The turnaround in jazz part 1

The turnaround in jazz is usually a chord sequence of four chords that starts with the tonic (the ‘I’ chord) and ends with the dominant (the ‘5’ chord). There are variations of this sequence and I suggest that you learn to recognise the many variations.

I’ll be using Roman numerals to describe each chord.

I (tonic) = I, 6 = VI, 4 = IV, 2 = II

All the examples below are in the key of F major.

I will begin with the most basic version.

I – VI – IV – V turnaround

You will have heard this ‘pop’ turnaround in countless tunes. The tonic chord moves to its relative minor, the VI chord, then to the IV chord known as the subdominant and finally to the V chord: the dominant.

The turnaround in jazz: variation 1.

The first variation has just one change: the IV chord has been substituted with the II chord so the Bb chord is now G minor.

But notice that both these chords share two notes, Bb and D.

Bb chord = Bb + D +F

Gminor chord = G + Bb + D

Here is our new sequence.

I-VI-II-V turnaround

The next step is to turn these four chords into 7th chords, which means that each chord now has 4 notes: 1, 3, 5 and 7.

I-VI-II-V turnaround with 7th (4-note) chords

Notice that now I am playing a 4 to the bar bass line.

Here’s a phrase played over this turnaround. I am mainly using the scale of F major apart from two passing notes that I have boxed.

You can learn all about the turnaround in jazz in video lessons 3 and 5 of my online course.

You can also read about this subject in more detail in book 1 of Learn Jazz Piano.

In my next article on turnarounds I will explain how the VI chord is changed and also how you can begin to use tritone substitution in this chord sequence.

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