Learn to play acoustic blues turnarounds
The 12-bar blues is without doubt the single most jammed chord progression in the history of contemporary guitar. And with good reason: it’s catchy, easy to learn and affords huge improvisational potential to players of all abilities.
The trouble is that the seas of improvisation are infested with clichés; in particular, the last four turnaround bars that herald the return to the top of the form.
So here we’re looking at four different turnarounds in a variety of acoustic styles to help you navigate those treacherous waters.
Tell me more about this turnaround. What does it contain?
Usually, the last four bars of a 12-bar use the chords V-IV-I-V, so for example, in the key of A that would be E-D-A-E. The roman numerals simply denote how far along the scale of A the chords’ root notes are found.
Some of the chords in the examples look a bit more elaborate, though.
True, but the implied harmony is largely the same. A7 is common in Delta blues while A9 may be preferred to plain old A in a more jazzy progression, for instance.
Hmm. That last example isn’t exactly blues, though, is it?
No, but then neither is Queen’s I Want To Break Free, but the chords are more or less the same!
Fair point. So where can I use this stuff?
These excerpts work very nicely in solo acoustic blues improvisation, or you could sneak them into a blues you may already play, such as Walkin’ Blues, Sweet Home Chicago, or Hey Hey!
The more licks you know, the freer you are to express yourself…
Texan inﬂuence with off-beat chord stabs in E.
Bassline with chromaticism in E.
Delta blues turnaround in A.
Swing blues turnaround using downstrokes.