Rock School: Vamps

A vamp is a repeating phrase, usually two or four bars in length that can perform three musical functions: to act as an introduction, to keep the groove going, to provide a background for improvisation. A vamp usually consists of a well-defined, two-fisted rhythmic pattern that is based on one or two chords.



Rock Vamp #1

A rhythmic alternation of C (I) and Bb (bVII) chords over a C (Do) pedal point in the bass... Because of their full sound, octaves in the left hand are a staple of rock playing.

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #2

Slow, alternating C (I) and F (IV) chords over a pedal point in dotted rhythm, great for rock ballads (a la "Wild Horses" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water"). Notice how the upper C in the thumb of the left hand is "ghosted", more felt than heard...

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #3

Another alternating C-F (I-IV) pattern over a pedal point, this time in a more up-tempo dance groove....

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #4

Here's a fun vamp a la Sesame Street...

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #5

C-F-Bb (I-IV-bVII) over a pedal point, a great way to build energy...

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #6

C-F-C7 (I-IV-I7) over a funky bass line...

Rock Piano Vamp


Rock Vamp #7

a la Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move"...

Rock Piano Vamp