Tag Archives: autumn leaves guitar lesson

Autumn Leaves – When You Only Use Pentatonic Scales

The Pentatonic Scale is one of the first things we learn on the guitar, and it makes a lot of sense to use this when working on how to play  an Autumn Leaves Guitar solo.

The way I am demonstrating the pentatonic scale on Autumn Leaves in this lesson is as a 5 note scale that we can use to get the sound of the chord across. Most of the choices are using the standard minor pentatonic scale and I am also using a m6 pentatonic scale.

Finding Pentatonic scales for each of the chords

I am going to use the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves since that covers all the chords in the song except 2 and it has the main cadences in the key so a cadence to a major tonic and one to a minor tonic.

The Progression is:

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7

Aø D7 Gm6

For the Cm7 I am using the Cm pentatonic scale:

The F7 is played as an F7alt chord. F7 alt is the same as a B7(#11), so a Lydian dominant, and we can use a B major or Abm pentatonic scale:

For the Bbmaj7: Bbmaj7 consists of the notes Bb D F A and what you see here is that the upper part (D F A) is a D minor triad. For this chord I use Dm pentatonic. 

Over a maj7 chord using the minor pentatonic scale from the 3rd is a good rule to remember!

And that rule gives us Gm pentatonic on the Ebmaj7 chord

The Minor II V I – m6 Pentatonics

A m6 pentatonic is a minor pentatonic scale where the b7 is replaced with a 6th. So for Cm pentatonic we have: C Eb F G Bb and the Cm6 pentatonic will be C Eb F G A.

For Aø: A C Eb G it is worth noticing that this is an inversion of a Cm6 chord: C Eb G A. That means that the Cm6 pentatonic sale is a great option for this chord.

As a result the rule is: ø chord -> m6 pentatonic from the 3rd of the chord 

Over the altered dominant we can use the m6 pentatonic associated with the Melodic minor scale that is also the altered scale. 

In this case D7alt that is Eb melodic minor and the Ebm is a perfect scale choice:

Eb Gb Ab Bb C spelling out b9,3,b5,b13 and b7.

And of course the tonic minor chord Gm6 is easily taken care of with a G m6 pentatonic scale

Practicing Pentatonic Scale Patterns

One of the ways we use pentatonic scales is by exploring scale patterns. A pentatonic scale doesn’t work like a “normal” scale and the patterns. Therefore patterns can produce interesting groups of notes and interval structures. 

In many ways this is what probably makes it such a common device in modern jazz. It is a source of new interesting melodies to work with.

On guitar you should try to work on some common patterns. In the three examples I am also using that it is easy to play pentatonic scales as 2 notes per string patterns.

Pentatonic Pattern 1 – Diatonic “3rds”

This pattern goes through a pattern in the pentatonic scale that is equal to playing a major scale in 3rds. The scale is played descending and the direction of the “3rds” are changing so first up the down etc.

Pentatonic Pattern 2 – Switching direction

This pattern is again using the 2 notes per string aspect. Here it is used with the scale played ascending but the order of the notes per string switches creating some nice 4th intervals through the scale.

Pentatonic Pattern 3 – A sus4 triad

One of the structures in a Cm pentatonic scale is an Fsus4: F Bb C.

In the example below this structure is moved through string sets in the scale, generating some sus4 triads but also a Cm and an Eb major triad.

Solo using only Pentatonic Scales

The solo hereunder is using the Pentatonic scales I went over on an A part of Autumn Leaves.

Autumn Leaves Lessons

I have a few WebStore Lessons based on Autumn Leaves. Here’s one on soloing over the form and demonstrating a few approaches to creating lines:

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Easy Autumn Leaves Chord Melody and Quick How-to-Play!

Autumn Leaves is a great song to get starting playing an easy chord melody arrangements on guitar. This famous jazz standard is both a great melody and a fairly easy option to play an easy chord melody.

In this lesson I will go over a chord melody arrangement of Autumn Leaves that I made. arrangement. The chords I am using are for the biggest part simple 3-note voicings called shell-voicings and I have also included some exercises to check those out.

You can scroll down and download the PDF of the Arrangement at the end of the page.

Autumn Leaves – The Song and the Chord Melody Arrangement

The key that I am using for Autumn Leaves in this arrangement is G minor. This is not the key from the real book, but it is the most common key for performing the song. The form of Autumn Leaves is AAB where A is 8 bars and B is 16 bars, so it is a 32 bar form.

