Ben, or anyone…do you have any videos or insights on turnarounds? How they are structured…purpose…from a bluegrass viewpoint.


Hi Kristopher I am sure @BanjoBen has covered Turnarounds somewhere in his mandolin lessons but nothing showing up on the searches…

Here is a quick video by Brad Laird explaining what a Turnaround is.



Yeah, thanks Archie, i searched the mandolin tabs and nothing came up, but that could just be that the topic wasn’t tagged. I watched that Laird video last night and it gave me a cool lick, but it didn’t go into any theory on what the concept of a turnaround is or how to apply it. I was wanting more on how a turnaround is generated and why and how to construct them. …and also how to apply them melodically.


I have tried searching the Banjo and Guitar sections and there is no reference to Turnarounds. Perhaps this discussion will prompt @BanjoBen to cover this topic in a future lesson.


I don’t guess I have a lesson completely devoted for it, though now that you know what a turnaround is, I have literally hundreds of them within the lesson. What I mean is, you can take the last couple measures of almost any break and it works as a “turnaround.” However, I’m sure you’re looking for more teaching of the application, so I’ll put that on the list!


Yeah I thought about that after the reply. I think if I just look back through the lessons I could break the theory down myself. That’s one aspect of the lessons that I enjoy so much…there are always new ways to view them from a new perspective and then out of nowhere a new element can be unlocked as my knowledge grows. Just this week for instance I was playing a song and saw how you achieved key modulation. I’ve been seeing patterns on the instrument more clearly too. I love the Ah-ha moments that music can give us!


I have trouble with adding fills also -a lot of that has to do with not trying because my wife is a good fiddle player and puts in a lot of fills and the guitar also will put in some.

A lot of the fills I hear in music I listen to is too fast or complicated for me to work out exactly what they are doing
-even with a slow down app.

I have made a playlist of slow songs where it is relatively easy to add in little simple fills. Lately I have been trying to spend at least 30min each day playing along picking out the chords, melodies, learning to play on different parts of the neck, (learning the pattern) That has been a pretty big help for me.

Old gospel tunes are a good place to start because the are usually slow and often in easier keys.
Ben has a good video for Will the Circle be Unbroken where you can hear a lot of pretty common fills and a good jam track at 150bpm

I guess you usually land on a note in the next chord and melody and then it is just a matter of how many notes you want to pack in mixed with some tremolo and double stops etc,

You can start with simple things like the standard guitar fill
and here is a series on double stops and triplets



The most familiarity I have with turnarounds is in blues oriented music.

Consider a twelve bar blues in A. (By the way, the acoustic opening of Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man” demonstrates this perfectly. “Better look out now cause Dave’s got something for you”. TURNAROUND RIGHT HERE)!

Bars 1 thru 4. 4 bars of A
Bars 5 thru 6. 2 bars of D
Bars 7 thru 8. 2 bars of A
Bar 9. 1 bar of E
Bar 10. 1 bar of D
Bar 11. 1 bar of A
Bar 12. 1 bar of E …The E is your “turn around”, because once you finish playing this one bar of E, you essentially “turn around” and go back home to the A chord, and end the song, or play another 12 bar blues in exactly the same fashion.

Hope that helped rather than confused.



In country or bluegrass I usually hear the TA starting with bar 9 or bar 11 in this type of structure.


Hey Dave,

I made a quick recording to demonstrate my point. Per my understanding the turnaround occurs on the last three notes of the twelfth bar. (Forgive the lousy audio).

I deeply respect you knowledge and musicianship, so I’d be very appreciative of your feedback.


12 Bar Blues with Turnaround


Hi Jack, Audio was fine.

I performed in blues bands for many years and am familiar with the the progression.
and yes, the last V chord is referred to as a “turnaround chord” because it leads you musically back to the I chord.

Normally I would consider your explanation of a TA to be a “fill”.

How long you want to make a TA is a pretty open choice.
but…the term “turn around”, as used here, I would consider to be a short piece of music, taken from the end of the progression that could easily be used as an intro to the number. This would normally contain more than just a V chord…as in “it takes off with a turnaround”.

some examples might be:
IV, V, I
IIm, IV, I ( not used a lot, but can work)
II, V. I
I, V, I
and the list goes on…



Appreciate you feedback Dave. It was well explained.



Yeah I guess I was using too loose a definition and assuming that we are talking about any fill between versus as well as turnarounds or even just adding interest (usually in versus)

Here is me noodling around with Circle

And here is the Gibson Brothers where Jesse Brock is adding some slow fills

Nothing fancy just adding in a few notes in but this could work as a straight break as well. As Baird says in the link above -a fill is basically just a snippet of a break. It could be straight melody or a harmony part

The harder part if you are playing in a group is just working them in and not have each instrument doing them at the same time and also I find it hard to do fills and sing at the same time.


Hey Chris,
I notice most of what you are playing is in the same place the singing would be happening…I’d call that “backup”
Usually what is called a “fill” would be where there is no singing. …it simply fills the “empty” spot.
You can also play a fill for another instrument in the same non-singing spot if they are leaving an opening between lines like the singer would.

Jesse is actually playing more what I’d consider backup behind the verse than fills.

For a good example of fills in the GB video, listen to where the fiddle plays during the chorus and also where the banjo gets close to the mic behind the fiddle break.

Just for clarity:
(my definitions)
Fill = happens in between phrases of lead and is about same volume.
backup = happens during lead phrases and is at secondary volume between volumes of rhythm and lead