Tag Archives: turnaround

Jazz Turnaround – How To Get Started

The Jazz Turnaround or I VI7 II V is a very common and useful progression to learn after you have checked out some basic II V I lines. In this video I will go over some basic material to use on a Turnaround: Jazz Chords, Scales and Arpeggios and then demonstrate how to solo over the form with this.

The lesson includes some exercises as well to get you more familiar with the chord progression, arpeggios and scales and get it into your ears and fingers.

The Progression and some Basic Jazz Chords 

The turnaround I am going to focus on in this lesson is a Bb major I VI II V. I have chosen to use altered dominants for the VI and the V chords.

A good place to start when learning a chord progression is to play the chords. Here are the chords both as diagrams and as notation:

It is important to play the chords and get used to how they sound, and for any progression you want to solo on you also want to be able to play the chords.

These voicings are fairly basic versions with a root.

Scales and a position of the neck

When you are starting to work on a progression then you want to keep scales and arpeggios in one position. If you have to move around the neck to cover the chords while soloing then it is going to be very difficult to play any logical sounding melodies.

I am going to cover the turnaround using the 6th positions.

The Bbmaj7 and the Cm7 are covered by a basic Bb major scale:

The  G7 altered scale is the same as the Ab melodic minor scale. In this position that is this scale:

And finally the F altered or Gb melodic minor:

Arpeggios – Diatonic and altered dominant

The basic arpeggios for the Bbmaj7 and Cm7 are easy to come up with. The altered dominants are a bit more tricky. Here I am using m7b5 arpeggios from the 7th of the chord.

Decoding the Arpeggio choice for the Altered dominants

The altered dominants don’t have a straight diatonic arpeggio. In Ab melodic minor the diatonic chord on G is a half diminished chord. One way of dealing with that is to look at a G7alt chord voicings as shown below.

The top part of that chord is an Fm7(b5) chord and this means we can use that arpeggio as a good arpeggio for G7alt since it gives us a

F Ab B Eb = b7, b9, 3, b13

Exercises on the Progression

When you are learning a progression it is really useful to do some exercises that follow the changes and help you not only familiarize yourself with both the chords and the scales and arpeggios you need to improvise over it.

In the video I also demonstrate how to do similar exercises with the arpeggios and two examples of the never-ending scale exercise.

Improvising using Target Notes

One of the best ways to approach soloing over changing harmony and to have melody lines that flow naturally from one chord to the next is to use target notes.

Using target notes in your solos is to choose a note in advance and then try to play a melody towards that note. This way of constructing lines is very useful because if you have that in your system you will always play melodies that are moving towards something and not sound like you are trying out how notes sound or that melodies are moving at random. By choosing target notes that are related to the chords it is also a very powerful way to really spell out the chords.

The Target notes for this progression

The Target notes are chosen to be really clear so they are very indicative of the sound of the chord and not repeating notes from the last chord.

An example of a line using the target notes is shown below. Notice how I am using the target notes on the 1st beat of the chord and making a line that really points to that target notes.

Taking the Target note strategy further

If you want to check out some more material on Turnarounds and target notes then you can also check out this webstore lesson where I am using that approach on the Rhythm Changes.

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Jazz Turnaround How To Get Started

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25 Reharmonizations of a Turnaround – Discover New Modern Jazz Chord Progressions

A great way to write better chord progressions is to check out reharmonization techniques and chord substitution. You can build your jazz theory or jazz harmony vocabulary like your solo vocabulary.

In this video I am going to take a I VI II V and go over 30 different ways of playing this progression. Some of the very common ones and also a lot that are more advanced or modern. Hopefully you can use the chord progressions to get some new ideas and techniques for reharmonization or for your own compositions!

0:00 Writing better chord progressions
1:24 The basic turnaround and some variations
4:22 The I I7 IV V
5:34 The Radiohead turnaround
6:09 #IVdim in the standard turnaround
7:12 The Ladybird Turnaround
8:43 Getting less functional and more substitutions
9:55 Reinterpreting other chords in the progression
11:04 The “Inner Urge” idea
11:49 Major 3rd tonalities
12:23 #IV instead of the V
14:42 Same interval in the root movement
16:31 More Poppy sound without dom7th chords
16:45 Same melody note
17:42 IVm type chords instead of V
19:09 Upper-structure resolving passing chords
19:54 How to use the vamps and the exercises

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround

The I VI II V is one of the most common progessions in jazz. In this lesson I am going to go over 10 variations of it and discuss how some of the different substitutions work and how you put them together.

