~ improv ~

~ the turnaround

~ solo break ~

~ trading fours ~

' those magical musical measures at the end that get us right back to where we started so to begin yet again ...'

In a nutshell. In our Americana musics the turnaround generates the same meaning as most everywhere else; 'it turns us around to go back.' In music we 'turnaround' to a selected spot in the song we are performing.' Most times the turnaround happens in the last couple of measures of a song's arrangement and takes us back to the top of the form of the song. Also containing the solo break, jazz artists have historically called the turnaround the 'meat of the improv', as the 'strength of the player' is on full display. Successful navigation of the turnaround helps to to string choruses together creating longer solos.

arrangement
the top
form of the song
strength of the player
chorus

The turnaround. When the melody and supporting chords resolve and come to a rest, if we don't take the tune out and end the song, there's the turnaround that gets us back to the beginning to start the form over again; for the next vocals, next soloist etc. The musical content of a written turnaround is usually the original pickup notes of the melody if any and a chord or two that 'progresses' us to the first chord back at the top.

take it out
pickup notes
chord progressions

The solo break. The solo break in our Americana musics creates some of the most exciting moments we get to have as improvising musicians. As its name implies, we 'break' the music, stop and pause for just a second or two, and give the soloist a 'silent window' to create an idea that gets us back to the top of form of the song for another go-around.

The solo break has traditionally paired right up in the measures of the turnaround and musically it starts where the melody and chords have left off; and heads us back towards whatever event is first sounded at the top of the form; so usually a tonic One chord, Two, surely a V7 dominant chord if a blues feel, the Four chord etc., the beginning of whatever the song's chord progression is.

One
Two
Five
Four
chord progressions

So depending, everything from that flashy lick to light it up through to accurate arpeggios that outline the chords of the turnaround, the improvised solo break has a very very special and exciting place in Americana musics.

accurate arpeggios

Consequently, solo breaks can bristle with giant energies that vault us to the top of the new chorus, re-energizing yet again the momentum of the group for the dancers. Breaks are usually one, two or four bars, depending on style and the shape of the melodic line of the song. For the way of the crafting of the melody into our traditional lengths of form shapes the length of the break.

for the dancers
form in music
iambic pentameter

There's some variance with this in the 12 bar blues form as the melody normally resolves in the 12th bar. So at the top of the chorus, the 'new idea' of the soloist sets the tone for the coming chorus. Exciting soloists in all of our Americana styles find ways to find their breaks and get a chance to totally rock the house in a couple of bars.

12 bar blues

And to think it wasn't really too long ago that these 'breaks for silence' happened 30 or 40 times a night on a regular gig. Well a jazz regular gig that is, although bluegrass, rockabilly and anything that swings really, makes it easy to add in breaks. For the harder the band swings the more 'pauses' it might need just to give everyone a chance to catch their collective breath :)

swing

Overview. So these next ideas are the basic turnarounds we could find in our Americana musics. The first of each pair of the examples is the turnaround. The second is a realization of a 'solo break' for that turnaround.

musical styles
realization

V7. This first melody, "Billy Boy" goes way way back in Americana. Here the written pick up notes become the turnaround melody line supported by V7. The repeat sign normally takes us back to the top, which in this chart is cut and pasted for playback right after the repeat sign. The turnaround chord is the G7 right in the middle of the graphic. Example 1.

full score
chart
repeat sign

Solo break. This idea ends the melody as written and use the one measure left over for the break. Note the written in 'picture' of the 'railroad tracks' to 'stop' the music in the fourth bar, to give the soloist the space for the break over the G7 chord. Slowed the tempo down a bit in the audio too from the example just above. So, just a one bar solo break in C for "Billy Boy." Example 1a.

So just an ascending C major scale from G to G? A solo break we theorists could say was improvised 'over' the chord changes. Do shed this diatonic 'launch' if just getting into this sort of thing.

a C major scale from G to G
over the changes
shedding

Two bar break. The two bar break is probably the most common throughout all of our styles. For with two bars we've a bit more room to figure out what to do, let a beat go by to find a start point etc. This next idea generates from a melody as old as the hills; "Greensleeves" seems so perfectly closed and balanced that it just starts again on its own volition. A virtual perpetual motion melody :) In the following arrangement no real turnaround chord, yet. Here is the whole last phrase of the song and the return to the top of the melody. Example 2.

