It was 1983; I was in seventh grade, a year equally filled with excitement and fear. It was the year that I left my left my Bay Area private school for public school, leaving a sheltered bubble behind for a school with scary looking longhaired kids in denim jackets, Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden patches. It was the year that I would attend my first ever school dance.
Have you ever had an old song transport you back in time to the moment when it soundtracked an important part of your life? Pandora’s Class Of 1983 station not only reminded me how much awesome music was born 30 years ago – everything from Madonna’s eponymous debut to Slayer’s first album Show No Mercy – but a lot of these songs pulled me right back to the year I became a teenager.
When you think about your favorite song what characteristics stick out to you? Perhaps you notice the vocal range of the singer, the tempo or maybe the type of instruments in the song. Do you consider the vamping harmony? …wait, what?
In the course of analyzing a single piece of music, our Music Analysts will consider upwards of 400 distinct musical characteristics, some straightforward, like tempo or the gender of a vocalist, and some more esoteric. For today’s blog post, I thought it would be fun to discuss one of the slightly arcane elements of the Music Genome that Pandora uses to help build your stations: Vamping Harmony.
In the context of music, a vamp is a short sequence of chords that gets repeated for an extended period. It can be used as a verb, as in “the band vamped while the singer made her way to the stage,” or as a noun, as in “the band played a short vamp while the singer made her way to the stage.”
Vamping harmony can be a good choice if your goal is to focus attention on other elements of a song, such as lyrics, or rhythmic groove. A good vamp can lend a hypnotic quality to music, especially when combined with some infectious rhythms. James Brown was a master at this. Check out his classic “Superbad, parts 1 & 2” for a great example. In this case, the band vamps on a single chord for nearly the whole song. …
As a college student in the early-2000s I would kill time between classes by heading to the local record shop and scoping the overwhelming batch of new releases. I still remember that killer autumn of ‘03 when The Strokes, Elvis Costello, Belle & Sebastian and Outkast all hit. Many of these songs are still on heavy rotation for me – it’s hard to believe that was ten years ago! The fall of 2013 has the potential to be another memorable year for music across many genres. Everyone from Jay-Z to Jimmy Eat World, Hanson to Daft Punk released new material this year and that’s not it – there is a massive list of artists slated for end-of-the-year releases.
New music is set to drop from some of the industry’s biggest names this year: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, M.I.A., Drake, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Keith Urban, Sting, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Cher, Celine Dion, Chris Brown, Pusha T, Future, Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys. Joining this group of heavyweight releases are debut studio albums from some of 2013’s most talked about up-and-comers including Lorde, Haim and Icona Pop.