Glossary of Music Terms: Vamp

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vamp is a rhythmic, harmonically simple, repeating phrase, usually two or four bars in length, that establishes both a solid groove and a clear sense of tonality.

A good vamp typical performs one of three musical functions…

  1. An introduction to a song that builds anticipation and sets the tone for what is to come.
  2. An interlude within a song that transitions from one section of music to the next.
  3. A well-defined harmonic and rhythmic background for improvisation.

Example #1 (Frank playing a Gospel Vamp)…

Example #2 (Frank playing the vamp from Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”)…

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