Intros and Endings GITs Dale Turner Shares Ten Cool Ways to Get In and Out of Songs

October 1, 2009

“THERE’S NO DISPUTING THAT WHEN you hear this,” says Dale Turner, playing Ex. 1, “it’s kicking off something.”

0daleNo doubt. Play through the familiar intro once yourself, and it’s hard not to expect juggling clowns, bike-riding bears, acrobats, and trapeze artists to suddenly spring into action around you. “The phrase is obviously ripped off from good ol’ clown/circus mayhem,” says Turner.

In a way, this funny example is emblematic of Turner’s engaging teaching style: none-too-serious, yet seriously educational. While most guitarists won’t use this lick for much more than entertaining their friends, it contains many a music lesson. With two lines traveling in opposite directions and ultimately converging on a unison G, it’s a perfect demonstration of contrapuntal motion. Implying G7 (the V chord in C), it illustrates how effective it can be to kick-start a I-chord groove by doing something clever on the V7 chord. It’s a great fretting-hand dexterity builder. And, with its playful sound, it reminds us that music should, at all times, be fun.

“I like to teach that whether you’re doing improv stuff, rhythm stuff, or single-note stuff, it’s really all the same thing,” says Turner, who has authored nearly 50 guitar instruction/transcription books (mostly for Hal Leonard), interviewed everyone from George Benson to Yngwie Malmsteen for various guitar publications, and emerged as one of GIT’s most popular instructors. “It’s all guitar. It all happens on the same fretboard. The sooner you’re cool with theory and ear training, and the sooner you can see all the notes up and down the neck, the sooner you can develop the ability to teach yourself. With those things in place, you can analyze whatever it is you like in other people’s playing and instantly assimilate it into your own.”

Leading by example, Turner—using his ears, his grasp of theory, his zeal for research and transcription, and his familiarity with the fretboard—has, for this lesson, hunted down tons of turnarounds, intros, and endings that combine to teach yet another wonderful lesson: the fine art of launching and closing songs with the perfect musical prologue or epilogue.

Example 2 “Here’s a classic blues turnaround lick that can be used as an ending,” says Turner. “I think I borrowed this from Larry Carlton or [fellow GIT instructor] Carl Verheyen. The twist is that it features a nice bit of counterpoint that you don’t always hear when people play this line— it’s got pleasing contrary chromatic motion between the lines on the fourth and second strings.” (Tip: To make this an intro, change the last two chords from Bb9-A9 to F9-E9.)

Example 3 “This is a wonderful ending that I borrowed from a live Lenny Breau trio recording,” says Turner. “Unfortunately, I forget which one, but it hardly matters because everything Lenny ever did is amazing and perfect, and this is just another one of those billion perfect things. It employs the standard jazz guitar chord melody approach of having the melody— a blues line that includes a bent note on B7# 5—in the highest voice. Notice that the opening downbeat is a rest. Above all, make sure the notes speak.”

Example 4 Listening to a collection of old acoustic country and bluegrass songs, Turner noticed that many of the artists, no matter which region he or she hailed from, opened songs with the same intro melody. “It was this catchy vocal melody that people often yodeled,” shares Turner. “It’s such a classic, satisfying vocal move, I just had to arrange it for solo guitar. This is great for starting an acoustic, sittin’- on-your-front-porch-singing-over-yo ur-steel-string type of song.”

Example 5 If you don’t play a lot of jazz, this example might look a little more complicated than it is. “It’s just a II-V-I ending in Bb,” says Turner. “The series of diminished 7th chord inversions are all just replacement chords that imply C7b9, the II chord. The octave line in bar 3 gives us our V chord, F7. Music theory is great to know, but I think of it as just a filing system. Knowing theory on paper alone is a total waste if you can’t relate it to guitar.”

Examples 6 and 7 “Here are two nice major 7 chord cycles you can use when the band drops out at the end of a jazz tune to let you play two bars of chordal coolness,” says Turner. “They work great as closers for songs in major keys—in this case, the key of G major. The examples use simple, garden- variety major 7 chords, but have a compelling sound because they put nondiatonic flavors in the air. Chord cadenzas!”

Example 8 “This cut-time tag (below) has a syncopated Latin feel, and works equally well as an intro or an ending,” says Turner. “Those parallel sixth intervals in bar 4 go right up the dominant diminished scale.” An easy way to spell the scale is to think of a dominant 7 arpeggio— in this case, F7—with the b9, #9, #11, and 13 added. An easier way to spell the scale is simply to ascend in alternating half- and whole-steps (F, Gb, G# , A, etc.)— hence, the scale’s nickname: the “half/whole” scale. “I like how this example builds anticipation of the arrival of the tonic chord, Bb, by extending the V chord, an altered F7, to eight bars, including the repeat signs,” says Turner. For fun, he sounds the I chord with a three-note voicing that features two harmonics. “After waiting that long, when the I chord finally arrives, it’s extra satisfying.”

Ex. 9 “I don’t know why, but I think of this intro as sounding like a game show theme or something,” says Turner. “If your bass player hits D beneath the opening, repeating chords, the two of you will combine to create a general D7 effect that is useful for introducing tunes such as ‘Ornithology,’ ‘How High the Moon,’ ‘I’ll Remember April,’ and other songs in G. If you use the optional E7 chord in the last measure, it can set up the Am7-D7 change—a II-V in G—used in songs like ‘Autumn Leaves.’ Easily transposable to other keys!”

Ex. 10 “Your mission here is to try to end a tune in A minor, such as ‘Black Orpheus’ or other standards in this key,” says Turner. “So, when the band stops to give you a cadenza at the end, and you’re holding a scary chord like this Bb/E, try this example. In bar 2, it alternates back and forth between A minor pentatonic and Eb pentatonic, repeating the same harmonies an octave higher in bar 3. You end up in A minor, closing with Am9(maj7), a jarring replacement for a typical Am7 chord that creates a cool ‘cluster’ effect. This outro is directly inspired by the great Joe Diorio, who I was lucky to study with privately at USC—a ridiculously awesome opportunity of a lifetime.”

Former GP Associate Editor Jude Gold is now Director of GIT in Hollywood, California. Feel free to email comments on this lesson to him at

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