The Turnaround

As I mention in my first lesson on turnarounds and the one on Rhythm changes a I VI II V is in fact an embellished version of a I V progression. It’s very good to keep this in mind, not only for high tempo solos but also just to understand what the basic structure and the point of the turnaround is.

All the examples in this lesson are made on a turnaround in C major.

The basic I VI II V is shown in example 1:

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 1

The first chord that we use a substitution for is the Am7. Since Am7 to Dm7 is a sort of dominant root movement we can change the Am7 into an A7.  The A7 to Dm7 is then an auxiliary dominant resolving to a minor chord so the  scale that works for that is D minor harmonic. The modal name for that type of dominant sound is A7(b9,b13).

A few variations on the VI chord

This is shown in example 2:

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 2

Since we need to move from C to Dm7 we can also choose to substitue the Am7 with a dim passing chord. In this case it will be a C#dim that will function the same as the A7 in example 2, and you should use the same scale to play over it or add extensions to it. The reason for using the C# dim is to get a nice chromatic stepwise bass line.

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 3

Changing the tonic chord

Now that we have a few options for the VI we can start using a substitute for the I chord. The most common version of this is to use the III chord instead of the I chord. For soloing there is very little difference between the two, but in a progression the III chord is not nearl as much of a resting point as the I chord. Furthermore it moves to the VI resolving a 5th down so it adds more forward motion in the bass as well.

You’ll notice that the III does not have a natural 9th in the chord. This is because that is a note that is not in the scale so it will sound a little out of place. In some situations it is ok to use it and in others it may clash with the melody or the soloist.

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 4

Altered dominants

To make the pull back to the I chord at the end of the progression we can alter the V. There are two options for this, you can borrow the dominant from C harmonic minor which gives us a G7(b9,b13) or simply use the altered scale (Ab melodic minor).

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 5

The Em7 is pulling the progression forward where the I is making it rest, making the Em7 a dominant chord is away to make that pull stronger. A dominant is always more unstable sounding and especially since it is not in the key it will give us the feeling that we want to move forward.

You should notice that you need an E7alt or E7(b9,b13) to not clash with the melody that you’d expect on a turnaround in C.

In example 6 I am using the E7, and I also changed the Dm7 to a D7 to get a complete chain of dominants that is pulling to the tonic.
Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 6

Tritone substitution

Since we can use an E7alt we can also use the tritone substitution of that chord. This gives us a bass note that is not even in the key which makes it even more unstable than the E7 and gives it much more forward direction. This is a personal favourite of mine, it isn’t used that often as a turnaround in an AABA form, but it does happen quite often in places where there is an extension at some point.

Bb7 is a tritone substitution so we would consider it a lydian dominant

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 7

Now we have a few variations of dominant chains. First we can add a tritone substitution for the G7: Db7.

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 8

And if we don’t use the Bb7 but use the E7 and a tritone substitue for A7: Eb7. Then we get this chromatically descending line in example 9

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 9

Ladybird Turnaround and the gateway to Giant Steps

The final example is a little left by itself. You can look at this turnaround as a gateway to Giant Steps. In the lady bird turnaround usually you use the I chord, and the tritone subs for A7 and G7. The Dm7 is replaced with an Abmaj7, and the way this works is that we let the Eb7 resolve as a normal dominant to Abmaj7 instead of as a tritone resolving to Dm7. Abmaj7 is related to C major as a bVI borrowed from C minor. You’ll find that in some standards as well.

To shortly connect this to Giant steps you should notice that we are in C and that we modulate down to Ab. If you continue that cycle you get a Giant Steps progression in the key of C:

Cmaj7 Eb7 Abmaj7 B7 Emaj7 G7 Cmaj7

I don’t know if this is where Coltrane got the idea, but it is certainly a possibility.

Jazz Chords 10 variations of a I VI II V turnaround - ex 10

That was 10 variations of the turnaround. As you can see you can easily make more different variation, but they will start to resemble each other a bit more.

