What is the name for this part of a song?
October 9, 2018 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm listening to Mirage by Jean-Luc Ponty, and wondering if there's a name for the sort of foundation or bed of music on which the various solos are performed. Examples in the linked video would be the part between 0:30 and 1:10; this seems to return in a different key in 3:00 and 3:10, between the drum-fill-thing and the keys solo. In one way I guess you could say "it's called the song," or something silly like that, because it's there the entire time, but I'm just curious if there's a name used to differentiate the kind of background-theme from the more prominent solo parts, like "hey guys, after that solo let's go back to the ____ for a while". Thanks!
posted by circular to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That's the "vamp"
posted by brainmouse at 11:58 AM on October 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, brainmouse, for such a quick and obviously accurate answer. Do musicians generally know this term? The rock star? The amateur jazz musician? The kid in jazz band at her high school?
posted by circular at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2018

In this song, that figure is sort of a vamp and sort of not. A vamp is more often understood to be a couple of bars repeated– but without harmonic changes. This is really a riff which repeats with chord changes underneath.

And the term/idea of a vamp I think is generally understood by most musicians.
posted by profreader at 1:12 PM on October 9, 2018

My impression is most musicians and all jazz musicians know the term.
posted by Smearcase at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2018

I played in the school orchestra and was in the pit for a HS production of Annie Get Your Gun. There were frequent parts in the musical where I had to play a repeated phrase while the actors said their lines before we launched into the song proper. It literally said, "vamp" in the score.
posted by acidnova at 1:53 PM on October 9, 2018

Yes, pretty much every kid in jazz band knows this term. As does, as acidnova said, anyone doing musical theater pit work (there's a LOT of "vamp until ready" in musical theater).

As the wikipedia article points out, there's sort of a fuzzy line between a vamp and a riff, but regardless this would generally be called "vamping" by the musicians performing it in a jazz-type setting. Perhaps more likely to be called riffing in rock music.
posted by brainmouse at 3:11 PM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

The kid in jazz band at her high school?

I think that's where I learned it
posted by thelonius at 6:06 PM on October 9, 2018

I think there is a slight difference between the common use of "vamp" and the term you are describing. Vamp refers to a filler composed of a repeated section where the number of repeats is sufficient to take up a particular length of time - hence "vamp to fill" will be understood as an instruction by musicians. The section of music used for a vamp also has to be one which is suited for repeated looping - and this may well not be the "main" sequence used for the song. If you are listening to what is going on while a solo is playing - that would normally be the same sequence as used in a song's verse of chorus.

And I guess a group of musicians might talk about this as being a "main section/sequence/pattern" if they were referring to this. But more likely they would be a little more precise and talk about playing "the chorus" or "the first verse pattern" or "the bridge" according to which part of the precise song structure was going to be used.

There is also the term "form" which I think is correct for talking about the overall top level assembly of a piece of music. But this seems to be a bit more academic or suited to classical works.
posted by rongorongo at 2:27 AM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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