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View Full Version : What Is A "Modal Vamp" ?


sinopsycho
06-28-2011, 03:44 AM
(In "the advancing guitarist" context)
The title is my question :).

mrmatt1972
06-28-2011, 07:29 AM
Well, a "Vamp" is another way to say improvisation, and the Modes are just the different kinds of scales we use in Western music.

SO an example would be a minor scale improvisation over a song in a related key (or the same one I guess).

There are far more educated people out there than me though, so YMMV.

enalnitram
06-28-2011, 07:54 AM
A vamp isn't always necessarily improvised. it's kind of a repeating pattern. sort of a harmonic "hold pattern" ... the thing that makes it modal is that there isn't a significant harmonic progression. the chords played in a modal vamp will almost always be closely related to one another. it can be improvised over, or not.

Howard Klepper
06-28-2011, 12:25 PM
It means noodle around without changing scales, probably in a minor mode.

sinopsycho
06-28-2011, 01:12 PM
As I am a baby in music theory, what chords would you play for example, to make a modal vamp on C Ionian ? How about on F Lydian?

I want to record modal vamp backing tracks so I can improvise later on them.

bishopdm
06-28-2011, 08:06 PM
I like describing a vamp as "musically treading water.":D

One very common pattern in major would be I-vi-ii-V (with or without 7ths). Two beats each. (In the key of C, that would be C-Am-Dm-G.)

JonPR
06-28-2011, 08:34 PM
As I am a baby in music theory, what chords would you play for example, to make a modal vamp on C Ionian ? How about on F Lydian?

I want to record modal vamp backing tracks so I can improvise later on them.
For Ionian: I-IV repeated is pretty good, and so is I-ii. (The I-vi-ii-V bishopdm suggests is a classic major key vamp or "turnaround", but not very modal in flavour, IMO. Still, it would make a good loop to improvise on.)

Lydian is harder. Best bet is just to use one chord. Any major chord will do, but you can add a maj7, 9 and/or #11 if you want. (Of course the scale will include those notes whether the chord does or not.)
If you want a second chord, use a major chord a whole step above, but make sure it sounds secondary, by playing it far less often. Eg:
|C - - - |C - D - |(repeat) for C lydian.
Alternatively, just play a D or Bm chord over a C bass (for C lydian).

Ideas for other modes:

Mixolydian: |I - - - - |I - bVII IV |

Dorian: |i7 - IV7 - |

Phrygian: |i - - - |i - bII - |

Aeolian: |i - - - |bVI - bVI - |

Locrian: idim or im7b5. (Won't work with more than one chord, because all other chords from the scale are more stable.)

bishopdm
06-28-2011, 10:20 PM
For Ionian: I-IV repeated is pretty good, and so is I-ii. (The I-vi-ii-V bishopdm suggests is a classic major key vamp or "turnaround", but not very modal in flavour, IMO. Still, it would make a good loop to improvise on.)

I purposely avoided the "modal" issue of the original post, JonPR, since I really didn't have a clear idea what that meant. (Perhaps the OP could give some more information on the source of the term "modal vamp"?) But your examples are all really good, I think, since they include the "characteristic pitch" that identifies each mode. I'm curious, though, about what would be the difference between a tonal progression in major and a modal progression in ionian. Would avoiding the use of the V-I succession point toward a more modal sound?

sinopsycho
06-29-2011, 02:31 AM
This is from the book "Advancing guitarist" by Mick Goodrick. If I understand well, as an exercise, the author suggests to use the C major scale, and record 7 modal vamps using the 7 modes. Then to improvise on this, using only one string.

I try to understand what you guys answered so far :)

sinopsycho
06-29-2011, 02:46 AM
Do I understand well?
If we are to use the C major scale, I could use for example all these chords: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, Gdom7, Amin7, Bmin7(b5) ...

But If I want to make a modal vamp on say Dorian, the "main" chord should be Dm or Dmin7, but I could use any of the other chords.