I think it is important to be able to recognise that something is just a turnaround and to know the different versions so that you can easily sum up pieces that are mostly turnarounds and that you already reading the piece have a sense of how it works.

If you want to see some examples of lines on these turnarounds then leave a comment on YouTube or social media and let me know!

Take Your Comping Up A Few Levels

Comping – Putting It All Together

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Turnarounds part 3 – I bIII7 II Valt

The 3rd lesson in my series on turnaround is about how you deal with tritone substitution and altered dominants. I’ll try to give you an idea about what scales and arpeggios to play, and in the Etude I’ll also try to give demonstrate how I use it, notes to aim for and other useful tips.

The Turnaround

The main turnaround that this lesson is about is the first 2 bars of example 1, where the IV is replaced by a  tritonesubstitution: Db7. If you are familiar with my lessons on altered dominants and tritone substitution you will know that the progression is almost identical to the one shown in the next line where I use G7 instead of Db7, the same holds for the F7 which could be replaced by a B7.

Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 1

Let’s first go over the scales: Since the progression as a whole is in the key of Bb we use the Bb major scale on the Bbmaj7 chord and the Cm7 chord.

Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 2

For the Db7: A tritone substitution is approached as an Lydian Dominant, so that would make the root of the chord the 4th degree in a melodic minor scale. That means that we get Ab melodic minor. You should notice that Ab melodic minor is the same as G altered too.Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 3

The same is true for the F7alt: F# melodic minor, and it could be seen as B lydian dominant too.

Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 4

Now that we have scales for all the chords we can chose a few arpeggios for each one. For the Bbmaj7, Db7 and Cm7 chords I am using the arpeggio of the chord it self and an arpeggio that is a diatonic 3rd above or below the root of the chord. This is because that way this arpeggios will have a lot of common notes with the chord and fit it very well.

For the F7 we have the issue that the diatonic chord in the scale is an Fm7b5 which is not that useful or strong on an F7. The way I chose to fix this was to use the diatonic arps of the tritone substitute (B7, the 2nd arpeggio) and the 3rd of B7 (Ebm7b5). Those both contain both 3rd and 7th so that they convey the sound of the F7 really well.

Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 5

The Etude

In my experience you learn more from sitting down and trying to work on writing strong lines than just copying other peoples lines, so you should consider trying to analyze the things that I do in this etude and use them in you own lines. That way you really train your ear and your taste, two very important aspects of improvising.

Turnarounds part 3 - I bIII7 II Valt ex 6

The first turnaround is simply starting with a Bb major triad and the works up the scale to hit the Ab on the Db7. On the Db7 the line consists of an Abm triad which is a good upperstructure for that chord (try playing a Db7(9) chord). On the Cm7 the melody descends down an Ebmaj7 arpeggio and continues down an GbmMaj7 arpeggio on the F7alt.

I often use the “Coltrane” patter in fast moving progressions like this. In the 2nd turnaround the melody on the Bb is an F major Coltrane pattern: F G A C which works very well with a Bbmaj7. On the Db7 it continues with a smal scale run that leads in to the Cm7 arpeggio in inversion over the Cm7. The line on the F7alt is really a sort of F# minor cliche melody that  is a minor version of the Coltrane pattern, relative to F# it is 1,2,b3 and 5. Here it’s played descending.

The Gb of the F7alt resolves nicely to an F on the next Bbmaj chord. The melody continues up a Dm7 arpeggio in inversion. The Db7 line is using a Bmaj7 shell voicing arpeggiated with in a melodic way. The idea on the Cm7 and F7 is connected by using the Coltrane minor pattern on the Cm7 (1,b3,4,5) and then continuing with that idea using the B major Coltrane pattern on the F7. This is a good example how the interchanging between altered dominant and tritone substitute can give you some melodic ideas that you would maybe not otherwise arrive at.

On the last turnaround the Bbmaj7 line is a Dm triad which is followed by an Ab minor triad on the Db7. This time the Ab minor triad is played so that it resolves to the 5th of Cm7. On the Cm7 it is first ascending up an Ebmaj7 arp in inversion and then resolves down an Ebm7b5 on the F7alt and finally ending on the 3rd(D) of Bb.

