• Who Else Wants To Learn The Tadd Dameron Turnaround Progression?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

    In today’s lesson, we’ll be learning how to play the Tadd Dameron turnaround progression.

    Turnaround progressions are important in the playing of songs and this is because they are used at the end of songs to cycle back to the beginning.

    We’re focusing on an important variant of the classic turnaround progression that was made popular by Tadd Dameron, a notable American composer, arranger, and pianist of the bop era (mid 1940s.) However, before we get into all of that, let’s do a review on the turn around chord progression.

    “What Is A Turnaround Chord Progression?”

    There are so many ways to define a chord progression, however, according to Jermaine Griggs, “a chord progression is the root movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another.”

    The first tone of a chord is called its root and in any given major key there are usually 7 root notes that can be derived from the natural major scale. In the C natural major scale:

    …there are eighth scale degrees – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Root movement can be from one degree of the scale to another, and this is based on a number system.

    “Check out the number system…”

    C is 1

    D is 2

    E is 3

    F is 4

    G is 5

    A is 6

    B is 7

    C is 8

    Attention: In the key of C, C is one and eight, and this explains why the number eight is not always used because it is a duplicate of the number one. Consequently, root movements are described using numbers 1 to 7.

    The Turnaround Chord Progression

    The turnaround chord progression is a special chord progression at the end of a [section of a] piece of music that cycles back to the beginning of that piece of music.

    Although there are a several kinds of turnaround chord progressions, however, they all share something in common, and that’s the ability to take a song back to its starting point. Consequently, turnaround progressions are not harmonically weak.

    Here’s what a basic turnaround in the key of C looks like:

    C – Amin – Dmin – G7

    …which can be played as…





    However, in the hands of an advanced musician, there’s definitely going to be some complex chords that will make it sound stronger and jazzier. Check it out…

    Cmaj7 – Adom7[#5] – Dmin9 – Gdom7[b9,#5]

    …and here’s how it can be voiced on the piano…





    The turnaround progression has several variants and they are usually formed by making changes and substitutions over the basic turnaround configuration. One of the common substitutions that is used to make the turnaround chord progression sound advanced is the tritone substitution.

    Before we go any further, let’s take a look at tritone substitution.

    “What Is Tritone Substitution?”

    There are various chord substitutions in gospel and jazz music, however, the tritone substitution is one of the common chord substitution used in gospel and jazz music.

    A Short Note On The Tritone

    The tritone is the melodic progression that divides the octave into two equal parts.

    The octave:

    …encompasses eight notes, however, within this eight-tone compass are 12 semitones. The division of an octave (12 semitones) into two equal parts produces two tritones…

    C and F#:

    Gb and C:

    …and each contains three whole steps.

    The tritone C-F#:

    …consists of three whole steps…

    C and D:

    D and E:

    E and F#:

    The term tritone literally means three [whole] tones (aka – “whole steps”.) Consequently, three whole steps from any note is its tritone.

    Here are the tritones of all twelve notes on the keyboard…

    The tritone of C:

    …is F#:

    …or Gb:

    The tritone of C#:

    …or Db:

    …is G:

    The tritone of D:

    …is G#:

    …or Ab:

    The tritone of D#:

    …or Eb:

    …is A:

    The tritone of E:

    …is A#:

    …or Bb:

    The tritone of F:

    …is B:

    The tritone of F#:

    …or Gb:

    …is C:

    The tritone of G:

    …is C#:

    …or Db:

    The tritone of G#:

    …or Ab:

    …is D:

    The tritone of A:

    …is D#:

    …or Eb:

    The tritone of A#:

    …or Bb:

    …is E:

    The tritone of B:

    …is F:

    The Concept Of Tritone Substitution

    In a chord progression, one, two, or all of the chords can be substituted and there are a variety of approaches to the substitution of a chord.

    The concept of tritone substitution has to do with the substitution of a given chord with another chord that is a tritone lower (or higher.) Although this substitution works for dominant chords most of the time, it is also obtainable for other chord qualities.

    “Below is an example of tritone substitution in a 2-5-1 chord progression…”

    In a 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C…




    The G13[add9] chord, (which is a dominant chord) can be substituted with another dominant chord whose root is a tritone lower (or higher) than G. A tritone below G:

    …is Db:

    Consequently, the Db13[add9] chord:

    …can be used to substitute the G13[add9] chord:

    …in the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Here’s a 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C, using the tritone substitution in chord 5…”




    Did you see the twist in there? That’s one of the reasons for chord substitution.

    The Tadd Dameron Turnaround Progression

    Tadd Dameron came up with a turnaround progression that involves the tritone substitution of the chords of the basic turnaround progression.

    Instead of the basic turnaround chord progression:

    Cmaj7 – Amin – Dmin – G7

    Tadd Dameron would substitute Amin, Dmin, and G7 chords with dominant seventh chords that are a tritone below [or higher.]

    If we apply the substitution, we’ll have…

    Cmaj7 – Ebdom7 – Abdom7 – Dbdom7

    …the Tadd Dameron turnaround.

    “Check it out…”





    “That’s not all…”

    There’s an option of changing the chord quality of those dominant seventh chords to the major seventh chord quality. This produces another exciting variant of the Tadd Dameron turnaround progression that can be applied in [certain R & B] situations where dominant chords would sound very harsh.





    Final Thoughts

    Thanks to Tadd Dameron for giving us a remarkable turnaround progression. Although this turnaround has sounds jazzy, it can find its way into gospel music and this depends on two factors – the musician and the audience.

    The Tadd Dameron turnaround progression has a lot of tension because of the substitution and temporary suspension of the prevalent key. Consequently, it should be used with caution, sensitivity, and a knowledge of playing outside.

    Here’s the Tadd Dameron turnaround in three other keys – F, Bb, and Eb.

    Turnaround In The Key Of F





    Turnaround In The Key Of Bb





    Turnaround In The Key Of Eb





    I hope to continue this discussion in another lesson where we’ll be discussing the factors to consider when creating a turnaround progression.

    Until then.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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