Tag Archives: Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar

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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How To Make A Set Of Solid Jazz Chords on Autumn Leaves

You need to play the chords and you also need to improvise and play some great Riffs when you are comping. This video builds a set of Autumn Leaves Chords that connects different Jazz Chords to give you something you can use to improvise with.

A lot of the time when you practice you think you need to learn completely new things, but often it is much more efficient to make new connections and find better ways to use what you already know. And become much more flexible if you can mix the different things you know like drop2 and shell-voicings for example. So That is also the way I am going to build the material in this lesson.

I am using Autumn Leaves as an example because that is a very common standard and covers a lot of ground with chords, so it is a perfect example for teaching jazz chords in a guitar lesson.

Autumn Leaves Chords – Basic Shell-Voicings

Let’s start with a set of basic Shell-voicings for the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves. If you want more information on Shell-voicings then check out this very old lesson (in fact my first YouTube Lesson) The basic construction of a Shell-voicing is either 1 7 3 (as on Cm7) or 1 3 7 (as on F7).

The first place to go is to take the shells and leave out the root, so the lowest note:

Rootless Shell-voicings or Guide-Tone Chords

In this lesson, you don’t need to use the root, and you also want to be more flexible to add more things on top of the voicings so let’s take away the bass note:

Adding notes to create 3-note chords

Now we have two-note voicings that are easy to add extra material to. The first step is to add the notes on the next string, so the B string.

That is shown here below:


Keep in mind that I am trying to be practical and I am only adding notes that I think are useful and easy to play. You should do the same and it may differ from what I do. Keep it practical!

A Comping Example using the 2 and 3-note jazz chords

An example of what you now can do already with this simple set of voicings is shown below:

From Triads to Drop 2 Voicings

Notice that the 3-note voicings are often Triads and you can add the notes on the high E string as well and that will mostly give us Drop 2 voicings (Check out the explanation of Drop voicings here)

Adding the extra notes gives you these voicings:

Combining all the voicings

Putting this to use on the song would give you an example like this:

Combining and Embellishing Chords on a Blues

If you want to check out a more in-depth application of this on a 12-bar Blues in Bb then have a look at this WebStore lesson:


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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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Autumn Leaves Chords – 5 Useful ways to unlock Extensions

How you add extensions and color to the Autumn Leaves Chords is a big part of the sound of Jazz Harmony. In this video I am going to go over 5 different sets of chords ranging from a very basic Drop2 set via a various extensions and alterations to a spacy modal harmonization.

When checking out the possiblities for adding and changing the chords it is practical to use a chord progression that you already know and have in your ears. In that way it doesn’t become only theory but you can also relate it to a song you already know.

In the lesson I am going to use the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves and I have 5 different variations of the chords on this song that you can use to explore what is possible and of course also directly start using in your playing.

#1 The Song and the Drop2 voicings

When you are checking out a jazz standard like Autumn Leaves it is a good idea to just go through it with a basic drop2 voicings. The Drop2 voicings are anyway very useful for any type of jazz comping so you should check them out. You can check out the How To Play Jazz Chords Study guide

The voicing set using only drop2 chords and no extensions is shown here below in Example 1.

#2 Adding Basic Extensions

Now that we have a basic set of chords to work with we can start adding extensions to them.

The basic rule is that you can work with when adding extensions to chord voicings are:

  1. The 9th replaces the root
  2. The 13th replaces the 5th

With these two concepts it is easy to add an extension to a chord and putting it in there won’t change the core part of the chord which is covered with the 3rd and 7th.

In the first version I used a higher Bbmaj7 voicing. Mainly to avoid having a b9 interval in the chord which is not so great for that chord. Now that I am exchanging the root for the 9th the b9 (between A and Bb) is gone and I can use the lower version of the Bb and Eb chords.

On the Am7(b5) we can’t really us a 9th since the Bb is not the greatest extension on an Aø chord. In this case I am using an 11th and I am using it instead of the 3rd. This can work sometimes, but won’t always workout for a lot of chords. In this case the b5 combined with the 11th will still make it a clear m7b5 sound.