A modal vamp on Aeolian could use all these chords, but should have as the "main" chord Amin or Amin7.

Is that true?

JonPR
06-29-2011, 03:17 AM
Do I understand well?
If we are to use the C major scale, I could use for example all these chords: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, Gdom7, Amin7, Bmin7(b5) ...

But If I want to make a modal vamp on say Dorian, the "main" chord should be Dm or Dmin7, but I could use any of the other chords.

A modal vamp on Aeolian could use all these chords, but should have as the "main" chord Amin or Amin7.

Is that true?Yes.
To begin with, try using just the chord in question. This is the safest way to hear the modal sound of the scale/chord combination.
Then try adding a 2nd chord, as contrast. With some modes, a second chord can have equal weight (eg, the common i-IV dorian vamp), but some modes are weaker, and a second chord may sound stronger.

sinopsycho
06-29-2011, 03:24 AM
With some modes, a second chord can have equal weight (eg, the common i-IV dorian vamp), but some modes are weaker, and a second chord may sound stronger.

Thanks.
Is it just experience that tells that a mode is weaker, or is there some kind of "rules" ?

JonPR
06-29-2011, 03:25 AM
I purposely avoided the "modal" issue of the original post, JonPR, since I really didn't have a clear idea what that meant. (Perhaps the OP could give some more information on the source of the term "modal vamp"?) But your examples are all really good, I think, since they include the "characteristic pitch" that identifies each mode. I'm curious, though, about what would be the difference between a tonal progression in major and a modal progression in ionian. Would avoiding the use of the V-I succession point toward a more modal sound?IMO, to all intents and purposes, the "major key" is the same thing as "ionian mode". (Strictly speaking, in classical terms, I think there probably is a distinction, but for our purposes it wouldn't matter too much.)
However, rock music has a liking for long vamps on one or two chords (or vamp-like repeated short cycles of 3 or 4 chords), which suggests that - even in a major key context - they like "modal-ish" grooves.
Hence the idea - for this exercise - of stripping a major key sequence down to just the I chord, with maybe the IV or ii in support. This is a pretty common sound in rock, and - while it leaves the 7th open - generally implies a maj7 in the scale.

A full-blown "major key" progression would roam around away from the tonic chord a lot more. In a sense, "visiting" the other modal "stations", but without stopping there. The major key tonic is strong enough to spend some time away from it and still retain the sense of that Ionian key centre. Key progressions can even include chromaticism, such as secondary dominants and passing chords. (Modern modal music would avoid any such thing.)

Of course, there are a ton of songs which would be hard to define clearly either way, and "major key" is usually a better term than "ionian mode".

bluesbassdad
06-29-2011, 01:21 PM
Would a solo in a pentatonic scale over a I-IV-V progression be considered modal?

jseth
06-29-2011, 01:44 PM
David; nope... not in my playing experience.

Miles Davis' "So What" is a great example of a "modal" tune... mostly Dmin, with a modulation to Eflatmin... Miles specifies "dorian" for the piece, which I believe is necessary for the "modal vamp" concept... otherwise, the player could easily play phrygian, aeolian or whatever... but in this instance, the composer puts forth the guideline of "dorian" at the beginning of the piece...

JonPR
06-29-2011, 02:37 PM
Would a solo in a pentatonic scale over a I-IV-V progression be considered modal?Not really.
I-IV-V indicates a major key sequence (assuming all chords are major, of course). You could argue that's "ionian mode", but it's an unnecessary piece of jargon.
And a pentatonic scale doesn't have enough notes to be a mode. (Of course, backing chords add the necessary extra notes.)

But there could be instances where a particular pentatonic scale, used on a I-IV-V where not all the chords are major, could be said to represent a modal sound.
Eg, if the chords were G-C-Dm (making it clear G was the key chord, maybe by playing it longer), and you improvised using the D minor (F major) pentatonic, that would produce a "G mixolydian" sound. But then you'd only need the G chord or even just a G bass (with Dm pent) for that.