turnaround substitutions

Ever play Half Nelson or Ladybird and wonder where those chords at the end come from?  Let’s take a look.

We start with the standard diatonic turnaround: C Am Dm G7.  This is I vi ii V for those of you who like to think of it this way.  The first substitution is to make the turnaround chords dominant, because a dominant chord has more momentum than a minor 7 chord: C A7 D7 G7.  The next step is to play tritone subs for all the chord: C Eb7 Ab7 Db7, and voila! You have the Half Nelson turnaround.  This substitution will sound great even if you play it over the standard turnaround, and any piano or guitar player with experience will be able to catch it the second time around.  Especially if you use some kind of melodic sequence like: 1 2 3 5 of the chords, or an arpeggio.  Sometimes I’ll also walk this underneath a solo to try to push some tension or to try to push a soloist in a direction.

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