Turnback Progression (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Turnback Progression

In lesson 14, Matt discusses the turnback progression in the jazz style.

Taught by Matt Brown in Jazz Guitar with Matt seriesLength: 22:20Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:43) Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Jazz Series with Matt Brown! In this lesson, Matt covers a new chord progression called the "turnback." Besides the turnaround progression, the turnback is the most commonly used progression in jazz.

The turnback is frequently placed at the end of a section to "turn" the harmony back to the beginning of the form. For example, the turnback is often played at the end of a 12 bar form.

The turnback can also be used in the beginning or middle of a section. In a future jazz lesson, Matt will explain a jazz song form referred to as "rhythm changes." The chord changes in this form are based on the harmony to George Gershwin's famous tune "I Got Rhythm." In a rhythm changes tune, the turnback progression is played several times during the A section.

Major Turnback Progression

In a major key, the turnback progression usually consists of the iii7, VI7, ii7, and V7 chords. If the turnback is resolved, it always resolves to a tonic chord. In the key of C, these chords are Em7, A7, DMI7 and G7 respectively. The tonic chord in this key is some type of C major chord. However, if the turnback is used in a blues progression, it will resolve to a C7 chord (bluesy tonic) in the first measure of the form.

Note: In some instances, a tonic chord is substituted for iii7 within the turnback progression.
Chapter 2: (05:17) Chord Voicings Voicing Options

Remember that various chord voicing options can be used for each of the chords listed above. All of the possible voicings for each chord in the turnback progression are listed below.


EMI7 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
EMI7 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
EMI7 - Set 2, Sixth String Root
EMI9 - Set 2, Fifth String Root
EMI11 - Set 2, Sixth String Root


A7 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
A7 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
A7 - Set 2, Sixth String Root
A13 - Set 2 - Sixth String Root
A9 - Set 2 - Fifth String Root

Note: Altered dominant chords and their applications will be discussed in detail in future jazz lessons.


DMI7 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
DMI7 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
DMI7 - Set 2, Sixth String Root
DMI9 - Set 2, Fifth String Root
DMI11 - Set 2, Sixth String Root


G7 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
G7 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
G7 - Set 2, Sixth String Root
G13 - Set 2 - Sixth String Root
G9 - Set 2 - Fifth String Root


CMA7 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
CMA7 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
C6 - Set 1, Sixth String Root
C6 - Set 1, Fifth String Root
CMA7 - Set 2, Sixth String Root
CMA9 - Set 2, Fifth String Root
C6/9 - Set 2, Fifth String Root
CMA13 - Set 2, Sixth String Root

Voice Leading

The voicings that you choose for each chord must logically work together in the progression. The voice leading must remain smooth from one chord to the next. This can be accomplished by choosing chord voicings that are played in close proximity to one another on the fretboard. For example, if you begin the progression with an EMI7 chord played at the 12th fret, the most logical voicings for the VI chord, A7 are also played in this general area. Do not jump from an EMI7 chord played at the 12th fret to an A7 chord played at the 5th fret. The awkward leaps between the notes in these voicings results in poor voice leading.
Chapter 3: (03:17) Practice Adding Variety

When a turnback progression is repeated several times, switch up the voicings used for each chord. Adding variety to the progression will make your comping much more enjoyable to listen to. It will also inspire the soloist (person playing the melody or solo) to play his or her best. Watch as Matt repeats the turnback progression four times in the key of C major. Notice how he uses different voicings each time the progression is repeated.

Practice Time

Practice the turnback along with Matt in the key of C major. This play along example is provided at 02:48 in the lesson video. Matt repeats the progression four times.

When practicing jazz or any style with a swing feel, remember to set the metronome to click on beats 2 and 4. Simply set the metronome to half of the desired tempo. Matt has his metronome set to 80 beats per minute. This produces a swing feel at 160 beats per minute.
Chapter 4: (03:28) Key Transposition Similar to the turnaround progression, you must also be able to perform the turnback progression in all 12 keys. Matt demonstrates the turnback in the key of Bb to begin this scene. Bb is the most commonly used key when playing a rhythm changes tune. The turnback is repeated 3 times during the A section of this form.

In the key of Bb, the iii7, VI7, ii7, V7 chords are DMI7, G7, CMI7, and F7 respectively. Remember to vary the voicings used for these chords when the turnback progression is repeated. The voicing options listed in Scene 2 can be used in all twelve keys.

No More Room!

If you begin the turnback in Bb with a DMI7 chord (fifth string root), you will run out of room when it comes time to play the tonic Bb chord. It is possible to play a tonic Bb chord, in "open" position. However, open strings produce a timbre or tone that is undesirable in this context. Consequently, you are forced to ignore the voice leading rules listed under Scene 2. You must jump up to 6th position in order to play the final tonic chord.

Practice Time

Practice the turnback in Bb along with Matt at 02:24 in the video. Once again, the metronome is set to click on beats 2 and 4 at 80 beats per minute. This produces a medium swing tempo of 160 beats per minute.

