Vamps. Scurry Dominants

By Ted Eschliman.

Ted Eschliman is the owner of, a former undergraduate music theory educator and long-time seasoned performer with several recordings under his belt. Since 1998 Ted has focused his creative energy in jazz mandolin, an instrument he thinks has broader appeal in the musical community that is yet to be tapped. He is a contributor to Mel Bay's Mandolin Sessions and author of Getting Into Jazz Mandolin from Mel Bay.


We've had some fun with simple 3-note chord blocks based on triads in our last two articles on Vamps. The concept is taking simple static chord measures and energizing them with some chord motion, and not disrupting the harmonic integrity of the music. Using "diatonic" chords, those based on the scale of the key, we've done this with the I, ii, iii, and IV triad chords, and last week, some extra "approach" chords.

This time we want to go another step beyond and add the V7 chord. One might think the I and the V7 would clash, but actually, when it's used briefly it becomes more of an instant departure. The V7 really wants to push back to the I, and you set up a mini progression within a progression. Take a look at the following block:


All we are doing is adding a 'ii V7' to the I. Repeat these over and over, you get the "Vamp" effect we've been studying. It's far more interesting than the I, I, I, I voice (yawn...) you might do if all the music called for was a D chord.

Take a look at other fretboard incarnations of the V7 chord:


We can inject these into other voicings of the 'I ii V7' in D:



Again, you can transpose these blocks all over the fretboard in other keys. Try moving everything up a fret. Makes playing in the key of Eb a snap!

Remember, we're sneaking the V7 where it wasn't before. Playing it fast, a sort of "scurry" dominant, you can inject the V7 chord just about anywhere in a song. Get in--get out. We going to take the trick one step farther and add the V7 of the ii chord, the B7, injecting the B7 blocks.


We'll add this to the progression, and note if you scurry this, it still balances spice with the integrity of the home key.


Add this to the other inversions:



We mentioned moving it up a fret to apply in the key of Eb. Now you can go all over the place with these. Does the progression sound familiar? (Check out the chords for "I've Got Rhythm.") You'll find this all over the place, and don't limit yourself to places where it's written out.

Season to taste.