"Greensleeves"
full score
perfect closure

Solo break. Getting two bars here, we add in a V7 chord and improvise an idea from the two chords. Example 2a.

Cool? So, One and Five in a two measure turnaround? Yep. Most common turnaround chords, both written and improvised throughout all of our Americana? Could very well be. Learn it here and now if need be.

learn it here and now

Catch the arpeggios in bars 7 and 8 that clearly point and get us to the top for the start of the next chorus? Cool. That's the gist of this turnaround / solo break theory. The rest is all art. Are the arpeggios the easiest way to 'hear the changes in the line', keep things on track as we solo 'through the changes?' Who are some of the 'arpeggio kings' of our Americana musics ?

arpeggios
solo through the changes
arpeggio kings

The blues. This next idea is also as old as the hills and is usually two measures long. I theory label it as the 'muddy' lick, so named for Muddy Waters, a blues king from the 50's, who used it extensively in his musics. While the pitches are generally the easy part; just a simple descending line with a touch of the blue hue and some chromatics, consistently fitting it into place in time is the tricky part; it can be slippery. For in performance, it completely drives and directs everyone in the band with really zero wiggle room; for once the line is initiated we, the band and the room be marching to the top.

the blues
Muddy Waters
blues kings
chromatics
in time

So learn it here if needed for it can become the super solid basis of variations as well as confidently turn the thing around for everyone in the band and in the room in any situation every time. Works like a charm? Yep. Always good to have a few of those right? Here's the lick; first as just the raw melody pitches and then supported by some chords. Thinking blues in A. Ex 3.

Sound familiar? Cool. No? Easy fix. Let's flip this moon around and see what's on the other side.

The flip side. We can flip this last turnaround idea over and create its own cliche so to speak. Both work the same way in the same spot in the music. So, a two bar five pitch turnaround thinking blues in C. Example 3a.

Sound familiar? Cool. No? Easy fix learn it right now. Feels like there is some big swing on this side yes?

swing

There's variations galore on both of these. They are classic bass line too. Master the basics with Franz and the lick will naturally evolve to your own way of sounding it out. While never really out of place, though for some 'deep steeped' blues players both lines are too cliche sounding today. Master the originals first then move onto the new? So much of getting better at our craft is about relieving the boredom and finding the new. For starting with the old 'tried and true' can base the evolution of a creative artist forever.

bass lines
Franz
evo artist

A solo break. As discussed above; 'there's some variance with this in the 12 bar blues form as the melody normally resolves in the 12th bar. So at the top of the chorus, the 'new idea' of the soloist sets the tone for the coming chorus.' So while we've no real official solo break and combined turnaround in basic blues compared to other forms of songs, there are a couple of spots in the 12 bar form by tradition have the 'railroad tracks' styled stops creating a window of opportunity for coolness.

 

In a 12 bar form. On beat one of the 10th bar is probably tops of the common. Surely when taking a tune out, ending a song in performance, bands will cut at the 10th bar and negotiate the rest to the final hold. I've been in blues bands where this happens on every tune. Makes things easy so potentially more fun as the evening progresses.

12 bar form
take it out

Breaks are also common at the very top of the form, a cut on beat one of measure one. We hear this in vocal numbers with a couple of verses to tell a story. Gives a pause, a breather, a window for the next line of the story to enter and further the suspense. On the sounding of the Four chord on beat one in the fifth bar. A very common spot for the band to secretly cut off a soloist in mid flight and see what happens ... 'make a horn player out of ya :)

1st bar
vocal numbers / "Truth Is"
5th bar

Jazz. As most everything else in our music theorizing, American jazz styles usually have the most robust versions of any of our basic components. Tempos are fastest, melodies have the most pitches, chords can have all the colortones and stacked up in any fashion and still swing merrily right along. Same with the components of the turnarounds and solo breaks? Pretty much.

Where to start? Might as well pick up where we last left off with the melody closing in on One to resolve the melody of the song followed by a V7 chord to return us to the top of the form. So what we do is simply add in chords between these two; the One and Five chords, to 'jazz up' the chords of the turnaround and give the soloist more to work with creating a solo break.

