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Turn it Around!

21 December 2010 6 Comments

by Nick Stoubis

It is a safe bet to assume that as a guitarist, you are at some point going to play to a blues shuffle. Most of us pile away favorite phrases and ideas over the form but we often neglect the most harmonically delicate section of the twelve-bar form, the turnaround. The turnaround is the last two measures of the form and can be handled in a variety of ways harmonically and melodically.

The following examples give you some idiomatic phrases that can help you end each chorus of the blues with a strong musical idea. I have not included fingerings in order to prevent you from looking at each idea as only available in one position. Try each example in all keys and in different positions throughout the fretboard. Also, beat one has the root note on mnay of the examples which can often be replaced with the entire I7 chord.

Continue to keep your ears open for turnarounds that you like and keep adding them to your playing as you can never have too many of them.

Example 1 moves parallel 6ths descending.

Example 2 moves parallel 6ths ascending with a root pedal on top.

Example 3 keeps the root pedal on top while having a descending chromatic line below.

Example 4 pedals the root above and has an ascending chromatic line below.

The next two examples are contrapuntal ideas and are inversions of each other.

Example 7 is an ascending line with chromatic neighbor tones, and was often played by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Example 8 was another favorite of SRV.

Printable Version

For some great rhythm guitar ideas on playing the blues, check out the Mel Bay Publications book “Playing the Blues: Blues Rhythm Guitar” by Nick Stoubis and Steve Trovato (USC Thornton School Music Guitar Instructional Series).

About the Author

Nick Stoubis has been performing and touring professionally since his early teens. Early in his career, he played on bills throughout Canada with artists including: Nazareth, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive (B.T.O.), Trooper, Prism, Barney Bental, and Lee Aaron. Upon moving to Los Angeles in the early nineties, he attended the Musicians Institute, where he graduated with top honors and was a nominee for “Outstanding Graduate.” Nick continued his studies at the University of Southern California, where he completed his bachelor of music and master of music degrees. Alongside his numerous academic honors, Nick was recipient of the “Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate” awards at the conclusion of both his degrees.

Currently Nick keeps an active professional career as a performer, composer, session-player, transcriber, author and educator. He is a senior full-time lecturer at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA and a senior instructor in the degree program at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. He has coauthored a guitar instructional book and just completed a solo instrumental Greek music recording for Aegis Infinity Records. Nick has also been writing an extensive lesson library for an online guitar website and has also written compositions that will be featured on a CBS movie of the week as well other network and cable television

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  • Tina Benet said:

    Really great article! I have the author’s book “Playing the Blues: Blues Rhythm Guitar,” and it has given me some really good Blues Rhythm Guitar vocabulary.

  • Nettie said:

    Informative article!

  • Carrianne said:

    Very nice! Informative and clear and easy to understand. Thank you!

  • Kostas said:

    A very helpful article…thanks!

  • Ben said:

    Great Article Nick! I have been playing the blues for many years!

  • Humble Uker said:

    I do a blog for the baritone ukulele and some of these will work exactly as tabbed on a bari-uke. I am putting a link on my blog to share with other bari players. Thanks for the gems. Jeff