Autumn Leaves – How To Use Drop 2 For An Easy Chord Melody

One of the things that I learned the most from when it comes to harmony and comping was harmonizing melodies, so making chord melody arrangements. When I was starting out I harmonized everything I could and that taught me so much about how to comp with more melody and play chords under a theme.

Often when people play chord melody arrangements then they are made to be solo guitar arrangements with bass notes under all chords (b-roll chord melody arrangement) but that is not the only way you want to harmonize a song.

In this lesson, I am going to show you an arrangement of Autumn Leaves that uses drop2 voicings and you can use this as a solo arrangement but it also works great if you are playing in a band. I am also going to add some extra tricks to give you a way to add some color to your own songs.

Chord Melody Arrangement

You probably already know that I made another chord melody arrangement of this song using the lower octave for the melody and shell-voicings. You can mix these two as well to change things up, I will link to that video in the description.

The arrangement is pretty basic, but I will show you some other things you can add in along the way as well in terms of great chords for ending a song and reharmonizing a minor II V.

You can scroll down to the end of the article to download a PDF of the entire arrangement or check it out on Patreon in this post:

When To Add Chords

When you harmonize the melody then the easiest way to do so is to try to put chords under long notes that are on the heavy beat.

That is what I am doing in the first 8 bars here, the chord is on the Cm7, Bbmaj7

Notice that I play the melody on the top 3 strings because that is where you will have an easier time putting a chord under it.

Having a good overview of the fretboard and being able to move around the melody so that it is easier to add chords under it is essential for making these arrangements, but making arrangements is also a great way to really get a solid overview of the neck.

On the F7 and Ebmaj7 then there is no melody so I add those on the 4& to have a little rhythm and that also makes it easier to play the pickup

Learn the Melody and be practical

I am not really talking about the Drop2 voicings, but if you want to explore that topic more since that is something that is very useful and a very powerful tool then I will link to a playlist in the video description.

Autumn Leaves is a melody with a very strong motivic structure, in fact, it is the same motif moved through the changes. This actually makes it easier to harmonize because you can just use the logic of the melody and let that help you decide when to add chords and also which notes to harmonize. Autumn Leaves is a pretty clean example of this, but it is pretty common.

That is also how I am harmonizing the Aø D7 Gm6. Just using the same principles as in the previous section. Since the chords are not moving on the Gm then I am playing with changing between the Maj7 and the 6th

2nd A and some more chord movement

The 2nd A is really just the same as the 1st in terms of melody and you can, of course, play it the same twice, but often it is good to try to change it a bit and use that the audience already knows what is supposed to happen to surprise them a little.

In this case, I am using some secondary dominants and tritone subs for that.

The melody has a long note every other bar and you can fill that up with an extra chord that pulls towards the next one.

Here I am adding Gb7 before F7, E7 before Ebmaj7 and Eb7 before D7, so I am using a tritone substitution as an extra color in the arrangement.

As you will see, I am using some of these concepts in the B-part too, but also a few other nice ways to introduce movement. I have thought about using Autumn Leaves as a way to demonstrate reharmonizations going over 4 or 5 versions, let me know in the comments if that could be an interesting video. Later in the video, I also go over some options for different interesting changes.

B-part – Problem Solving Taking the easiest solution

In the B part, there are a few places where you need to figure out how to harmonize the melody in a nice way without making it too difficult, and actually the first chord is already getting us into trouble – Aø explain the solution

the rest is similar to the first A.

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 – the same as in the 2nd A but with another melody note (C) – Moving from Bbmaj7 to Ebmaj7 – D using a major triad as a chromatic approach to the Ebmaj7 while keeping the D in the melody

Chromatic passing chords – (its’ actually Free Jazz!)

You can do a lot by interpreting the chords and add new sounds using harmonization. In this lesson, I will give you some suggestions for the last part of the song.

The one that is the easiest to use, and similar to what you already found earlier in the lesson.

Aø Eb7 D7 – again using Eb7

You can extend this by turning it into a complete chromatic II V example. Here I am also changing the Aø to an Am7 to get another brighter color there.

And another version that makes it an even longer parallel II V progression, quite similar to Wes’ Four on Six.

A more radical, but still beautiful harmonization is to use the bass movement of a II V, but then move in parallel using other chords. This can be a little more tricky to get to work, but when it does then it is very beautiful as shown below:

Different types of chords for the last note.

One way that I like to end the song is this below, really getting the beautiful sound of the tonic minor major sound. It does require me to change the melody.

Another option that is very common and the favorite of many bass-players is to play a C7. Essentially the C7 is just a Gm6 with a C in the bass, and also the IV in the melodic minor scale.

The Neapolitan subdominant is a great option for the final note in a song. This makes the final note (which is usually the root) the maj7th in the chord. The neapolitan is the bIImaj7, so in this case an Abmaj7.

The Jim Hall/Ron Carter solution is to end the song on a Db7, which is, in fact, turning the tonic chord into a secondary dominant to go back. This works because the first chord of the song is the IV chord: Cm7, but this is a great way to keep the form moving and take us to the next chorus. It is also a very different sound compared to the original Gm6 option.

Digging into Chord Melody

Chord Melody Survival Kit

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