Turnarounds - Sophomore Year Blues Lesson 3

We have previously discussed the 12 bar blues structure. We have built solos using pairs of phrases, each pair providing a call and answer, and looked at strong notes. We have also seen how a phrase played on a I chord will sound fine when played on a IV chord, within the first 8 bars of a solo. Blues solos rarely sound good if made from random notes, or just the same note played over and over. Instead, rules, or guidelines like the ones here will help you create original solos which sound good, and sound like blues.

This lesson looks at the last 4 bar section of a 12 bar blues. This is called the turnaround, and, as mentioned before, has a bar on the V chord, a bar on the IV chord, and finishes with two bars on the I chord. Good blues players know many phrase or "riffs" to use on turnarounds. We introduce three turnaround riffs here.

Riff one has the notes

1D 4D 1B 4B 2D 2D 2D 1D

and sounds like this


The second riff has three 4D notes. The first one is bent down, the second one has a dip. The riff is

4D 4B 4D 3D 2D 4B 4D

and sounds like this


For riff three, each note is played twice, except for the final 4B 4D. This matches the rhythm on the track, which is called a "shuffle". The shuffle rhythm is common in blues. The riff is

4D 5B 5D 5B 4D 5B 6B 5B 4D 5B 4D 5B 4D 4B 4D

and sounds like this


There are many more turnaround riffs. Listen for them on your blues recordings. You will see that each harmonica player has their own set of turnaround riffs. Listen for blues turnaround riffs on other instruments as well, particularly guitars.

Now use these riffs in your own solos. Listen to this track


which has no harmonica. This is your job. Make up your own solo for the first 8 bars. Keep it simple. If you want, use a solo from a previous lesson. Then, use one of the turnarounds from this lesson to finish the solo. The track has three 12 bar sections, so, play three solos, using a different turnaround for each one.

As you play more blues, you will learn many riffs like the turnaround ones here. Also, you will start to make your own original riffs. Combine these with ones you have learnt, concentrate hard on good tone, and people will start to notice and enjoy your playing.

Click here for the next lesson.