30 Blues Intros, Turnarounds, & Endings You MUST Know
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30 Blues Intros, Turnarounds, & Endings You MUST Know
Intros, turnarounds, and endings are the key moments that really frame a blues song, and with the right moves at your fingertips, you can make the most of these moments.
In this collection of 30 Blues Intros, Turnarounds, and Endings, David Hamburger will teach you two intros, two turnarounds and two endings for each of five essential blues grooves — a shuffle, boogaloo, slow blues, minor blues and a jazz blues. Wrap your hands around these licks to start turning your jams into songs, and sound good doing so.
”Keith Moon supposedly said, all that matters is how you start and how you finish - that’s all they’re going to remember. I’d add: they’ll also notice if you play some cool turnarounds in the middle, too!
For each of the 30 intros, turnarounds and endings in this collection, David will first perform the lick over a backing track and then break it down for you note-by-note.
Ray Vaughan: Shuffle Intro I - ”This first intro is a remix of various signature Stevie Ray Vaughan intro moves. Unison slide into the high E? Check – see measure one. Double-time b5 hammer-on/pull-offs? Check – see measures two and three. Half-stepping into the V chord, complete with Hendrix-approved 7#9 voicing? Check and check – see measure four. You can hear all of these elements in their native environment on "Texas Flood”.”
Train Wreck: Shuffle Intro II - ”Double stops, stop time, double time – it's all here. This intro opens with a variation on the classic blues "train whistle" double stop over a set of rhythm section hits before getting to some seventh-chord sounding double stops in measure three and a hammer-on/pull-off move. Notice that the 4-b5-4-b3 move in the middle of measure three is the same lick, in the same spot, as in Shuffle Intro 1 – it's just an octave higher.”
Grissom: Open Minded: Shuffle Turn I - ”Back to open position, where we kick off this turnaround move with a unison slide to a B at the start of measure one. The double stop at the end of the same measure leads you headlong into measure 2 by anticipating the A7 chord the rhythm section is about to hit. There's a Charlie Christian-esque vibe to the way the descending lick that follows spells out the A chord, and the blues licks in measures 2 and 4 are an open-string version of the conclusion to Shuffle Intro 2 above.”
Grissom: Shuffle Turn II - ”I totally swiped this opening move from something I saw David Grissom demonstrate once, the idea of using the open second string as a pedal tone while playing blues licks below it on the fourth and fifth strings. The low-end blues scale triplets in measures 3 and 4 are either sped up Muddy Waters or slowed-down Stevie Ray Vaughan, depending on your perspective and/or who you heard play them first.”
Meade Lux Deluxe: Shuffle Ending I - ”This is an adaptation of the classic A9 move from William Brown's 1942 "Mississippi Blues". In its original context, it's played on the I chord as part of a fingerstyle arrangement in A. Here, we've got a more flexible electric guitar version of the same idea, transposed through all three chords of a turnaround in E.”
Chromatica: Shuffle Ending II - ”More anticipation, and more transposing of a cool-sounding lick from V to IV. The secret here is the way you hammer-on into a double stop that includes both the b7 and the major 3rd before completing the cool, chromatic Charlie Parker-esque climb to the 5th. Repeat on the IV, anticipating the downbeat with the A7 hammer-on, before winding up with a combination of triplet single-note licks and staggered chord hits.”
Stop-Time: Boogaloo Intro I - ”The straight-eighths boogaloo groove supposedly has its origins in New York-based Latin music of the 1950's and 1960's. Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" is possibly the best-known jazz example of the sound, but Buddy Guy's arrangement of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" may be the blues equivalent. These licks will work well on the more James Brown-esque items in Junior Wells' catalog, too, like "Messin' with the Kid."”
All the Hits: Boogaloo Intro II - ”You could drop this stop-time intro into the first four bars of the blues form. The spare, three-note Freddie Green-style voicings for the half-stepping chord hits are answered by pentatonic licks with half-step bends to the b5, which themselves have a call-and-response pattern which culminates in the double-stop bend lick in measure 4. From here, you could roll right into the IV chord, or measure 5 of the blues.”
Checkerboard: Boogaloo Turn I - ”This four-string dominant 7th voicing may be the boogaloo chord, and the single-note riffs on the low strings are straight out of the Buddy Guy/Junior Wells playbook. This turnaround is a bit of sleight-of-hand, as we're really combining the work of two guitar parts into one: the aggressive chord strums in the first half of measures 1 and 2, and the palm-muted single-note answers on beats 3 and 4.”
