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Blues Turnarounds For Guitarists

Updated on August 16, 2018
Guitar Wizard profile image

Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.

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.

Turnarounds are created from three descending melodic lines:

  1. 3rd descends to Root: 3,b3,2,R (key of A: C#-C-B-A)
  2. 5th descends to 3rd: 5,b5,4,3 (key of A: E-Eb-D-C#)
  3. 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

My live blues guitar performance.

Mark Fitchett Blues at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach CA

Live blues licks.
Live blues licks.

Classic 12-bar Blues

1st 10 bars: lA7lA7lA7lA7lD7lD7lA7lA7lE7lD7l

Turnaround on last 2 bars: lA7lE7l for a total of 12 bars

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 1

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 2

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 3

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 4

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 5

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 6

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 7

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 8

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Classic Blues Guitar Turnaround 9

Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar
Turnaround Lesson for Blues Guitar | Source

Free Video Guitar Lessons

Subscribe to Mark Fitchett's YouTube lessons at GuitarSchool1 for more free blues lessons. Drop a line if you like what you see (or don't) and feel free to request other topics for future instructional videos and/or HubPages articles.

Pro Lessons App Turnaround Lesson

  • 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

Comments

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    • profile image

      Willabe Storms 

      2 years ago

      Great ....

      Thank you...

    • Guitar Wizard profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Edward Fitchett 

      5 years ago from Long Beach

      Appreciate that Tony thanks.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      5 years ago from Yorkshire

      Hi

      really useful and helpful information for all guitarists what ever style.

      Nice hub well done.

      Tony

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