Blues Turnarounds

StevieI thought all you folks who read my blog would enjoy checking out a lesson on blues turnarounds I taught my Blues Workshop students today. Included are mp3’s of each turnaround—just click “Listen.”

Turnarounds, typically played during the last two measures of a blues progression, give the cycle an emphatic ending, and signal that they you’re about to head back to the beginning of the progression again (hence the name). A well-executed turnaround really makes you sound like you know what you’re doing. Drill them into your muscle memory until you can do it in your sleep (as you can see, I’ve been playing the blues in my sleep quite a bit lately).

Though I’ve written these in the keys of A and E, most of these turnarounds are moveable. To move them to a different key, identify your locator note. This note should match the note your key is named after. So if you’re playing in the key of G, and your locator note is on the first string, you’ll play that note on the first string, 3rd fret (which is a G note). Now shift the rest of the pattern to fit that new position.

Key of A

1. First part is moveable. The note on the 1st string at the beginning of the 2nd measure is your locator note.
A Turnaround 1

2. First part is moveable. Note on 1st string is your locator note.
A turnaround 2

3. Moveable. First note is your locator note.
A turnaround 3

4. First part is moveable–the first note is your locator note. Then you have to slide up five frets to start the rest of the lick.
A turnaround 4

5. Moveable–just change the chords to fit your key (chord in first measure is a I chord, and chord in second measure is a V chord). Note on 1st string, 5th fret is locator note.
A turnaround 5

Key of E

1. Easy to move if you change chords to fit the new key. Locator note is a whole step (2 frets) higher than the 2nd string note.
E turnaround 1

2. Not moveable.
E turnaround 2

Comments 32

  1. Rob,

    Cool blog, I will definately check it out often. Of all the areas that I have problems (and there are many)the blues turnaround is one that for some reason I can’t get into my head.

  2. Nice Blog. Will be getting down to business with these turnarounds first thing tonight. Do you have any suggestion for playing chords through a blues turnaround as I would like to see those too.


  3. I like that you included the MP3’s, that really helps. One can look at tab all day long but it doesn’t convey the tempo rhythm or the feeling of what is supposed to sound like, and the feeling is all important.
    I thank you

  4. Great blues turnarounds. It really helps a lot.
    Love playing them on my yamaha acoustic.
    Would like to also to play chords throught blues turnarounds. Any suggestions?

    Jmaes UK

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      Hi James,

      In 12-bar blues, play the I chord through the 11th and first part of the 12th measures. On the “and of 2” in the 12th measure, switch to the V chord.

      That’s the most common way to do it, anyway.

      Hope that helps,


  5. the fourth turnaround in A:

    Is the locator note supposed to be a G? I am confused because it appears as though the first part of the turnaround is descending from a G, instead of an A?

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      1. No worries Rob, an easily overlooked mistake. I was changing keys and it just didn’t sound right. Thanks for clearing it up.

        Love the turnarounds and your site. Keep it up.


  6. Hi Rob, RE your post to James Williams is this what you are saying should be done. I also could never figure out the last part. Peace to you mate, and many thanks.
    (I) 1+2+3+4+ (IV) 2+2+3+4+ (I) 3+2+3+4+ (I)4+2+3+4+
    (IV)5+2+3+4+ (IV) 6+2+3+4+ (I) 7+2+3+4+ (I)8+2+3+4+
    (V) 9+2+3+4+ (IV)10+2+3+4+ (I)11+2+3+4+ (I)12+2+(V)3+4+
    ( Turnaround…………….)

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