E.g. in the INXS number Near Tear Us Apart there are 4 measures (in the intro/verse) that are repeated continuously (Am7 Fadd9 Dm F). However, in many songs verses/choruses are build up of a repeat of 4 measures.

How is such part of 4 measures called? (probably also could be more, or less for the definition point of view).

I guess it's not a 'riff' as there is not really a melody or typical notes inside, maybe a phrase?

(Actually I'm looking for the Dutch term, but I guess if I can find the English term I can translate/find it).


I have usually seen this referred to as a four-chord loop.

If you are interested in the phenomenon, the youtube channel 12tone has a lot of videos that deal with the theory and application of these loops.

  • Thanks, I would expect there would be a dedicated term for it. I make music for about 30 years, but also don't know it, although I never had an official musical training. Oct 27 '21 at 12:22
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    As far as I know, it's not a thing in classical music, so there's no need for a fancy Italian name for it :-) Now that I think of it, I believe jazz musiciancs call repeated chord progressions "vamps", so it would be a "four-chord vamp" (although the term seems to refer not just to chords, but also rhythmic figures etc. - similar to a "riff", I guess). Oct 27 '21 at 13:33
  • Thanks (again). It's indeed not really meant as rhytmic figure. Oct 27 '21 at 13:39
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    @MichelKeijzers It's not really the right term here, but there is in fact a fancy Italian classical-music name for a simple musical element that's repeated throughout the entire work: ostinato. (IMO a 4-bar chord progression is a bit too complex to use the word "ostinato"; it would typically be just a simple rhythm pattern or melodic riff.) Oct 27 '21 at 13:47
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    Seems to me that ostinato (related to the Dutch word obstinaat), or vamp are both correct. The English-language Wikipedia page Ostinato includes "Vamp" as a section.
    – Theodore
    Oct 27 '21 at 15:01

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