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Beyond Blues: Turnaround Tactics


In Ex. 6 we begin by moving up a Bb7 arpeggio, then coming down a G7 idea that includes Ab to give the lick a G7b9 sound. We’ve got another nice phrase over the IIm-V that starts out the same as the previous one, but resolves higher up after traversing a F7 arpeggio.

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Ex. 7 opens with a descending Bb7 arpeggio, then moves to the G7 and targets the 5 (D) by circling it with a note above and then below. Over the Cm7 we have a basic Cm7 arpeggio that moves to a simple idea over the F7 that actually features the major 7. This is a common passing note to add between the root and the b7.

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Ex. 8 begins with a simple motif of descending three notes for an arpeggio. We then jump up and move down five notes to outline the next chord. This sort of playing gives your lines a direction—something the listener can latch onto rather than simply experiencing a stream of seemingly random notes.

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Ex. 9 moves up a Bb7 arpeggio, and then dives into a G7 arpeggio via some chromatic notes. Next, over the Cm7 we outline an Ebmaj7 sound (this yields a nice Cm9 effect) and finally resolve to an F7 arpeggio.

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Finally, Ex. 10 features more chromatic approaches to chord tones. This really highlights the fact that players in this style often think in terms of chord tones, rather than scales. If you think of scale tones as notes that live around chord tones, you’ll generate lines with a strong harmonic contour. We conclude this lick with a classic bebop ending that outlines both the Cm7 and F7 quite nicely.

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I’ve provided a little track you can play these ideas over (or toss in some of your own), but it’s worth noting this has a swing feel. These ideas will also work in a straight rhythmic context, so don’t be afraid to try them in any blues setting. Just make sure the band is playing a standard turnaround. Have fun and I’ll see you next time.