Additional Practice

On your own time, practice the turnback exercise demonstrated in the lesson in the remaining 10 keys. Remember to practice along with a metronome in a variety of tempos!
Chapter 5: (06:31) Available Scales Over the iii7 Chord

The scale options listed below will work over the iiiMI7 chord. The root note of the scale or mode corresponds with the root note of the iiiMI7 chord.

-Minor Pentatonic Scale
-Dorian Mode
-Natural Minor Scale
-Phrygian Mode*

*The Phrygian mode is built from the third scale degree of the major scale. The IIIMI7 chord is also built from this scale degree. Consequently, the Phrygian mode is an effective choice when improvising over this chord.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature / standard notation to the five most common Phrygian fretboard patterns. All five patterns are listed in E Phrygian. Matt demonstrates the 12th position pattern in the lesson video.

Over the VI7 Chord

The scale options listed below will work over the VI7 chord. The root note of the scale or mode corresponds with the root note of the VI7 chord.

-Mixolydian Mode
-Bebop Dominant Scale (Ascending Pattern Only)
-Lydian Dominant Mode
-Minor Blues Scale
-Minor Pentatonic Scale
-Major Pentatonic Scale
-Major Blues Scale

Over the ii7 Chord

The scale options listed below will work over the iiMI7 chord. The root note of the scale or mode corresponds with the root note of the iiMI7 chord.

-Minor Pentatonic Scale
-Dorian Mode
-Natural Minor Scale

Over the V7 Chord

The scale options listed below will work over the V7 chord. The root note of the scale or mode corresponds with the root note of the V7 chord.

-Mixolydian Mode
-Bebop Dominant Scale (Ascending Pattern Only)
-Lydian Dominant Mode
-Minor Blues Scale
-Minor Pentatonic Scale
-Major Pentatonic Scale
-Major Blues Scale

Over the I Chord

The scale options listed below will work over the I chord. The root note of the scale or mode corresponds with the root note of the I chord.

-Lydian Mode
-Major Scale
-Major Pentatonic Scale

Improv Practice

Record yourself playing the turnback progression in all 12 keys. You don't need a fancy Pro Tools recording set up. A simple tape recorder or 4 track will do the trick. Repeat the progression 8-16 times in each key. Then, play the tape back and practice your improvisational skills by using the scale options listed above. Record the rhythm track with a metronome or click track to ensure that you are playing in strict time. It is impossible to play a meaningful solo when the accompaniment is not played with a solid rhythmic feel.

Improv Tricks

Essentially, the turnback progression consists of two turnarounds played back to back. The first turnaround features the iii and VI chords. Material based on the VI chord can be played throughout this measure. This will minimize the number of times that you must switch scales throughout the turnback progression. By the same principle, material based on the V chord can be played over the entire second measure of the turnback progression. This is possible since the ii and V chords and the iii and VI chords share many of the same notes. This trick becomes especially important when playing the turnback at blazing fast tempos. Study and compare the spelling of these chords listed below.

EMI7 - E, G, B, D
A7 - A, C#, E, G

Common Tones: E, G

Playing an A Mixolydian mode over EMI7 will result in an overall E Dorian sound. A Mixolydian and E Dorian contain the same notes.

DMI7 - D, F, A, C
G7 - G, B, D, F

Common Tones - D, F

Preview of Next Lesson

Matt introduces Set III voicings in the following lesson. These voicings are typically used with the Charleston rhythm in a jazz ensemble situation.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

Bob IbanezBob Ibanez replied

Hi Matt. Another great lesson . Learning lots from you - great teaching style. My son bought me a Boss looping pedal which works really well for working on this material.

bulgarimbulgarim replied

Hello,for C major key. I am wondering if 3-6-2-5-1 should be E minor 7th - A minor 7th - D minor 7th- G dominant for chords. Regards

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Hi! If we're talking about diatonic seventh chords in the key of C, yes, the diatonic vi7 chord is Am7. However, with the turnback turnaround, the VI chord is dominant. It functions as a secondary dominant chord to the Dm7 chord that follows it. A7 functions as V7 in relation to Dm7.

theredsthereds replied

Hi Matt, is it possible to create some backing tracks on the site with turnarounds so that we can practice soloing on top of them?

jpfanboyjpfanboy replied

Cool lesson Matt! Love all of the jazz lessons.

dj.phillipsdj.phillips replied


mattbrownmattbrown replied

Yes DJ, you read that news post correctly. This series is sultry. Doesn't jazz guitar make your loins ache with desire?

Jazz Guitar with Matt

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Reviewing the ii V I ProgressionLesson 13

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Matt Brown returns to his Jazz series with a review lesson. He applies the standard ii V I progression to the circle of fifths.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Turnback ProgressionLesson 14

Turnback Progression

In lesson 14, Matt discusses the turnback progression in the jazz style.

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Set Three VoicingsLesson 15

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Matt brown discusses and demonstrates the set three voicings used in jazz guitar.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
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Key of FLesson 20

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Matt Brown

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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