Progressions end. In some cases, that is a great thing; it allows you to move on to a new passage. However, sometimes you may want to get back to that original progression, whether to expand upon it or just to reintroduce familiar territory later on in a song.
In this article, we’ll discuss exactly how you can do both when you learn how to play bluegrass guitar.
In order to perform a turnaround, you need to understand what it is that goes into a progression. This requires some fairly basic theoretical knowledge in relation to scale degrees and triads.
If you struggle with either, that’s okay; we’ll walk you through the very basics. However, you may want to consider expanding upon this knowledge in your free time in order to get a better understanding of what is going on in a progression.
Altogether, there are seven scale degrees. Coincidentally, there are seven notes in a scale. Each degree tells you exactly where the note is in the scale, and what its properties are.
Progressions are a “progression,” or order, of specific scale degrees that build up to a certain point and share certain properties. These degrees usually, but not always, contain scale degrees that relate to one another due to the notes that they contain.
Progressions can be built with any purpose in mind and in literally any order. There are no rules when creating a progression, save for the rule of a progression in a single key stays in a single key.
All true chords contain a triad, but not all true chords are triads. If a chord does not contain a root, a third, and a fifth, then it is not a chord but a harmony instead. Keep this in mind when creating your turnarounds.
Now, the turnaround is, in most cases (and the case we will be talking about, most specifically) a single chord replacing the last chord of a progression to turn the progression back around and start either the single progression itself over or an entire section or—in some cases—piece over from the start.
Take for instance the ever-popular I-IV-V progression. In order to create a turnaround from this progression, we would need to change the last chord so that it coincides with the first chord. In this case, we would play our I-IV-V progression as usual, and when we want to turnaround, we would change the last chord to an I, making the progression a I-IV-I, giving it a semi-repetitive feel, yet also leading it back to the start.
Turnarounds don’t always have to coincide precisely with that first chord. For instance, we could also play an IV chord or an ii chord instead. In the case of the IV chord, we are doubling the middle chord. In the case of the ii chord, we are using a chromatic turnaround.
The best way to get used to turnarounds is to try out some for yourself. Take your favorite bluegrass progressions and try changing the last chord to “turnaround” the progression. Have fun, and good luck!
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