Guitarists spend the majority of their time playing rhythm guitar and very often encounter 1, 2 or 3 chord vamps where they’re supporting a vocalist or soloist who relies on the rhythm section, and guitarists, in particular, to keep the groove interesting for them and the audience as well.
Robben Ford’s Vamps & Jams edition of his Rhythm Revolution series is jam-packed with chord vocabulary, rhythmic ideas, and creative approaches for comping over 1, 2 or 3 chord vamps.
”Rhythm guitar is a great pleasure for me and quite frankly, you play a lot more of it than soloing. Over the years, I developed a style of playing based on really connecting with the rhythm section. Something the great bass player Abraham Laboriel said to me, when I was still evolving this style, was to "play like a drum." In this way, you're one with the drummer.
I’m excited to share many of my rhythm guitar ideas and approaches in this Vamps & Jams edition of Rhythm revolution. I’ve prepared 10 rhythm guitar performance studies to illustrate how I approach 1, 2 or 3 chord vamps to keep things interesting for the band and audience.”
Robben covers a wide range of techniques, rhythmic approaches, creative ideas and harmonic concepts across the 10 performance studies. As you work through the 10 studies Robben will demonstrate how he approaches locking up with the rhythm section and developing creative themes and rhythmic patterns.
You’ll learn a wide variety of the chords and different voicings that Robben uses in his playing including Miles Davis-inspired chord voicings, keyboard, and organ-like voicings. Robben demonstrates harmonic devices for crafting rhythm parts such as such as pentatonic movement, scalar movement, and chromatic movement.
For each of these 10 rhythm guitar studies, Robben will first perform the rhythm guitar parts and then demonstrate some of the key techniques and creative approaches that he used in the piece.
Locking Up - ”For our first study, we’ll look at "Locking Up". Take notice of the chord voicings being used and the rhythm techniques that make this vamp interesting. At first, it might be difficult to play all of the chord voicings, but if you keep working at it, you'll have them under your belt and be able to use them in any playing situation.”
Meter Stick - ”Here's a vamp inspired by The Meters. Don't be intimidated by the length here - just work through the different chord voicings and you'll find yourself comfortable playing through the whole thing. This piece of music is a vamp between G7 and Bb7, and back to G7 (up a minor third and back).”
Killer Theme - ”This study only has two chords, G7 to Eb. The feel of it is light and swingy, making me think of "Killer Joe" by Quincy Jones. You'll have to learn a bunch of chord voicings to pull this off, but that's just the work - you have to do it, but anyone can. From there, it's the ideas that become important. You have to have good ideas to create themes and melodies that will make something like this piece work.”
Funky Evasion - ”Notice how light the playing is in this study. This leaves room for the other instruments and allows them to “breathe". This vamp only contains one chord, which can present a series of challenges when trying to keep it sounding fresh. On a vamp like this, I like to stay out of the way, since there's usually something more interesting happening on top. Someone could be singing or soloing, it's not necessarily just the guitar, bass, and drums.”
Cajun Flair - ”This jam is a New Orleans style groove. Check out how there's a "home base" we develop, giving us something to come back to throughout the tune. This feel and groove comes out of New Orleans, with some flair in different directions from the players in the band. There's kind of a fundamental harmonic home base that everything should come back to. You want that kind of continuity so you're able to leave that space for a while and then return to something familiar.”
Chord Mileage - ”This study is inspired by Miles Davis, taking elements of both the old and new stuff, but especially with his song "So What" in mind. Having played with him strongly influenced my playing for a long time, so the record was the culmination of his impression that was made on me harmonically and even energetically when he went electric. The song only has two chords in it, moving up a minor third to make the change.”
Percussive - ”It's important to remember that when playing rhythm, you're part of the percussion, too! In this study, we'll focus on ways to play the guitar just enough so it's heard, but still, sink into the rhythm section. I'm more so serving the role of the drummer, acting more rhythmically rather than trying to impart anything harmonically. I'm also avoiding playing the 3rd in the chords here, which makes it neither major or minor; just the sound of the guitar, which is what you want.”
Chromatic Mission - ”This study is a three-chord vamp made up of triads. Notice how the first time through, it's just the same chord shape being moved around. Something I enjoy a lot is taking one chord and just moving it around, not trying to play a lot of clever chords. I just like the sound of one chord moving around - Cmin7 to Amin7 to Fmin7. Not only is it simple, but you can virtually play the same thing on each of the chords and you're still getting movement and creating a harmonic statement of some kind.”
Continuity - ”This is another vamp inspired by The Meters. Again, the idea here is to just suggest that the guitar is there - just play as much as you need to, and leave room for the other instruments.
This is a nice little vamp between G and C, somewhat inspired by The Meters. You always want to be paying attention to what's going on in the bass and drums as the rhythm guitarist. They carry a lot of the rhythm, but you do too, and you'll be carrying the harmony as well. So, listen to the bassline and figure out where you can fill in the rhythm section. You want to allow room for each of the instruments to speak.”
Bluesy Water - ”We’ll finish strong with "Bluesy Water", a blues jam in E, inspired by John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. This is your basic E blues, kind of reminiscent of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Try to stay away from too sophisticated of harmony, and pay attention to the rhythm and textural elements that give the notes their bluesy quality.”
All of the performance studies are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and/or slow down the tab and notation as you work through the lessons. Plus, Robben includes all of the backing tracks for you to work with on your own.
Grab your guitar and let’s jam on a vamp with Robben Ford!