Turnarounds for guitar

I VI II V Turnaround Variations - Lesson With Guitar Tabs & Theory

Turnarounds are a section of two or four bars at the end of a tune. Their role is to create a harmonic transition going back to the beginning. They are present in many jazz tunes and are an important part of "rhythm changes" progressions. They are also used to create effective jazz intros and endings.

This lesson with guitar tabs contains 17 exercises to gain a better understanding of the I VI II V variations.


Before tackling turnarounds, here are some important harmonic tricks that any jazz guitar player know.

Chord Substitutions

Chord substitution involves replacing a chord by another. These chords can belong to the same key or can be outside, provided that they share common notes with the chord they replace. Here are some chord substitutions that can be used in turnarounds :

Diatonic Substitutions

Diatonic substitutions are the most used and the easiest to understand. How do they work? It is very simple, each chord within a same key can be replaced with another chord a diatonic third apart.

Let's take an example. When harmonized in thirds, the C major scale provides seven chords that are :

Cmaj7 (I) - Dmin7 (ii) - Emin7 (iii) - Fmaj7 (IV) - G7 (V) - Am7 (vi) and Bm7b5 (vii). 

Harmonized major scale in thirds 1

  • Cmaj7 can be replaced by Em7.
  • Dm7 by Fmaj7.
  • Em7 by G7.
  • Fmaj7 by Am7.
  • G7 by Bm7b5.
  • Am7 by Cmaj7.
  • Dm7b5 by Dm7.

This can be applied to any turnaround and any chord progression.

Tritone Substitutions

Tritone subs (or dominant chord substitution) is to replace a dominant 7 chord by another dom7 chord whose root is a tritone (three whole-steps) away from the chord of origin . Example with G7 (V), that can be replaced by Db7 which is a tritone away. 

Tritone substitution explained

This priniciple can be applied to any dom7 chord of turnaround.


Diminished Substitutions - 7b9 vs Dim7

As you will see in the next turnaround variations, 7b9 chords will be used as the degree VI in place of non-altered dom7 chords. These chords have a solid harmonic relation with diminished 7 chords.

They have several notes in common : The 3rd (B), the b7 (F), the b9 (Ab) and the root (G) of G are respectively the root, b5, bb7 and b3 of Bdim7 (B°). In other words, it means that you can replace any 7b9 chord with a dim7 chord starting on the third of this 7b9 chord.

7b9 chords vs diminished 7 chord

Now let's take the concept one step further. Diminished 7 chords are symmetrical, they are built by stacking minor third intervals. It means there are four diminished chords in one chord.

Example : C diminished 7th is built with four notes : C, Eb, Gb and A. Each note is separated by a minor third (three semitones) so, there are three other diminished seventh chords built on each note of Cdim7 chord : Ebdim7, Gbdim7 and Adim7. 

All of that is to say that you can replace G7b9 (the VI chord of Bb turnaround) by four diminished 7 chords that are Bdim7, Ddim7, Fdim7 and Abdim7.

Basic Turnaround - Imaj7  vim7  iim7  V7 

To simplify learning, the following exercises are two-bars turnarounds, in the same key. They all go to C major giving the basic progression : Cmaj7 / Am7 / Dm7 / G7 respectively I - vi - ii - V of a C.

The first example contains only drop 3 chords.


Turnaround tab for guitar


This second turnaround is made of one drop 2 chord (Cmaj7), one drop 3 Am7 and two extended chords (Dm11 and G13).

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 2


The third I VI II V progression below is buit built with two drop 3 chords (Cmaj7 and Dmin7), one drop 2 chord (G7) and a inverted chord (Am7/C) that can be seen as Cmaj6 chord.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 3

Turnaround Variation 1 -  Imaj7  VI7  iim7  V7 

This turnaround variation is the backbone of what we call "Rhythm Changes", a very popular progression found in jazz taken from the George Gershwin tune "I Got Rhythm".

In comparison with the basic turnaround previously seen, you can notice that the second degree is no more minor, but dominant. In the key of C we will get a new chord (A7).

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 4


Because rhythm changes are almost always played in Bb, here are two turnaround exercises in the key of Bb. The first one implies a drop 3 voicing (Bbmaj7), a drop 2 voicing (G7) and two ninth chords that are Cmin9 (b7 in the bass) and F9.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 7


The following turnaround comping line implies an altered dom7 chord (G7#5) and an extended dom7 (F13).

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 8

Turnaround Variation 2 -  iiim7  VI7(b9)  iim7  V7 

Diatonic Substitution

The second turnaroud variation implies a diatonic substitution for the Imaj7 chord. As you can see in the tab below, Dm7 is played instead of BbMaj7.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 9


Diminished Substitution

Now let's replace the VI chord (G7b9) with Bdim7. As explained at the top of this lesson, they have many notes in common.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 10


Due to the symmetry of diminshed chords, the previous Bdim7 can be replaced by Abdim7 which is actually a Bdim7 with the bb7 in the bass.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 11

Turnaround Variation 3 -  Imaj7  I#dim7  iim7  V7 

Diminished Passing chords

Diminished 7 chords are often used in place of the VI7 chord to make the link between the Imaj7 Chord and the iim7 chord of a turnaround.