#3 Adding several extensions to the chords

The next logical step is to start using two extensions for each chord. Which is what I am doing here below.

The Cm7 is turned into a Cm7(9,11). The 9th is replacing the root, and the 11th is replacing the 5th. In a minor chord the 13th doesn’t work well with this m7 chord, but using the note below the 5th is a viable option.

The F7 is turned into a 13b9 which is from the diminished scale. 

The Bb chord uses the rules above to add a 9th and a 13th. The Ebmaj7 stays with a 9th.

On the Aø I have now added a 9th. The 9th is implying another scale on this chord. The first choice would be G minor, but now with the B in there it is coming out of C melodic minor.

The D7 is analtered chord adding b9 and alterering the 5th to a b5.

On the tonic chord I am using a GmMaj7 with an added maj6th which really drives home the melodic minor sound.

The final G7 is coming out of the altered scale and is derived from the original G7 voicing. 

#4 Autumn Leaves Chords: Other Sounds and voicing types

Sometimes another way of adding different sounds is not to add more notes to the chords but instead to opt for certain voicings that have a characteristic sound. The last two examples use this quite a lot.

The first Cm7 is voiced as an Bb triad over an Eb which has a distinct sound with the  second interval between the Eb and the F.

On the Bbmaj7 the  sounds is tweaked a bit by adding a #11 instead of the 5th. For the rest the 9th is added.

The Aø the sound is again A Locrian nat. 2 (or C mel minor) The voicing has a 9th instead of the root and an 11th instead of the 3rd. You could see it as an Ebmaj7(#5)

The D7(#9b5) is constructed similar to the rules above.

Another example of the GmMaj7 where I am using a Drop2 voicng but now using the minor 2nd between the root and the maj7th to color the sound.

With the G7alt voicing it is clear how this sound is really closely related to it’s tri tone substitute: Db7.

#5 The Spacy Herbie Hancock meets Brad Mehldau Jam

The final version is more a modal treatment of the chords. The focus is completely changed here. When harmonizing in a modal way the priority is not helping the chord to function but just to give it an interesting sound.

The Cm7 is now with an added 13th which really ruins its function: To delay the A (the 13th that is now in the chord). The F7 altered that follows compensates the harmonic movement with altereations.

On The Bbmaj7 chord is an incomplete chord, which here means that it has no 3rd. It does contain the 7th, 13th and #11. The Ebmaj7 is left untouched to change up the pace a bit.

The cadence to Gm is reharmonized with a tritone substitution to Eb7 D7 instead of Aø D7. The two dominants are then embellished by adding the II chord as well: Bbm7 Eb7 Aø D7. To add even more sounds I have turned the Aø into a Am7(9) which is essentially borrowing it from G Major rather than G minor.

With the tonic chord I also added another more colorful sound: Gm6(9#11) this chord is coming out of D harmonic minor and is really just meant as a surprising sound on the Gm chord.

The final G7 is a G7(#9) which is using a Bb triad over a B. This is coming out of the diminished scale.

The Chord Diagrams

If you prefer to check out the chord diagrams you can reference this chart:


0:00 Intro

0:58 Drop2 voicings

1:26 Ex 1 Basic Drop2 voicings

3:42 Ex 2 Adding Extensions + basic rules

7:07 Ex 3 More Extensions + advanced rules

9:51 Ex 4 Advanced Sounds

13:09 Ex 5 Modal Harmonization (Herbie Hancocks Playground)

18:06 A few thoughts on comping

18:57 Do you have a great approach for working with chord extensions?

Learn, Listen and Experiment

The best way to integrate these things is to try and play through them and relate them Autumn Leaves. But also try to incorporate them into your own playing and combine it with what you play already. It is always good to keep experimenting.

Finding more ideas on Autumn Leaves

If you are looking for more ideas and examples on Autumn Leaves then check out this WebStore lesson with 5 choruses of examples:

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Autumn Leaves Chords – 3 ways to add colors and extensions

Autumn Leaves Chords – Chord Diagrams

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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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