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Chord Nerd Tip #15: Turnarounds

Posted by Banjolio on Friday, October 31, 2014

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In most of the music we play, we repeat things. We repeat verses, choruses and chord progressions. A turn-around is one or more chords that we play at the end of the part that we’re about to repeat to take us back to the beginning.

In many songs, including a lot of blues, we play the V chord to take us back to the beginning, which is usually a I chord.

In the minor blues in chord nerd tip #7, we got a little fancier playing an Ab7 then a G7 for the turn around.

In swing, we often play 4-chord turnarounds. Here are a few to try. As you try them, think about the moving bass line (at least as bassy as a banjo gets) on the 4th string. In some examples, the "bass" line has been moved up to the 1st string. It’s no longer a bass line, but it does give some nice movement to the chords.

Note that in a couple of the examples, I just use strings 2, 3 and 4. On those, you can strum those strings to sound sort of like a swing guitar, or you can pick them.

These are just a few of the possibilities, but they should give you the general idea.

For additional variation, you can change the 3rd chord in each turnaround from a minor chord to the 7th chord. 

As you play them, they may sound familiar, not only as turnarounds, but as the actual progressions of songs. Many pop tunes of the 50s, 60s and later have progressions very similar to these examples, including the often-used rhythm changes ... which we'll look at in the next lesson.


Michael Bremer is a writer, editor, publisher and banjo player. He is writing and publishing the Banjo GED series of instructional materials, and also writes and edits for Hal Leonard.

Banjo GED #1: Chords! Chords! Chords! teaches you everything you could ever want to know (and more) about playing chords on a 5-string banjo in G tuning.

Banjo Aerobics (published by Hal Leonard) is a book of exercises to help you gain technique in all styles of playing, and better understand the banjo neck.

Clawhammer Cookbook (published by Hal Leonard) is now available. Here's a link to it on Amazon:

Hal Leonard Folk Banjo Method is basic instruction for beginning players focusing on strumming, basic picking and accompaniment. Here it is on Amazon:



2 comments on “Chord Nerd Tip #15: Turnarounds”

bjango53 Says:
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 @1:29:44 AM

Thank's Michael, these are great.

Mary Schons Says:
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 @10:01:26 AM

We were just talking about bluesy turnarounds in my ensemble class last night. You're better than a Google ad!

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