Junior's Jam: Boogaloo Turn II - ”This turnaround starts out with a dressed-up, double-stop variation on the riff from Howlin' Wolf's "Killin' Floor" (take out the upper notes in measures 1 and 2 and you'll see what I mean). In measure 3, we spell out the I chord with a rolling, piano-style move before landing on an abbreviated 7th chord voicing for A7 in measure 4.”
Double-Time: Boogaloo Ending I - ”For this ending, we're combining the Buddy Guy single-note boogaloo move (the front half of measures 1 & 2) with the "Killin' Floor" chromatic climb (the back half of measures 1 & 2) and taking the whole thing into double-time overdrive for the extended two-measure conclusion in measures 3 and 4. Watch out for the quick jump from third to first position and back again on the last three notes of measure 4!”
Who You Callin' Chicken?: Boogaloo Ending II - ”In which we poach a little technique from country guitar turf, using hybrid-grip picking to play a series of descending sixths over measures 1 and 2. The country theft continues in measure 3, with open-position hammer-on and pull-off moves before we resolve the whole thing with a solidly blues-approved chromatic chord climb from bVII up to I.”
Duck the Third: Slow Blues Intro I - ”The all-downstrokes double stops over A7 and D7 really drive home the 12/8 feel so characteristic of the slow blues sound. The Bb9 and A9 voicings are straight out of T-Bone Walker, but the way we're using them here is also typical of Stone Crazy!-era Buddy Guy: do the double stops and F7 to E7#9 big and aggressive, then drop back to a whisper on the final two chords to create plenty of room to build the dynamics back up over the first couple of verses.”
T-Bone Runner: Slow Blues Intro II - ”This intro is a triple-stops update on T-Bone Walker's classic slow blues intro: a descending series of 9th chords, from I9 to bVII9 to bVI9 to V9. The top voicing on each chord, spelled 9-3-b7 from low to high, is one of my favorites. Notice also the extra half-measure the F9 occupies; this idiosyncratic phrasing is a key part of what gives the T-Bone original its slightly disorienting quality and increases the sense of satisfaction when you finally resolve the E7aug to the I.”
Buddy's Rake: Slow Blues Turn I - ”More Buddy Guy-inspired sounds, in the form of the flurried, double-time moves that make up the majority of this turnaround. The key technique here is the downward rake that opens each phrase, while the key concept is the way the main phrase gets tweaked to land on the root of the IV, then the I, then the V. And a little vibrato goes a long way to help emphasize those landing points.”
Earl's Pearl: Slow Blues Turn II - ”I've seen Ronnie Earl use this parallel-voicing move on more than one occasion and have always thought it was especially cool. I'm not sure where he got it from (or if it's one of his own things) but to me it sounds like something a horn section would do, or like a Western swing steel guitar lick. However you think about it, it's a good addition to your stash.”
You Say Diminish, I Say Demolish: Slow Blues Ending I - ”For this ending, we're sneaking a little squared-off, sixteenth-note double-time into the slow blues groove. While we're at it, we're using that double time to spell out a bit of the dread diminished sound, using it as a passing chord from IV back to I (D to D#º to A7). That's all bookended by basic minor pentatonic licks, to keep things from getting too uncontrollably jazzy.”
Emily's List: Slow Blues Ending II - ”This ending is a slow-blues variation on a series of voicings I learned from Duke Robillard in a swing context. Check out the descending line on the second string, from F# to F to E to Eb. The theory cats call that a guide tone line, and it gives the chord progression a great sense of direction. It's also a useful thing to incorporate into your single-note improvising. Just sayin'.”
Triple-Stop Madness: Minor Blues Intro I - ”This intro is a nod to the intensity of the west side school of Chicago blues – Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, all of whom emerged in the 1960's as second generation electric bluesmen and heirs to the 1950's innovations of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Keep your middle and index fingers in there for additional support, and pull, rather than push, to make those triple-stop half-step bends. Messy and imperfect is definitely ok; this one is all about the vibe.”
One Chord Fits All: Minor Blues Intro II - ”I love the sound of this min6 voicing, and the way it can slide up and turn into those Eb9 and D9 chords. We're basically using four-note voicings to harmonize a riff melody on the high string; think horn section here, and punctuate your playing accordingly, at least until measure 3, when the strums come in and take things in a more guitaristic direction.”