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

Turnarounds part 3 – I bIII7 II Valt

I hope that you liked the lesson. 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 Instagram, Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.


Turnarounds part 2 – I bIIIdim II V

In this 2nd lesson on turnarounds I am going to go over the I bIIIdim II V progression and how you deal with the dreaded bIIIdim chord and make some good melodies over this chord.

The Turnaround

In the first lesson we talked about the I VIdom7 II V7 progression, a progression where all the moves between the chords are fairly straight forward V I type resolutions. In the I bIIIdim II V That is no longer the case as we have a dim chord resolving a half step down to a II chord.

In Bb major that would look like this:

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 1

As you can see there is not really any way we can interpret the C#dim as any kind of G7 or Bdim type of chord, so it is not a dominant type resolution. Therefore it is a sub dominant diminished chord. If you really look in to the theory you’ll find that it is infact often referred to as a #IV diminished chord in inversion. I am not going to go into this part of the theory too much, since it is much more important that we can improvise over it and as you’ll see there is another way to get the material for that than digging in to the origings of the chord in theory.


Let’s first qucikly go over the scales that we need to play over this turnaround. For the Bbmaj7 and the Cm7 we can use the scale of the key: Bb Major

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 2

The C# or Dbdim is a bit more tricky. You’ll notice that I am going a bit back and forth with calling it C# and Db dim, In the case of this chord it is often a good idea to be a bit liberal with that. SInce it is in a Bb major context, we can design a scale by looking at the notes of the chord:

C#dim: C# E G Bb

and the scale

Bb major: Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

If we try to alter the scale to fit the chord we get this scale: Bb C# D E F G A Bb

And as you migth see this is the D minor harmonic scale:

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 3

The D harmonic minor scale is not the only scale we can use but this is one good option.

For the V chord I’ve chosen to use the altered scale, so in this case on the F7alt that means the F# minor melodic scale. If you want to check out some more info on the altered scale you can check out this lesson: Melodic Minor – Altered Scale

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 4

Now that we have scales for all the chords we can chose a few arpeggios for each one. As in the first lesson I am using the arpeggio of the chord it self and an arpeggio that is a diatonic 3rd above or below the root of the chord. This is because that way this arpeggios will have a lot of common notes with the chord and fit it very well.

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 5

The Etude

As I mentioned in the first lesson on turnarounds it is important to work with clear lines that move logically to the next part of the line. Target notes and motifs are good ways to get this when you are working on making lines. Try to spend time composing lines and also improvising lines at a slow or medium tempo so that you can still stay in control of how you are making the lines.

Turnarounds part 2 - I bIIIdim II V 1 ex 6

In the first turnaround the line starts with a Dm7 arpeggios in inversion over the Bbmaj7 chord before it continues with a A major triad in inversion over the Dbdim. The A major triad as a part of the A7 chord works very well over the Dbdim. On the Cm6 the line is a minor cliché using the triad and the 9th of the chord. The F7altered is being spelled out with the help of an inverison of the B7 arpeggio.

The 2nd turnaround starts off with a Dm7 arpeggio, this time in root position. This is led into a sequence of the G diminished triad over the dim chord. The C# note in the dim chord is resolved to the 9th(D) of the Cm7. This way of resolving the notes to an extension of the Cm7 gives you the possibilty to resolve them as if they continued to a Dm chord. The line over the Cm7 chord is for the rest a descending Ebmaj7 arpeggio, which continues into a GbmMaj7 arpeggio over the F7alt chord.

The third turnaround is using a motif idea over the first bar where the Bbmaj7 melody is a Dm pentatonic fragment which is repeated on the Dbdim, except that the first two notes are lowered a half step to fit the dim chord. The cm7 melody is also a pentatonic fragment but then layed descending and the F7alt line is an ascending B7 arpeggio.

On the final turnaround the lines are composed of arpeggios chained together to create melodies with a large range. On the Bbmaj7 chord the melody is a Bb maj7 arpeggio played descending from the F. It continues down a Db dim arpeggio before it turnsaround with a Cm7 arpeggio, and an A shell voicing over the F7alt chord.

Download a pdf of the examples for later study here: Turnarounds part 2 – I bIIIdim II V

I hope that you liked the lesson. 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, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Turnarounds part 1 – I VI II V

In this lesson I want to talk about the I VI II V turnaround and what you can play over it and how you can practice it. The lesson will give you some exercises and suggestions to make strong melodiclines using diatonic arpeggios and target notes.