'jazz it up'

'Jazz up' the chords. Using the last measures of the our gospel song "When The Saints Go Marching In", we'll start with One and Five and create the diatonic theory to get us to its Three / Six / Two / Five chord progression; a top choice for a standard jazz song's turnaround, which chock fills up the two measures we usually get. Starting at the beginning, here's the whole melody. Example 4.

'Saints' whole score
diatonic theory

First evolution. Now let's extract the last part of the phrase to focus on the turnaround / solo break, setting up the return to the top. We'll use this forma,t of this part of the song, for the rest of the examples which follow. Example 4a.

Second evolution. Adding in an improvised line for the solo break. Slowing the tempo down a bit for clarity, these break pitches are the diatonic C major scale. Example 4b.

Third evolution. In this next idea we slip in some blues hue and a V7 chord, arpeggiate its pitches to jazz up the break. Example 4c.

Fourth evolution. In this next idea we slip in the Four chord before the V7 chord, arpeggiate their pitches to jazz up the break. Example 4d.

Four

Fifth evolution / Four becomes Two. In this next idea we morph the diatonic major triad of the Four chord (IV) into a Two chord (ii-7), with its minor triad and added 7th. To create this we simply slide back one pitch in the diatonic arpeggio; so D becomes the root under the F major triad. All diatonic, the 'sleeker' Two seems to better handle the brighter tempos, thus sounds more jazzy in many cadential settings. Examine the evolution of the pitches by letter name and then aurally. Ex. 4e.

Two
adding pitches
cadential motions
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
Four
.
.
.
.
.
F
A
C
Two
.
.
.
.
D
F
A
C

Two / Five / One. The Two / Five / One cadential motion in the last idea is a game changer for many. For while the Two chord is common throughout our styles, once the 7th is added and it pairs with Two, it becomes a sort of 'tension cell' capable of taking us to many destinations beyond its own diatonic directions.

game changers
add the 7th

The evolution here is through the V7 chord. We add b9 to the chord which creates a fully diminished 7th chord from the major 3rd of the chord. As each of these four pitches can be a leading tone, we gain four resolution options through this theory.

V7b9
fully diminished 7th
leading tone

Sixth evolution / relative minor. In this next idea we can create some variety by adding in the relative minor 7th chord after the tonic chord. This is the same pitch theory as applied to Four into Two; just moving back one note in the diatonic arpeggio to make the new chord. Examine the evolution of the pitches by letter name and then aurally. Example 4f.

Two
adding pitches
cadential motions
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
.
.
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
.
.
arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
.

.

One
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
C
E
G
Six
.
.
.
.
.
.
A
C
E
G

Feeling more jazzy? That accurate arpeggios will tell the harmonic tale every time becomes indispensable to the jazz artist that loves to run the chords, an improvisation technique thought to have originated with the 1939 recording by Coleman Hawkins of "Body and Soul", which today might the most ever recorded pop song. Remember that back in '39', what we know of today as jazz was the pop music of Americana.

arpeggios
run the chords
Coleman Hawkins

Seventh evolution. In this last idea of this discussion thread we now replace our tonic chord again by moving one pitch in the arpeggio but this time in the other direction. Examine the pitches. Example 4g.

tonic
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
One
C
E
G
.
.
.
.
.
Three
.
E
G
B
D
.
.
.

So we're replacing the C major chord with an E-7. In doing this our cycle of chords does not resolve as we are moving from V7 (G7) right to Three (E-7). Seem a bit radical? Well one thing to consider is in most jazz harmony, every chord has a 7th, and oftentimes other colortones as well. In this case our pitches would look more like this. Example 4h.

adding the 7th
colortones
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
I maj 7
C
E
G
B
.
.
.
.
iii -7
.
E
G
B
D
.
.
.

