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5 Essential Blues turn around licks for the beginners

Updated on September 6, 2016

As a beginner learning to play the guitar there can be nothing quite more satisfying than playing the blues. A 12 bar blues rhythm is quite easy to learn. Trinity College of London introduce the Blues in the early stages of their Rock & Pop grades.

The Blues is a musical culture that easily crosses formats and genres. Bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, & Deep Purple developed there style of music from playing the Blues.

Blues in its simplistic form is based round 12 bars that keep repeating. This is normally played using the I, IV, V chords. In these examples we are in the key of A, so the chords being used are A7, D7, and E7.

In this lesson we shall be focusing on the final two bars of the 12 bar blues progression. This usually referred to as the turn around.

A turn around is a musical idea that is typically played on the last two bars of the blues (bars 11 and 12). It makes the solo complete and takes the listener back to the top of the song. All great blues players use turnarounds one way or another. Here is the Golden rule of thumb:

Start the turn around on the I chord and end on the V chord.

Below are 5 essential turn around licks in the key of A. Its quite possible you have already heard a few of them.

Play through each of them and try to incorporate the licks into your own blues soloing.

Lick #1

Here is one of the most popular Blues turn abound. Like most it starts with hitting the root note of the I chord (A7) on the low E string. Followed by a descending chromatic line resolving to the I chord. Then a short chromatic line to the V chord (E7). Play this over a shuffle or Twelve/Eight rhythm.

Lick #2

This is a variation using descending chromatic line over the I chord (A7) and ending on the V chord (E7)

Lick #3

Number 3 is in the style of the great Robert Johnson. This uses a stationary root note alternating between a descending bass line.

Lick #4

Here is an idea using a descending 7th chord. Typical of Eric Clapton and John Mayer.

Lick #5

A nice cool turn around using a couple of descending lines across two pairs of strings.

Take your time with each lick start with a slow tempo then gradually increase the speed. If you have a friend that plays the Blues then play along with and try to add the turn arounds into your playing. Each turn around can be used as part of a lead guitar solo or the rhythm guitar.

If this is not an option then you can find numerous backing tracks on YouTube or you can check out my website for downloads. The most important thing is that you practice and use them them.

Article by Geoff Sinker


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