Leroy Vinnegar Lesson / Transcription

Leroy Vinnegar

I have finally completed my transcription of bassist Leroy Vinnegar's walking line on "Hard To Find," the first track off his 1963 date as a leader Leroy Walks Again!!. Leroy spent the last years of his life living and playing in my hometown of Portland, OR, and was a bit of a hero there. I'm excited to be digging deeply into his work.

Click here to download a free PDF of the transcription

Several interesting things stood out to me in this transcription:

  • In 200+ bars of music, Leroy plays a note higher than the C on the G string exactly once, and when he does, it's a D. The man can make a whole lot of music happen down by the nut.
  • Throughout the transcription there are a number of what I believe to be deliberately ambiguously tuned notes. I thought I kept hearing E naturals played over the tonic C minor chord. Closer inspection (using Transcribe!) revealed that Leroy is actually playing a note halfway between E and Eb. Given the fact that It happens with such consistency, and that in other spots in his lines he plays in-tune Eb's and E's, I have decided that this is intentional, not to mention incredibly hip. He also does this with his 5ths when playing the ii chord, putting his A's halfway in between A and Ab. Note how in each case, he is creating a kind of suspended chord: a minor/major tonic chord, and a minor/half-diminished ii chord, both of which work in concert to obscure the tonality of the tune. These are notated in the transcription using the half-flat, which is a backwards regular flat marking.
  • Victor Feldman (piano) and Ron Jefferson (drums) give a masterclass here on how to comp through a walking bass solo, which is a bit of a lost art these days (both the walking solo, and the comping). Feldman lays out, entirely. This is crucial, because if the pianist comps during a walking bass solo it destroys the effect, and instead sounds like a horn player has forgotten to come in. Jefferson keeps the sticks in his hands but dials back on the volume, and refrains from hitting the drums (with the exception of a choice form-marking accent coming out of the bridge), giving Leroy the perfect balance of support and space.

Please play through the transcription, share, and enjoy. Feel free to post any comments or corrections below. There are at least a couple spots that are guesses/approximations.