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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 3 - Part 5: Double Stop Vamping

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 27 **

Hi everyone. In this pro concepts guitar lesson I want to talk about ‘vamping’ and using ‘double stops’ combined to create a world of cool rhythm guitar comping! First let’s define what a ‘vamp’ is. Well we could call a few things a ‘vamp’. Normally it is considered to be a repeating chord, or chord sequence, or even a guitar riff, which you would play and groove on, until the music dictates you do otherwise. So to put that in context, you might be playing a song live and your singer decides he wants to talk, or interact with the audience whilst you ‘vamp’ on the verse chord sequence, taking your cue to carry on the song when he decides to come back in and sing the first line of the tune. So whilst he was doing his best to make an impression on the cute chick in the front row, you and the band filled out the song structure and ‘vamped’ around the chord sequence.

Maybe you were just playing a riff rather than chords, or maybe it was simply sitting on just one chord until he started singing, it doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is being able to sit on the groove for a while, while other things happen. If you can do that, the chances are the girl in the front row will think the singer a bit of a fool, and prefer your guitar grooves!! If you have been following my column, then you already know how important I consider groove, rhythm, a sense of time and being able to lock in with whatever it is you are playing. If you struggle with this, you must must must get on top of this as soon as you can, or your professional guitar opportunities will be limited (and the singer will get the chick). So hopefully we are on the same page with the term Vamping.

Whereas ‘Double stops’ as you probably already know, is the use of two or more notes in a phrase, lick or chord sequence. And let me share some insider knowledge with you about ‘double stops’ which will change your life! Double stops sound distinctly average when strummed, but incredibly cool when grabbed and plucked at the same time. To achieve the cooler sound, you are going to have develop your hybrid or fingerstyle chops. Now I’ve lost count how many lessons there have been in this mag about ‘Hybrid Picking’ so you guys all know the fun to be had there.

What seems to be avoided most frequently is the playing without a pick approach. Which is why I feel this is a fantastic colour to have in our playing and feel it important enough to bring you a little demo of what I am talking about, especially having utilised all this many times over the years to pay the bills. My demo consists of a little vamp consisting of the chords A7/F#m/F13/D all of which are delivered rhythmically with each chord having its own double stop challenge. To get this sounding the same as how I’m playing it, you will need to utilise both your thumbs. One for picking, and one for holding a root note to the chord over the neck, which believe me, is another way to get ahead of the pack. If you have small hands or small thumbs, then don’t get depressed, I’m sure you are great at sweep picking and playing really really fast with a hair band on your headstock! Obviously, as in most of my tutorials, there are no rules. You don’t have to copy me exactly and can do your own thing. But do try to consider the rhythm used and the touch. Especially the touch. That’s the hard part to nail, but by me showing you the technique, hopefully it’ll help towards your own double stop vamps.

Players that are masters of this style would be Mark Knopfler, Brent Mason, Jeff Beck, Greg Koch all of which are in my top ten players in the world. There are many others out there, but I really like these guys, so they sprung to mind. Happy vamping vampers.


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