The arrangement is using call-response to also allow the chords to add some groove to. This also allows for using the melody in the lower octave that often sounds a little fuller.

Learning some useful Shell-voicings for the song

To learn the chord melody we need some chords to play with the melody. The melody of Autumn Leaves is mostly a pick-up with followed by a single long note on the heavy bar. You cna think of the first phrase as an example. This makes it easy to add chords while the long note is sounding.

Most of the chords that I use here are shell voicings, so it is a good idea to check those out in G minor.

In the exercises below I have the diatonic chords of G minor first  with the root on the E string and then with the root on the A string. For each exercise I start with the lowest possible chord and then move up one octave.

Chord Melody – It’s about the melody!

The first place to start with chord melody is learning the melody! In fact it would be a more appropriate name if we turned it around: Melody Chord. This is because we are playing the melody and adding the chords, not the other way around (hopefully).

In example 3, here below. I have written out the melody for the first 8 bars of the song. It is written out in the places where I want to play the melody so that I can easily fit chords under it.

Really knowing the melody well and being comfortable moving it around the neck is essential when you start making your own chord melody arrangements (which should be 20 minutes after checking out this lesson…).

Autumn Leaves Chord Melody arrangement – The A part

The A part of this song has the same structure for all phrases: a pickup and a long note. This means that the chords can be paired together and played in between the phrases.

In that way the chord pairs become: Cm7-F7, Bbmaj7-Ebmaj7, Aø-D7 and a final Gm6 chord.

When I am playing the melody I end on a note that is included in the chord and I make sure to use a fingering where I can add the chord while sustaining that note. In this case that is as much a technical as it is a musical consideration.

As you see above I use a “real” tonic minor chord so a Gm6 which is of course also what is suggested in the original composition (and the famous Miles Davis/Cannonball Adderly version as well)

The B part

The second half of the song is a bit more complicated. Of course the melody has to change a bit not to become boring so in the B part there are other melodic patterns.

In the first bar of there is no room to add a chord until the 4th beat which forces a change in the pattern and the rhythm of the chords. The next 6 bars again allows for adding the chords between phrases.

On the 9th bar of the B part the melody takes up the entire bar and I add the shell voicing under it. This first yields a complete Drop3 voicing for the Aø and then the basic shell voicing.

There is no chord under the D7 and the chord is inserted on beat 3.

The faster moving progression that follows: Gm7 C7 Fm7 Bb7 is harmonized first with a drop3 Gm7 voicing and for the rest shell voicings. This makes it impossible to sustain the melody, but it still works.

The last cadence has an Eb6 with the 6th in the melody and on the last D7 the melody is so low that I chose not to have any chords at all. Since the melody is moving all the time that is not much of a problem, and as I already said: The Melody is more important!

This is a blue print for your own chord melody arrangements

I hope you can have fun playing through my arrangement and start to make it your own with variations and changes to the chords!

For me, the most fun part of chord melody is making your own arrangements! I think you should start trying to figure out how to do so as fast as possible. You can play other peoples arrangements as well, but there is no reason why you should not be creative with your own harmonizations and voicings!

Learning to solo on Autumn Leaves is of course also a part of playing it as a Jazz Guitarist. One approach to this using the arpeggios of the song is covered in this lesson: Autumn Leaves with Arpeggios

How To Make Your Own Chord Melody Arrangements!

If you want to see my structured approach to making a chord melody for a standard then you should consider checking out this lesson:

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Autumn Leaves – Soloing with arpeggios

Autumn Leaves is a great chord progression to start improvising following the harmony. It’s a well known tune and it still covers a lot of important cadences in a key. In this lesson I will go over a set of Jazz Guiat arpeggios in one position, some exercises, target notes and strategies for making solos where you can hear the harmony in the improvisation.

About Autumn Leaves

In this lesson I have chosen to work on Autumn Leaves in the key of G minor. You will find a few versions in the key of E minor since it is printed in that key in the old Realbook, but the most common key is G minor.

The two main cadences in the song are II V I cadences, one to the major tonic (Bb) and one to the minor tonic (Gm). In this way you cover two of the most important harmonic movements in this key.

