Turnarounds – Comping

This lesson will give you some material to develop how you play the chords of a I VI II V progression, and it also demonstrates the method I use when working on comping.


The turnaround is a harmonic device that does just that: it turns a round. I suspect it’s named because you mostly put them at the end of the piece to go back to the beginning or if you only include the ones that go back to the I chord like this one: It goes back where it started.

Turnarounds are the harmonic foundation for a lot of jazz pieces, the most famous one is probably I got rhythm. If you start messing around with triton substitution you can maybe also see how Coltrane changes are in a way an extension of this.

Here are the chords I’ll be working with in this lesson:

Turnarounds - comping - ex 1


The first thing we need to do is to expand each of the voicings above so that we have more top notes available in order to make melodies over the whole progression.

As I explain in the video I am making the chords by using notes from the scale I associate with the chord. The idea is to make a few voicings that are very similar and easy to move between so that you can easily play a melody with the top notes. I use the Bbmajor scale for the Bbmaj7 and Cm7 chords and for G7 I am using the C harmonic minor scale. I chose to use F7 altered to have a bit of variation of sound between chords. You can learn more about the altered scale here: Altered scale

Turnarounds - comping - ex 2


In the examples I’ve made I am using the voicings from above and try to show how to make what I think is a clear melody with the top notes.

Turnarounds - comping - ex 3

In the first example I am moving stepwise up on the Bbmaj7 chord and then on the G7 resolving the #9 via the b9 to the 5th of the C minor. The line on the F7 altered is in fact doing the same down to the 5th of Bbmaj7

Turnarounds - comping - ex 4

The 2nd example is repeating a Bbmaj7(9) sound in quarter notes. It is easy to forget how important rhythm is when we are looking at the melodies, but in fact the rhythm is just as important for the melody as the notes. Repeating notes is underestimated in melodies in general 🙂 Especially in Jazz. The G7 b9is moving via a b13 to a Cm9 . Note that the melody on the Cm spells out a Gm triad. On the F7 I am resolving the #9 via the b9 to the Major 7th of Bb which I think is a nice sound but is also a bit surprising to the ear.

Turnarounds - comping - ex 5

The 3rd example starts with a melofy moving up a major 3rd from the 5th to the 7th of Bb. From the it goes a 12 step down to the b9 of G7.  You might want to notice that I mostly transitions from one chord to the next with a fairly small interval in the melody. That makes the transition more smooth, meldies and voice-leading are very similar things. Another thing you see in my examples is that if I have a melody on the 4& then it is harmonized with the chord of the following bar. In this example I resolve the b9 via the #9 to the 7th of Bb.

As always you can download the examples as a pdf here:

Turnarounds – Comping

I hope that you liked the lesson, and can use some of this information to make your own top note melodies for comping turnarounds

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.