From 10 legendary players
Phil Capone offers three turnarounds in the style of 10 legends: T-Bone Walker, Albert King, BB King, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, SRV, Gary Moore, Carlos Santana, Robben Ford and Larry Carlton.
What exactly is a turnaround? As its name suggests, the turnaround is a musical tool that’s used to provide harmonic interest while ‘turning’ the music back around to the start of the next verse. Generally speaking, a turnaround will be two bars long and located at the end of the chord sequence; this applies to all common forms of the blues (and jazz standards too), whether you’re faced with an eight-bar, 12-bar, or 16-bar form.
But let’s consider the turnaround in the context of a regular 12-bar blues: the melody generally concludes at the beginning of the 10th bar, so instead of simply having two further bars of the tonic chord a chordal turnaround is inserted to generate interest and signpost the start of the sequence.
Turnarounds are usually improvised and generally consist of four chords (two per bar), usually I-IV-I-V but sometimes the jazzier I-VI-II-V. There are many variations on these two basic forms, as you will discover in this feature. The chord types can be diatonic or non-diatonic (ie in the same key or not) and are also influenced by the style of blues (Major or Minor, etc). It’s generally understood that the professional player will be completely au fait with the harmonic intricacies that the many permutations of these two basic forms can generate. If you’re on a gig with a keyboard player you’d be expected to simply suss these out these on the fly, the chords rarely if ever being discussed.
The examples in this article are presented in the style of 10 of the most influential blues players ever. There are three examples for each player covering both Major and Minor keys and because licks can often be interchanged between Major and Minor keys these start on the same root note with a range of grooves and tempos. Instead of illustrating the turnaround in isolation, the examples are presented as they would occur in the last four bars of a 12-bar blues progression, ie: V / / / IV / / / I / IV / I / V (and variations thereof). A great bonus is that this sequence is also commonly used as an intro, so these exercises will also tool you up for some cool intro guitar solos.
One of the most interesting aspects of the turnaround is that, because it occurs at the end of the melody (ie vocal) it is a clear space that the guitarist can fill, whether they’re soloing or not. To skilfully negotiate this sequence and make your playing sound relaxed and casual takes a lot of practice, whether applying the minor Pentatonic throughout or shifting your harmonic approach with each changing chord. One thing is for sure, practising turnarounds will improve of your blues soloing. The turnaround contains all of the chords of the blues but in condensed form, so you really need to keep on top of the changes and hit those target notes on the money.
Not surprisingly, different players approach turnarounds differently. Some plough through the changes taking little heed of the chords, while others carefully target notes in each chord to create ‘shape’. Over the next pages you’ll find 30 turnarounds that demonstrate how our 10 blues greats tackle the issue. Great inspiration - great fun too!
the turnaround contains all the Blues chords But in condensed form, so you need to keep on top of the changes
Clapton takes a variety of approaches to turnarounds