The art of the vamp
A vamp is an improvised piano accompaniment, sometimes containing melodic figures (licks or riffs), other times simply consisting of block chords played in rhythms. Or it can have both! You usually vamp when you are accompanying a soloist. A basic chord progression is provided and it's your job to "fill in."
Here's a fun chord progression to play:
This is the chord progression of Happy Times from American Popular Piano Level 6 Etudes (Novus Via Music Group). It's a variation on the blues.
To create an authentic-sounding vamp on this chord progression, there are various things you can try straightaway. Here's a simple rhythmic variation, which kicks things along nicely:
Notice how movement in one hand often means less movement
Also, notice how rhythmic figures often
The style of this tune is influenced by calypso. If you listen to Happy Times by going to the
Block chords playing a strong syncopated rhythmic figure:
A less busy syncopated rhythmic figure:
A right hand rhythm reinforcing the underlying calypso feel:
Now arpeggiate the right hand chords, starting on the lowest note:
Here's a more rhythmic figure, starting on the top note of the
Start the arpeggiated figure on the middle note (and go in either direction!):
Finally, vamps can use a mixture of arpeggios and solid chords. An arpeggio followed by chords:
Chords followed by an arpeggio:
Another variation (chords followed by an arpeggio):
Try lots of your own varIatIons using these vamp devices through the chord progression (mm. 1-8 of the first example on page 28) Then play mm. 9-12 as written. Don't forget to use the backing track from the website (www.americanpopularpiano.com).
All of these possible combinations can make