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

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chords voicings turnaround harmony progressions