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String Theory with Jimmy Brown: Effective Tactics for Soloing Over a Repeating Two-Chord Vamp

These videos are bonus content related to the January 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

This month, I’m going to address the seemingly simple but creatively challenging endeavor of crafting strong, cohesive melodies over a short, repeating chord progression, or vamp, as it is often called.

Specifically, I’ll focus on a familiar vamp known as the “i-IV (one-four) Dorian vamp,” which is found in classic rock songs as well as jazz, funk and R&B tunes. This name describes a chord movement that’s based on the Dorian mode and goes from the “one minor” chord (i), or “one minor-seven” (i7), to “four major” (IV).

A famous example of a i-IV Dorian vamp is the verse accompaniment in the Pink Floyd classic “Breathe,” which goes Em7 to A, one chord per bar, at a laid-back tempo. (Neil Young’s “Down by the River” uses this same vamp.)