Swing Harmony: Turnarounds, Vamps and Line Cliches - Part 1, Major Turnarounds

Turnarounds and line cliches are both common chord sequences in Swing Harmony, and can be found in numerous songs. Each sequence contains an ascending or descending line, often voiced in the bass. From a rhythm guitar standpoint, it’s important to get them under your fingers, because they come up often, and they come up fast when sight reading.

Major I-IV Turnaround

Most commonly found in songs based on the chords to “I Got Rhythm”, the I-IV turnaround can also be found at the end of some blues songs, and sprinkled in several traditional jazz standards. The sequence is a fancy way of moving from a I chord to the IV and back. Both the ascending and descending versions have the same chords except for the transition chord from the IV chord back to the I chord (a #ivº in the ascending / a iv minor in the descending). Both the ascending and descending versions are used interchangeably, and sometimes by musicians in the same band at the same time – even though, technically, the #ivº and iv conflict. But, hey, that’s jazz.


In either case, from a rhythm guitar perspective, the turnaround can be approached as static chords, or using walking chords. Here are examples of both:

Ascending and Descending I-IV Turnarounds (PDF)

The examples are in a couple different keys, so that you can see in the shapes in different positions.