The Turnaround

Turnarounds are progressions that are used a lot in standards like Rhythm Changes and Ain’t Misbehavin, The Touch of Your Lips and so on. For that reason alone it’s well worth checking out.

I am going to start a series of lessons on different variations of turnarounds which should include a good portion of most sorts of jazz harmony. It should take us from standard turnarounds and gradually closer to John Coltranes Giant Steps cycle, which can be seen as derived from turnarounds too.

Because turnarounds are so common they are also a good place to start when practicing playing over faster moving changes. By faster moving changes I mean 2 chords per bar which is something that already in medium tempos can be hard to navigate in a musical way, and play something that makes sense melodically. If you have 2 chords per bar and improvise in 8th notes then you have to make a melody with 4 notes from one chord and 4 from the next, this can be quite tricky at times.

In this lesson I am going to work on a turnaround in Bb major. Which is this chord progression:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 1

I am in this lesson using Harmonic minor on the dominant 7th chords. This is something you can also check out in this lesson:  Harmonic Minor Dominant Lines

So in this lesson we have these scales:

For the Bbmaj7 and Cm7 chords:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 2

Since G7(b9) is a dominant resolving to Cm7 it is best to consider it an auxiliary dominant and use C harmonic minor:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 3


And for the variation I chose to do consider the F7(b9) a chord that is borrowed from Bb minor and use Bb harmonic minor over that too.Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 4

Raw materials for lines

The main part of the lines I make on a progression like this are made up of the arpeggios of the chord and the arpeggios found on the 3rd of the chord, so for BbMaj, I have that arpeggio and the arpeggio from D which is a Dm7 arpeggio. I use other things too but these two are probably the most important to know, and the you can of course use them in inversions and as shell voicings and triads too, as you’ll notice in my examples.

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 6

So now we have two arpeggios and a scale for each chord in the turnaround and can begin to start practicing lines on it.

Practicing and composing lines on the I VI II V

When you first try to make lines on the progression you probably need to be concerned with two things: Have clear target notes so that when you play that note on the 1 or the 3 you can hear the chord change clearly, and you need to approach it in a way where you practice playing towards the target note. Playing towards the target note is going to make the flow of your lines much moe logical and will help you make stronger lines whenever you improvise.

To give you some examples of how I might compose lines on this turnaround I wrote this small exercise:

Turnarounds part 1 - I VI II V - ex 7

You’ll notice that I am trying to just use basic ideas and movements and keep it quite simple, mostly because it is better to stick to the basics when starting to work on a progression like this. We can always add the fireworks later.

The first bar is using first the Bb triad and then the B dim arpeggio over the Bbmaj7 and G7(b9). In the second bar the lines is first a bit of the Cm7 arpeggio and then chromatically leading up to the 3rd(A) of F7. In bar 3 the Bbmaj line is a descending “Coltrane pattern” or Bb major pentatonic scale, depending on what you prefer calling that. On the G7 the line is again the B dim, but this time ascending. The Cm7 is a scale fragment from the C minor pentatonic scale followed by an inversion of a F7(#5) arpeggio.

The 5th and 6th bar are not using the same target note strategy to make the melody, but instead using arpeggios and voice leading to creat a coherent line. The first part on the BbMaj7 chord is a Dm7 arpeggio which is then altered to a Bdim inversion over the G7 by introducing an Ab and a B. Over the Cm7 the whole thing shifts up to an Eb Maj7 arpeggio which continues up to a C dim triad over the F7. Over the final turnaround the Bbmaj7 line is again a Dm7 arpeggio but this time in a pattern. The line on the G7 is a descending scale fragment from the C harmonic minor scale. The line continues through a descending Ebmaj7 arpeggio in inversion which then is encircling the A of an A dim inversion over the F7. This arpeggio resolves to a D.

I hope you can use the material and the strategies to become more at home over changes like this turnaround. I will make a few different lessons on different sorts of turnarounds which should help categorizing the progression and splitting songs up in bigger parts so that they are both easier to play and easier to remember.

As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:

Turnarounds part 1 – I VI II V

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.