can use.

Here is what I am trying, with some  mnemonics that I made up to go with them.

Play/Pause. Command e (éirich)

Skip backwards – command a  (air ais)

Skip forwards- command h (air adhart)

Rewind to start – command r (a-rithist)

Speed down- command m (nas maille)

Speed up- command l (nas luaithe)

Working with offline on your computer Quicktime and Windows Media Player will also give you the option to slow down audio:

Quicktime (for Mac):

Open Quicktime and open the file you need to alter;
Click on the Window menu and open Show A/V controls;
Use the controls at the bottom of the A/V window to alter the speed.

You can rewind a few seconds by pulling back the “Jog Shuttle” toggle (bottom left).

Windows Media Player (for PC): (I work on a Mac laptop so don’t have access to this program so I can’t tell you if it has a similar function to “Jog Shuttle”…maybe someone can let us know?)

Open Windows Media Player and open the file you need to slow down;
Click on the view menu and go down to Play Speed Settings;
Click on this and the setting open at the bottom of the screen allowing you to speed up or slow down the music.

The nice part about working offline on your computer is that you will always have access to the files and it is easy to share your work-in-progress with friends by sharing it in a Google Doc. We’ll be exploring this idea further in a future post exploring the concept of the ‘transcription céilidh’ and ways you can use technology to facilitate group transcription. After all, as I like to say, it takes a village to transcribe a song…

Céilidh tar-sgrìobhaidh aig Baile nan Gàidheal, an Dàmhair 2018
Transcription Céilidh at Highland Village Museum, October 2018

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