Cool? Kinda lights right up :) This basic shifting of one pitch either way of the diatonic arpeggio accounts for a lot of the harmony variations we enjoy in jazz. So what we've created now is a Three / Six / Two / Five / One turnaround, to get us back to the top of the song. This four chord grouping and motion is very common in the literature, not only as a turnaround but also within the written chord progressions of songs. See if you can recognize it in the following music. Example 4i.

chord substitution

Cool? So with a bit of the theory we create more challenging options for the turnaround and solo break. That all of this is diatonic makes the pitches easy to find and the motions clearer to hear. From this diatonic basis there are jazz evolutions that really know no bounds. This progression; Three / Six / Two / Five, written into "Body and Soul" in the bridge, becomes in succeeding generations a boilerplate template for evolutions, for we see it time and again in many forms and with varying degrees of tonal gravity and aural predictability.

evolutions of 3/6/2/5

Author's note; this chord progression did not originate with the writing of "Body And Soul" and goes way further back in our history. I'm hoping to find its source in my next book; The Evolution Of Harmony In Americana Music, from 1860 to 1960.

about the author

Cycle of 5th's and 3 / 6 / 2 / 5. Way back in the discussion titled 'silent architecture' we discovered the cycle of 5th's. In this cycle we arrange our 12 pitches of the chromatic scale in intervals of a perfect fifth. Our progression under discussion here is a cycling 'back' or 'backpedaling' in this cycle; a counterclockwise motion. Here is an abbreviated cycle of 5th's with the roots of these chords with C at the top designating key center tonic pitch. Example 5.

silent architecture
perfect 5th interval

3 / 6 / 2 / 5 / 1. So in the key center of C major, where the pitch and letter name C is One, we simply measure diatonically these pitches which become our scale degrees. Example 6.

key centers
scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

So in creating any sort of relationship between pitches, especially when one pitch has been chosen as the tonal or tonic center, these sorts of numerical representation are projectable onto any grouping of our diatonic scale. Once established numerically, with some steady study and rote memorization, any of our 12 pitches can become One, from which all others are then measured and numerically identified. The gist is we can learn one theory rule and apply to any pitch. Handy for those who learn the numerical magic of our ancient system.

Review. Knowing the basics of the turnaround and creating a solo break become important skills for the modern guitarist. Having been referred to as the 'meat' of the improvisation, strengthening and eventually mastering these components in our music allows for good starts (solo breaks) to our improvisations as well as our ability to string choruses together by confidently getting through the turnarounds, creating longer solos to better enjoy the artistic potentials this can bring to all involved in our musical creative processes.

"These books, and your capacity to understand them, are just the same in all places. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."

Abraham Lincoln

Grout, Donald Jay. A History of Western Music, p. 10. W.W.Norton and Company Inc. New York, 1960.

 

Aebersold, James and Slone, Ken. Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978. I know this is a troubling stand to take but I felt I had to and as jazz player, I based it on Charlie Parker's compositions in the Omnibook. Find a copy, count the number of tunes, then compare the number of major key to minor key songs. Any real book of popular American song, by a mix of composers, will follow along similar lines in this regard.regard.

Paul Asbell. (born December 12, 1943) is an American jazz and blues guitarist, composer and educator. Known for his early blues guitar work in his hometown of Chicago dating from 1967 with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Lightnin’ Slim, Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay, Pops Staples, Donny Hathaway.

http://paulasbell.com/#page_id11

M

 

 

While many blues purists criticized the Waters "psychedelic" album Electric Mud at the time, Fathers and Sons was received more favorably since it avoided psychedelia, instead showcasing the "classic" Waters sound of the 50's. In many ways, the album anticipated the later, critically acclaimed Waters blues albums produced by Johnny Winter.

 

 

, best known for his work as blues guitarist with and as a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band.

He was inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995[1] and also won with the band a best rock performance Grammy Award for his instrumental "Jessica" in 1996.[2] Recognized as one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time,[3] he had early on in his career one of rock’s finest guitar partnerships with Duane Allman,[4] introducing melodic twin guitar harmony and counterpoint which "rewrote the rules for how two rock guitarists can work together, completely scrapping the traditional rhythm/lead roles to stand toe to toe".[5] Dickey Betts was ranked #58 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list in 2003, and #61 on the list published in 2011.[3][6]

Since jazz has everything why not at the beginning. The following ideas are all in 4/4 time and start with a quarter note break on 1. The sequencing is numeric in a couple of ways, for by gradually adding new pitches to our idea, we morph through the styles.