Chord Theory, Jazz Theory

Jazz Turnarounds

April 7, 2009

In this lesson we are going to take a quick look at turnarounds in jazz and how you can play over them. A turnaround is simply a chord sequence which happens at the end of chord progression which takes you back to the beginning. There is a lot of room to experiment with jazz turnarounds because usually there is not much happening in terms of the melody when you get to the last few bars of a song. This means that jazz turnarounds are an ideal place for chord substitutions. Generally turnarounds in jazz are two or four bars long.

Perhaps the most common turnaround in jazz is the I – VI – II – V chord progression.

In the key of C, this jazz turnaround would look like this:

C, Am, Dm G7

You have probably seen and heard this turnaround being used many times before. Now that we have a basic turnaround, we can experiment with different ways of altering it to produce more interesting chord sequences.

The first thing we can do is to replace the minor chords in this turnaround for dominant seven chords which would give us something like this:

C, A7, D7, G7

Once you get started with these things, the potential for substitutions can sometimes seem unlimited.

Using tritone substitutions on jazz turnarounds

A really common trick when dealing with turnarounds in jazz is to use tritone substitutions to make our original I, VI, II, V chord progression more interesting.

Here are some examples that use tritone substitution on the original I, VI, II, V progression.

C A7 Ab7 Db7

C Eb7 D7 G7

C Eb7 Ab7 G7

C Eb7 D7 Db7

C Eb7 Ab7 Db7

C Am Ab7 G7

C Eb7 Dm Db7

As you can see the turnarounds start to become much more interesting harmonically when we start to add in some tritone substitutions.

Using altered dominant chords on a turnaround

Many jazz musicians will replace the boring dominant seven chords with something a little bit more harmonically adventurous. Take a look at the examples below which offer two examples of how you can use altered dominants in a turnaround situation.

C A7#5#9 Dm Db7

C A7#5#9 Dm G7b9

I hope you enjoyed learning about jazz turnarounds. Once you start to understand the theory behind them, you can start to come up with your own unique turnarounds. Have fun experimenting with these chord sequences.

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