Here we get a C#dim7 between Cmaj7 and Dm7. This creates an interesting short chromatic bass line (C - C# - D)

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 12


Tritone substitution

In the next exercise we still have a dim7 passing chord between the I and the II chord. You will notice the Db7b5 chord in the second measure, tritone substitution for the V7 chord (G7).

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 13

Turnaround Variation 4 -  I7  VI7 (b9 b13)  iim7  V7 

The particularity of this turnaround is the presence of the Dom7 chord in place of the maj7 chord. It is very used in the last two measures of jazz blues tunes. The VI7 chord is often altered with a b9 and b13.

This first example contains a G7b9 chord, a Cm11 and a tritone substitution (B7b5) for the V7 (F) chord.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 18


You can hear in this one a G7b13 chord.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 19

Turnaround Variation 5 -  I7  VI7  II7  V7 

The particularity of this turnaround sequence is that all the chords are dominant 7 chords. We will focus particularily on the II7 chord which has becom the secondary dominant of the V7 chord.

Secondary Dominant 

Secondary dominants are also called dominant of the dominant, they are usually written V7/V7 or V/V7. In other words, secondary dominants are dominant chords that start on the fifth of another dominant chord. For exemple, in a turnaround in Bb, the II7 chord (C7) is the dominant of  the V7 chord (F7).

The two tabs below are mostly made of ninth chords which are nothing more than dominant 7 chords with an added 9.


Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 20


Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 21

Turnaround Variation 6 -  III7  VI7  II7  V7 

The last turnaround of this lesson implies two secondary dominants : The III7 chord (D7) and the II7 (C7) discussed in the previous variation. As mentioned in the tab below, the basic I7 chord has been replaced by the III7 which is actullay the secondary dominant of the VI7 chord (G7).

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 22


In this pattern you can hear two tritone substitutions : D7b5 and B7#5 are played in place of G7 and F7.

Turnaround tab for guitar exercise 24

  • Guitar Scale Dictionary

    This E-book is a printable PDF method including over 700 scale diagrams and formula charts for guitarists.
  • 30 Groovy Jazz Guitar Licks

    This downloadable package contains a PDF WITH audio files giving access to 30 groovy guitar phrases mixing jazz, blues and funky licks for beginners.
  • Guitar Chord Dictionary

    This PDF eBook provides over 550 guitar chord shapes. This is the perfect reference guide to understand how chords are built and how to play them on the guitar neck.
  • 172 Arpeggio Shapes For Guitar

    This printable PDF is a method dedicated to guitarists of all styles who want to learn the most important types of arpeggios.
  • 126 Triad Chord Shapes

    This handbook for guitar players is intended both for teachers and students. It includes 126 guitar shapes for mastering triads.
  • 30 Minor Arpeggio Licks

    This package includes a printable PDF method containing 30 exercises with tabs, staves and audio files for practicing minor arpeggios on guitar.
  • II V I Bundle - 170 Exercises

    This bundle contains 4 PDF methods for a total of 170 exercises with tabs, staves, analysis & audio files for practicing scales, arpeggios licks & chords over the 2-5-1 progression.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • 30 Smooth Jazz Guitar Licks

    In this package you'll get a printable PDF Method with tabs, notation, analysis, scale shapes and audio files for practicing 30 smooth jazz guitar licks.
  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains fourteen 2 5 1 jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This printable PDF guitar method provides 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab and staves for learning major 2-5-1 chord voicings.
  • 40 Minor 2 5 1 Chord Voicings

    This PDF method contains 40 exercices with tabs, scores and audio files for practicing jazz guitar chords over the minor 2 5 1 progression.
  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor 2 5 1 jazz patterns.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    PDF guitar method with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians. Tab, standard notation, audio files & analysis.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    11 jazz blues chord studies with tabs, standard notation, analysis, and audio recordings and PDF.
  • 10 Easy Fingerstyle Blues

    This PDF with Tabs and audio files provides 10 easy acoustic fingerstyle blues guitar studies for kids and beginners.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant Patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson. These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.
  • 10 Minor 7 Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF eBook offers 10 easy minor 7 arpeggio patterns with its related YouTube video for beginner guitarists.
  • 10 Easy Major 7 Arpeggio Licks

    This is a printable PDF for beginner jazz guitar players providing 10 easy licks to practice major 7 arpeggios.
  • 10 Chord Melody Lines

    Within this package, you'll discover a set of ten chord melody exercises for beginners. Printable PDFaudio files, a backing track, and a link to the associated YouTube video.
  • 10 Minor Blues Scale Licks

    You'll find here a PDF with 10 easy jazz guitar licks to practice the minor blues scale on guitar.

harmony progressions voicings turnaround chords


  • Billy Walter
    • 1. Billy Walter On 2020-09-20
    Awesome thanks
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2020-09-20
      Thanks ;)

Add a comment




Free pdf guitar