What is a Vamp?

A Vamp is a short passage of music that is repeatedly played to allow a soloist or ensemble time to prepare for the performance. It is also almost synonymous with ostinato, but with the additional idea that the duration of the passage is at the discretion of the soloist.

Key Takeaways

  1. A vamp is a short musical passage that is played while a soloist or ensemble delivers a dialogue or is in pause.
  2. A vamp can be performed repeatedly in a loop until the soloist or ensemble begins to sing or play the song once again or as a form of background music when a performer exits the stage.
  3. A vamp is almost always synonymous with ostinato, but the difference being the duration is at the discretion of the soloist.

Understanding a Vamp

Vamping is common in jazz music, where an entire piece may be based on a succession of vamps. It is usually pretty short but can be played repeatedly in a loop.

To show an example, a vamp is played in the theater when a singer stops singing to deliver dialogue, but the instrumental music continues to play in the background. A vamp was also typically played in James Brown’s performances when he would vocalize in the middle of a song.

Related Terms

Gospel Music Gospel music is composed and performed for the purpose of Christian worship and is typically sung by a choir. more

Bridge  A bridge is a section of a musical composition that contrasts the rest of the composition of the song. more

Encore An encore is a performance played at the end of a concert, which is often a response to an audience’s prolonged applause or request. more

Overture An overture is a short musical composition played before the official beginning of a musical program. more

Prelude Prelude is a term in music that defined an introductory performance preceding or preparing for the principal. more

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