Learning the song

Besides knowing the arpeggios and the chords by heart you need to know the melody of the song you want to improvise on. In the end the melody is more important because the harmony may vary from version to version but the melody will stay the same. In this lesson (and for copyright reasons) I can’t go over the melody, but if you want some hints on how to do this you could check out this Q&A video where I talk about that: Q&A #3

The form of Autumn leaves is a bit uncommon for jazz since it is AAB where the B is 16 bars and the 8 bars. A good place to start is to just play the chords of the song. In example 1 I have written out chord voicings for the song. In the example I am using the material that I went over in the How to Play Jazz Chords lesson.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-1-1
autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-1-2

Since a lot of the examples I am using are over the whole form I am playing them a bit fast in the video. You can always go back and check or even play them at a slower speed if you have a place that is hard to follow. I ended up doing it like this because the video otherwise would be much too long.

The Arppegios

I have written out the arpeggios in the 6th position of the neck. If you think in Bb major this is a very common Bb major scale position so you probably know it already.

Example 2 has the arppegios of the different chords written out. If you count the chords you’ll see that we have 10 different chords. Since the goal of this lesson is to improvise fluently with well connected melodies using the arpeggios, I have written out all the arpeggios around the 6th position. Shifting up and down the neck is going to make it much more difficult to play logical melodies and almost impossible to do some of the exercises.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-2

Practising the arpeggios

First you should probably try to become familiar with the arpeggios in example 2 and then as fast as possible try to start using them on the song. Students often forget how important it is to practice using what you’ve learnt.

Besides just practising each arpeggio it is a very good idea to work on playing the arpeggios in different patterns. Playing them in groups of 3 or 4 notes, skipping notes etc are good ways to get more flexible with the arpeggio. You need the flexibility when you start improvising, and keep in mind that it is about flexibility and overview not about speed when working on this, so there’s no real need to play it fast.

The first exercise is to just play through the song with the arpeggios from example 2 in a one octave version. This will not only help practising the arpeggios but also build your sense of the form of the song and help you hear the chords moving and when they change. I tried to take the highest octave available of each arpeggios because that is probably the register you’ll need the most when you solo so you might as well start by working on a good overview of that.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-3-1
autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-3-2

Connecting the arpeggios

The next exercise is a very good way to gain a strong overview of the arpeggios and chords. It is also helping you to develop your ability to think ahead. The idea is to start playing the arpeggios over the progression and then when ever the chord changes to continue the movement with the note that is the closest in the next arpeggio. It’s quite tricky to get started with but very rewarding when you start getting the freedom while improvising.

When you start this then you probably don’t need to work on the whole form in the beginning. In example 4 I have written out the example I play in the video in rubato. In the video you can hear me pointing out whenever I change.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-4

In the video I also demonstrate this on the first 8 bars and start in a different octave. As I talk about in the video it is about the proces not about the notes in this case so you should vary where you start in the arppegio to keep challenging yourself and your knowledge of the arpeggios in this position.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-5

Putting it all together in improvising

As I demonstrate in the video the thinking behind making harmony clear in a solo line is to target certain notes of the strong beats (in this case the 1). The idea is that a strong and logical sounding line will be a line that has the direction towards a clear target note. I also discuss this way of making melodies in another lesson that you can check: Target Notes You will notice in the solo I improvise in the video that I am not too concerned with target notes unless the chord is changing.

The first target notes I’d suggest you use is in the song is the 3rd of each chord. There are two advantages to this. It very clearly targets the color of the chord and it also connects what you play with the melody since a lot of the sustained notes in the melody are in fact the 3rd of the chord.

In example 6 I have written out the 3rds of each chord played over the root of the chord.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-6

Making lines with the arpeggios

Now that we have arpeggios and target notes for each of the chords we can start to work on coming up with lines over the song.

The way you start working on this is probably to practice rubato to make a line from one chord to the next. In example 7 I have shown a simple Cm7 melody that leads from Cm7 to F7.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-7

In the video I also take the next step from working in rubato and demonstrate 8 bars in time as written out in example 8.

autumn-leaves-with-arpeggios-ex-8

I hope you can use the arpeggios and techniques I went over here to get started playing strong clear lines over Autumn Leaves.

If you want to learn to play a Chord Melody of Autumn Leaves then have a look at this lesson

Autumn Leaves In-depth Solo lesson

If you want to take this a step further then you can check out the WebStore lesson with a 50 minute video lesson I made on a 4 chorus solo. It goes over some basic ideas as shown hear and continues to more complicated concepts like reharmonization and different scale choices.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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