Minor Damage: Minor Blues Turn I - ”There are two distinct things going on here, which is a way of implying two guitar parts at the same time. We've got a series of raked chords on the top strings, and a series of low-end double-time blues licks which both set up and comment on those chords. It's yet more call-and-response, which you can accentuate by making those rakes as bright and brittle as possible with your pick placement.”
Vibro Champ: Minor Blues Turn II - ”This turnaround combines single-note phrases with root-targeting and chord fragments, with some raked double-time thrown in for good measure. For that first Gmin voicing at the top of bar 1, yes, grab one note per finger and give the whole chord some vibrato. With a little practice, you'll be saying "Bigsby? Bigsby who?"”
Quick Sixths: Minor Blues Ending I - ”Have I already mentioned my deep, abiding love for min6 chords? You may recognize the opening Gmin6 voicing as the same shape as the top part of a C13 chord. We're not including the roots for any of the chords in this lick, counting instead on the bass player to keep things solid in the lower register. For the last two hits, use your pinky to include the high string as well.”
If 6ths Were 9ths: Minor Blues Ending II - ”While the previous ending lick used constant eighth notes to drive the 12/8 feel, for this ending, we're going to imply that feel through a series of syncopated hits both on and off the downbeats. You may want to tackle those rhythms first: damp the strings with your left hand and scratch out the hits with your right hand. Once you feel confident about where to place the hits, then start dropping in the chord voicings.”
Half Step Hits: Jazz Blues Intro I - ”Notice the melody formed by the top notes of the voicings in bars 1 and 2. Like some of our other licks, this one is aiming for the sound of horn hits, in this case, the kind you'd hear on a jump blues record. From this intro, you'd go right into the top of the blues form. Alternatively, you could replace that F7#9 in bar 4 with a big fat Bb7 or Bb7b13 and roll right into bar 5 of the form (Righteous hepcat swing soloing not obligatory, but highly recommended).”
Put Up Your Dukes: Jazz Blues Intro II - ”More voicings nicked from the playing of Duke Robillard. I love this voicing for Eb6; it keeps a common tone Bb on top and makes for a slick transition to the E diminished. The chromatic walkdown from the Db13 is also a good one to add to your stash. Compare this three-note 13th voicing to the min6 voicing at the top of the first minor blues ending – just like in that lick, we're counting on the bass player to keep these voicings sounding right-side up.”
Pass it On: Jazz Blues Turn I - ”I stole this Cmin11 voicing, and this whole way of connecting it with the following Cmin7 chord, from the playing of Joe Pass. The chromatic descent in measures 3-4 is a variation on the chord moves in the second jazz-blues intro. This time, we're anticipating each chord change by a half a beat, and implying a I-VI-II-V progression, but you could swap out one of these moves for the other to create even more variations to play.”
Toronto Tele: Jazz Blues Turn II - ”The first half of this lick feels like a Kenny Burrell type of move, both the compact chord voicings (and the semi-suspended sound of the ii chord) and rapid, syncopated strumming of same. The back half comes straight out of Ed Bickert, the tele-wielding Canadian jazz master. These voicings are an essential part of his sound, and make great blues chords when you want to pack a lot of color into just a few strings.”
Diminishing Returns: Jazz Blues Ending I - ”Like the rest of the licks in this jazz-blues set, we're using a ii-V-I turnaround, and one thing jazz musicians like Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, and many others often do is play the sound of the ii chord pretty literally, but then crossfade into blues licks (using the blues scale of the home key, or Bb in this case) by the time they hit the V chord. That's what we've got here, with a little added chord support under the first couple of notes of our blues lick at the top of measure 2.”
Benny & Chuck: Jazz Blues Ending II - ”Swing era musicians often played bars 9 and 10 of a blues as simply two bars of the V chord, and that's reflected in this ending lick. Here, we're half-stepping chromatically onto an F9 in the first couple of bars, answering each time with an F root on the fifth string before playing the single-note blues licks that lead to the final chromatic walkup in bar 4.”
David will explain and demonstrate all of the key concepts and approaches along the way. You’ll get standard notation and tabs for each of the Intros, turnarounds and endings. Plus, David includes all of the rhythm tracks for you to work with on your own. In addition, you’ll be able to loop or slow down any of the videos so that you can work with the lessons at your own pace.
Grab your guitar and let’s dig in with David Hamburger!