Blues Guitar Lessons—13 Blues Turnarounds In E

Updated on March 22, 2020
Lorne Hemmerling profile image

As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.

Learning Blues Guitar

With this book, my goal is to relate the scales with chords and rhythms as opposed to just learning solos or licks and having no idea how to apply them. Good rhythm playing and knowledge is crucial to good soloing and vice versa. This comes through understanding the relationship between chords and scales. This book provides that important foundation.

The book is unique in the fact that each chapter is based around a different key signature and an open (contains unfretted notes), pattern of the pentatonic scale. There are five chapters covering the key signatures of E, A, D, G and C, and the five open ‘box patterns’ (scale patterns) of the pentatonic scale. Eventually all the box patterns are covered, from the open strings to the fifteenth fret.

There is no endless scale practice or useless licks to learn. Instead, each chapter begins with a chord progression, moves into various rhythm patterns derived from the chord progression, and then culminates with solos based on the scale and key covered. These solos tie in with the chord progression and rhythm patterns to form a complete lesson for each chapter.

The book is progressive. Upon completion, the student will have a solid foundation in blues guitar, and will understand the rhythm, lead connection.

The book is best studied from beginning to end, without slighting any material. All theory is explained in the simplest terms. There are fretboard diagrams for the scales, chord grids, and photos of hand positions as well as videos posted on YouTube to aid in the learning process.

It is best, but not necessary, to have a knowledge of barre and open chord shapes before beginning this course. All the chords have fretboard grids associated with them.

Good luck and have fun. Music is a celebration. Enjoy!

Lorne K. Hemmerling


A turnaround is loosely defined as the last two measures of a blues or jazz chord progression. However, turnarounds can span four measures (rarely three or more than four). The name comes from the fact that these measures are used to 'turn around' and lead back into the start of the progression. In theory, any phrase, riff or lick can be used as a turnaround, but there are many standard forms. In a normal one, four, five blues pattern (in the key of E: E7, A7, B7), turnarounds usually begin on the one chord (E7) end on the five chord (B7). Blues players usually have a whole arsenal of turnarounds at their disposal. Quite often, chromatic movement is applied. On guitar, this is a movement of one fret at a time, either ascending or descending. For example, a chromatic scale in the key of E would be E, F, F sharp, G, G sharp, A, A sharp, B, C, C sharp, D, D sharp, E (one octave). These scales are not very musical in nature, but are used in all forms of music, and make great warm up exercises.

The first four below involve descending chromatic movement after plucking the low E. The first two are very common, and are chord fragments of the full chords (notated above the full chords as well as the fragments). Turnarounds three and four are not so common and are formed from the full chords. Number three can be thought of as descending seventh chords (in this case, E7, D sharp7 and D7). Number four reveals the full chord shapes: E7, E diminished 7, D sharp diminished 7 and E7 before resolution to the B7, then 'turning around' to the first chord of the progression (the one chord: E7). Listen to the sound as you play them. You will recognize this movement from many songs.

Turnarounds One And Two

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Turnarounds Three And Four

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Examples One To Four

Five through eight are the same chord voicings, but move in an ascending pattern. Notice how all the patterns start on the one chord or just simply the root note (E), move through the progression and resolve back to some form of the one chord, before moving into the five chord (B7). This is a basic structure for many turnarounds. Learn these thoroughly, then try transposing them to other keys. This will be tricky at first, because you will not have the luxury of open strings in many keys. For example, in the key of G, the form of the one chord on the first beat of the second measure in turnaround number three would be: B (fourth fret, third string), D (third fret, second string), G (third fret, first string). This forms the first inversion of the G Major triad.

Turnarounds Five And Six

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Turnarounds Seven And Eight

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Examples Five To Eight

Turnarounds nine and ten are based on the Em Blues Scale. Number nine is a very common phrase, ten is a variation of nine. Creating variations of any of these will provide you with more substitutions, and that's what blues and jazz are all about. Working with these licks is basically a three step process: learn them as written, transpose them to different keys, then create your own, from the basic forms. Possibilities are almost endless and will greatly increase your ear capabilities, as well as keeping listeners on their toes. The techniques involved really add to the sound. Hammer ons (H), slides (solid line heading into the tab number), and bends (usually notated with a curved line, arrow and number, representing the distance the bend is to be executed) are very prevalent in blues guitar playing.

Turnaround Nine

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Turnaround Ten

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Examples • Nine And Ten

Turnarounds eleven and twelve are based on two notes from the E7 chord (in this case: B and D). Also very common, many variations of these have been employed by all Blues players. Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn's Pride And Joy. You will hear number eleven and different variations used throughout the song.

What a groove. This whole video series is dynamite!

Turnaround Eleven

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Turnaround Twelve

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Examples • Eleven And Twelve

Turnaround thirteen involves holding the E on the ninth fret, third string, while the fourth string notes move chromatically from the G sharp to the B. The E acts a drone note, or pedal tone, while the other notes move. On the video, I have performed this ascending (as written) and descending. This is the first turnaround without open strings (except for the low E at the beginning). This should make this much easier to transpose to different keys. Simply, shift the notes to the new key (to make the first note easier to execute, try moving the note an octave higher). I have demonstrated the key of G Major on the video.

Turnaround Thirteen

Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E
Blues Guitar Lessons • Blues Turnarounds in E | Source

Thirteen • E Major Ascending and Descending • G Major

Eric Clapton, Love In Vain. He kicks this one off with the turnaround. Many songs follow this format.

Questions & Answers

  • The strata caster is out of tune big-time or is the intonation is off?

    I don't hear anything out of tune. The dissonant intervals might be throwing you off.


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