Learn To Play a Jazz Turnaround

Based on my YouTube Lesson No.38 - Learn to Play a Jazz Turnaround

You can download the full musical examples (also with Tab), by following the link in the video description on YouTube.


We briefly looked at what a jazz turnaround is in my last lesson, No.37 Five Steps To Playing Jazz Bass Guitar. 

You may want to reference that lesson, but I will explain the basics again, here. 

A turnaround is usually found in the last 2 bars of a chord progression and it serves to get you back to Chord One, at the start of the next chorus (a chorus is once round a jazz progression, or song form). 

  • The standard jazz turnaround is: 

I-vi-ii-V (1-6-2-5) 

For this blog, we will look at examples in the key of F, as this is a common key for a jazz blues form, which uses a turnaround at the end of each chorus. 

  • The standard jazz turnaround in F is: 

F7 - D7 - Gm7 - C7

As we learnt in the last lesson, we can connect these chord with a walking bass line. We pick chromatic notes to join the root note (first note) of the chords. A chromatic note is one that is outside of the major or minor scale of that particular chord. We can pick a chromatic note that is above, or below the root note.

Now that we have learnt a standard jazz turnaround, we can use a few different chords to provide more interest. The chords we use are called, substitution chords, and these are related to the chord that they replace. They provide more interest for the soloist and bass player. 

  • In place of chord one, we can substitute chord three: 

F7 becomes Am7 and we now have Am7-D7-Gm7-C7

  • In place of chord five, we can use a Tritone substitution, which will give our bass line much more forward motion, The tritone is a flattened 5th (or augmented 4th), sometimes called the ‘devil’s interval’ as it sounds somewhat dissonant! 

C7 becomes Gb7 and we now have F7-D7-Gm7-Gb7

  • This last example uses a chord three substitution for chord one, and tritone substitutions for chord six, and chord five. Notice the pleasing chromatic movement this creates. 

F7 - D7 - Gm7 - C7 becomes Am7 - Ab7 - Gm7 - Gb7


Practise all these exercises, also trying them in different keys. Try them in Bb for example, as that is another common key for a jazz blues. 

There are many more substitutions that we can use, but these particular ones will give you a good start to making your turnarounds more interesting.

Remember to also check out my YouTube video on this topic -  Lesson No.38 - Learn to Play a Jazz Turnaround

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