8 Techniques Mark Turner Uses to Dominate the Blues

If you’ve ever listened to Mark Turner you’ve probably wondered the same thing as me…What the hell is he playing? Rather than coming from the mind of an improviser, his solos sound like the work of an ambitious architect. Complex structures reaching into the stratosphere, lines with impossibly wide leaps, columns of arpeggios, and winding phrases that arch over the chords…

So as a musician, where do you begin when you want to discover the techniques behind his unique sound? For starters, you need to find a solo over a standard that you know inside and out.

And that’s why exactly why we’ve chosen the blues

These days you’ll hear more and more players imitating Mark Turner’s distinctive sound. But it’s not the actual notes in his solos that will make you a better player, it’s the concepts behind them…

The solo

The Mark Turner solo we’ve chosen comes from a live recording he did with the OAM Trio. Give it a listen:

On your first pass it probably sounds modern, innovative or even abstract, but underneath everything he plays lies the 12 bar blues form.

And it all works because he has a deep understanding of this form.

One thing to note about this particular version: Instead of the standard I – IV – I progression in the first 4 bars of the tune, this blues utilizes the following substitution:

The result is a minor 3rd relationship that leads to the B7, serving as a tritone sub that resolves to the Bb7 (the IV chord).

But no matter how many substitutions you put in, it’s still the blues. And as we’ll demonstrate below, you can implement all of these concepts in your own solos…

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