• An Introductory Lesson On The Turnaround Progression

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    In this lesson, we’ll be covering the introductory part of the turnaround progression.

    It’s important for any serious musician to learn the turnaround progression because it has its common place in a variety of popular music styles ranging from R & B, to Jazz, to Gospel, Rock, and so on.

    A vast majority of songs either have a turnaround progression in-between the verse and chorus, or end with it, while other songs like I Got Rhythm (a Jazz standard) consist of chord progressions that are similar to the turnaround progression.

    The Turnaround Progression — Defined

    The turnaround progression is basically a chord progression. Consequently, we’ll be starting this lesson by refreshing our minds on the concept of chord progressions.

    A Short Note On Chord Progressions

    There are eight scale tones in every key — whether major or minor. In the key of C major:

    C is the first tone

    D is the second tone

    E is the third tone

    F is the fourth tone

    G is the fifth tone

    A is the sixth tone

    B is the seventh tone

    C is the eighth tone

    The movement of  chords from one tone of the scale to another creates chord progressions. The movement from the chord of the first tone (the C major seventh chord):

    …to the chord of the sixth tone (the A minor seventh chord):

    …produces a chord progression.

    “What Is A Turnaround Progression?”

    At the end of the verse or chorus of a song, there’s usually the need to fill it in with a progression, especially if it leads to the repetition of the verse or chorus or the entire song.

    For example, when the song Thank You Lord ends with the line:

    I just want to thank you Lord

    There are basically four beats/counts that occur before the song goes back again to the line at the beginning that says:

    Thank you, Lord

    Here’s what it literally looks like:

    I just want to thank you (Lord/1, 2, 3, 4) Thank you, Lord

    The turnaround progression basically takes you back to Thank you, Lord after four beats/counts.

    “Check It Out…”







    …Lord (1st beat/count):

    (2nd beat/count):

    (3rd beat/count):

    (4th beat/count):




    Did you see how the turnaround progression connected the ending part to the beginning part of the song?

    Lord (1st beat/count):

    (2nd beat/count):

    (3rd beat/count):

    (4th beat/count):


    That’s exactly the idea — connecting sections of a song.

    “Here Are The Four Chords Used In The Turnaround…”

    (1st beat/count):

    (2nd beat/count):

    (3rd beat/count):

    (4th beat/count):

    Let’s go ahead and break down the turnaround progression.

    A Breakdown Of The Turnaround Progression

    The turnaround progression consists of 4 chords played in 4 counts.

    The first chord in the turnaround progression is chord 1, followed by chord 6, then chord 2, and chord 5.

    “Why Is It 1-6-2-5?”

    Apart from the first two chords which are chord 1 and chord 6, other successive chords in the turnaround progression are a perfect fourth apart from each other. For example:

    1. From chord 6 to chord 2 (which is from A to D) is a perfect fourth interval.
    2. From chord 2 to chord 5 (which is from D to G) is a perfect fourth interval.
    3. From chord 5 back to chord 1 (which is from G to C) is a perfect fourth interval.

    A root progression from the sixth (which is A):

    …to the second (which is D):

    …is a fourth interval.

    A root progression from the second (which is D):

    …to the fifth (which is G):

    …is a fourth interval.

    A root progression from the fifth (which is G):

    …to the first (which is C):

    …is a fourth interval.

    So, the turnaround progression is based on fourth intervals between successive chords starting from chord 1, then going back to chord 1 through chord 6:

    Starting from chord 1

    Ending on chord 1

    Through chord 6

    So, in any key, chord 1 is the starting point of the turnaround, followed by chord 6, and a movement in fourths until turnaround ends in chord 1:

    In the key of Ab major:

    We’ll start the turnaround progression with chord 1 (the Ab major ninth chord):

    …followed by chord 6 (the F minor ninth chord):

    …and then we ascend in fourth intervals to chord 2 (the Bb minor ninth chord):

    …chord 5 (the Eb dominant thirteenth [add ninth] chord):

    …and end with chord 1 (the Ab major ninth chord):

    Final Words

    Due to the fact that the concept of the turnaround progression is inexhaustible even in a 7-post series, we’ll stop here for today having covered the basics. We’ll further our discussion in subsequent posts.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.


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