Learn Eric Clapton’s “Key to the Highway” Turnaround

Try this simple but beautiful phrase from the great 'Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs' track.
By Andy Ellis,

“There’s a certain construction based on feeling controlling technique,” Eric Clapton told Guitar Player’s readers in the July 1985 issue. “That has to be the case, not the other way around. If you really want to do something tricky, just do it once—don’t keep repeating it. The objective is to make everyone feel like they’ve just been struck with a bolt of lighting, and that’s very difficult to do time after time.”

As you ponder Clapton’s words, try this two-bar turnaround—one of the variations he played in “Key to the Highway” from Derek and the Dominos’ Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs album. To appreciate how well this simple phrase fits the harmony, record the changes and then try the melody. Except for a bluesy C natural played against A7 in bar 2, the turnaround is composed entirely of chord tones. Notice how the 12/8 time signature automatically nudges you into a bar-room shuffle.

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