Tag Archives: Autumn Leaves Guitar solo

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

Autumn Leaves is a great song to get starting playing 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 can 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 blueprint 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!

You can learn to make your own chord melody arrangements, and it is not even that difficult.

This lesson will help you:

  • Learn How To Make your own Chord Melody Arrangments
  • Work through a structured path to develop your playing
  • Easy to play and not relying on you knowing thousands of chords.

Chord Melody Survival Kit

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Autumn Leaves Solo Lesson 1

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