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8 Classic Blues Guitar Turnarounds
The Blues Turnaround
Most blues songs contain a musical device called the turnaround. This is a two bar melodic chord phrase starting on the second to last bar of a blues chord progression. This signifies the end of the chord progression and sets up the progression’s repeat. The typical blues chord progression is twelve bars long, but there are many eight and sixteen bar chord progressions too as well as an occasional odd numbered set of chords.
In this article you will be taught some of the more well known classic blues turnaround phrases in the key of A, as well as the techniques to create some unique turnarounds of your very own. The following examples assume the reader has a basic working knowledge of music theory. If not, no worry! Often this stuff is on a need to know basis, so feel free to jump ahead and learn the licks.
For the Technical Minded
Turnarounds are created from three descending melodic lines:
- 3rd descends to Root: 3,b3,2,R (key of A: C#-C-B-A)
- 5th descends to 3rd: 5,b5,4,3 (key of A: E-Eb-D-C#)
- b7th descends to 5th: b7,6,b6,5 in the key of A (G-Gb-F-E)
Combining any two, or all three of these lines simultaneously will create the classic turnaround sound.
- 3rd to Root with 5th to 3rd
- 3rd to Root with flat 7th to 5th
- 5th to 3rd with flat 7th to 5th
- All three
Any of these combinations can include the root note played simultaneously above, below or between the descending lines. Also the single lines 5th to 3rd and b7th to 5th are often played against the root above.
Many variations can be created by combining the lines in different octaves, inversions and positions, along with applying rhythmic variations. The turnaround can be used in any style that associated with blues, such as slow 12/8 blues, shuffles, Latin, New Orleans, funk, rock. You just have to modify the rhythms to fit the tempo and feel.
- Pick strings in different orders (6 ways using 3 strings)
- Play notes simultaneously strumming or pinching
- Choose whether to use root pedal.
- Put root pedal on top, bottom or in the middle depending on the lick.
The following examples in the key of A are from an iPhone App called Pro Lessons
YouTube Lesson: The Theory Behind Blues Guitar Turnarounds
- Blues Guitar Turnarounds Theory Lesson - YouTube
Mark Fitchett describes the actual theory behind creating blues guitar turnarounds for those of you that need to know.
Some Live Blues
- Blues Guitar Solo Improvisations
A page about guitarist and instructor Mark Fitchett's blues guitar techniques featuring blues rock, soul jazz blues, be bop jazz blues, fusion blues, country blues and traditional blues performances.
Mark Fitchett Blues at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach CA
9 Classic Blues Guitar Turnarounds
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 1
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 2
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 3
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 4
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 5
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 6
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 7
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 8
Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 9
Classic 12-bar Blues
1st 10 bars: lA7lA7lA7lA7lD7lD7lA7lA7lE7lD7l
Turnaround on last 2 bars: lA7lE7l for a total of 12 bars
Blues Guitar Turnaround Demonstration
- Beginner to advanced licks
- Over 80 examples
- Tempo change option
- Key change option
- Looping option
- Licks in every position
- Backing track to practice with
- Traditional classic licks
- Flat picking licks
- Hybrid picking licks
- Finger style licks
- Tab for every key
- Rhythmic notation
- Turnarounds for all blues styles
- Theory behind turnarounds
© 2012 Mark Edward Fitchett
Mark Edward Fitchett (author) from Long Beach on September 11, 2013:
Appreciate that Tony thanks.
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on September 11, 2013:
really useful and helpful information for all guitarists what ever style.
Nice hub well done.