Bass Transcription: Milt Hinton - "Vibraphone Blues"

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

There's a reason he's gotten at least 9 honorary doctorates.

For people interested in learning how to play walking bass lines, it's hard to find something NOT to like about Milt Hinton's bass line on Vibraphone Blues.

It hits my ears as greatly "balanced", that is to say, a pleasing mix of linear lines, embellishments, and range.

And if no one has done it already, I may have to declare the ascending line in measures 13-14 as Official Bass Line Snippets To Know.

You hear it everywhere. In fact just a quick glance at two recent transcriptions you'll find it... Ray Brown's Moten Swing (measures 60-61) and Paul Chambers A Foggy Day (3 measures into his walking line...).

Another reason I like this track off Lionel Hampton's 1964 "You Better Know It!!!" album is:

1) He gets the prize for most punctuation used in an album title, and

2) You get to hear the words to the melody. I think it's easy to forget that all these old jazz standards we study are actual songs.

Like with words and stuff.

While I'm not a singer, and I'm generally terrible at memorizing song lyrics, hearing the words can make the difference between "abstract groupings of notes and chords that my teacher is making me memorize" and "a real song."

If you're into such things, one practice exercise is to force yourself to play a bass line on a song of your choice and do this snippet on every ii-V. Then, do the same thing, but start the ascending line on the 3rd degree of the chord. For example in the key of C:

Anyway, this track is just over 100 bpm so it's a great one to practice sight reading while playing along with the album.

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