Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords


There are a number of different ways that you can comp through any jazz standard on the guitar. For some people, Drop 2 and Drop 3 chords are the way to go in their playing, while other players draw upon shell voicings, triads or rootless chords to outline progressions in a jam situation.

While three, four or five-note chord shapes are essential sounds for any jazz guitarist to have under your fingers, sometimes using two-note double-stops is the best way to get your ideas onto the fretboard when comping behind a melody or soloist.

To help you check out double-stops in a jazz comping situation, this lesson outlines a jazz guitar chord study over the standard Autumn Leaves that you can learn, memorize and extract the underlying ideas and apply them to your playing over other tunes in a musical situation.

Intervals In This Comping Study

To help you understand the intervals used in this jazz guitar comping study, here is an explanation of how to build each interval as well as how they are normally fingered on the guitar fretboard.


3rds – Built by playing notes that are two notes apart, such as C-E, where you skip the note between D, 3rds are usually played on two adjacent strings such as the 3rd and 4th strings.

4ths – With two notes between the lowest and highest notes, 4th intervals such as C-F are best played on two adjacent strings, such as the 2nd and 1st strings. Since they are more ambiguous than 3rds or 6ths, 4ths are often used in a more modern context when comping and soloing, though they are also great for outlining 3rds and 7ths in a traditional context.

5ths – Skipping 3 notes, such as C-G, produces 5th intervals, which are best played on adjacent strings but can also be played across three strings, such as playing C-G on the 4th and 2nd strings. Again, these intervals have more of a modern sound to them, but they are also good to outline 3rds and 7ths in jazz chord progressions.

6ths – The largest interval in this study, 6ths are built by skipping four notes between the lowest and highest notes in the double stops, such as C-A. Because there is more room between the lowest and highest notes, it is best to play 6ths by skipping strings, such as play C-A on the 3rd and 1st strings of the guitar.


If you find that your ears are drawn to any of these intervals in particular, try working it further in your practice routine in order to bring this intervallic sound into your jazz guitar comping ideas on other jazz guitar standards in both jam and gig situations.

Interval Comping Picking

As you will notice, when comping with double-stops in an intervallic style such as this, strumming these comping ideas isn’t the easiest way to play the chord study.

In order to make things easier on your picking hand, try playing in a hybrid style (playing the lowest note with your pick and the top note with your finger), or in a pure fingerstyle approach.

By using the hybrid or fingerstyle techniques to play this chord study, you will be able to play each double-stop and phrase in a clean and clear fashion, even at faster tempos.

If you have trouble with hybrid or fingerstyle picking, feel free to slow things down, work them with a metronome, and then slowly increase the tempo until you can play along with the example and backing track below.

Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords – Interval Study

Here is the chord study to work out and learn in your practice routine. To begin, work on each four-bar phrase, memorize it and get it up to speed with the track, before moving on to the next phrase in the study.

Once you have worked out each phrase on it’s own, start putting together the four 8-bar phrases, then the two 16-bar phrases, before working the study as a whole.

You will notice that in many of the 8-bar phrases the rhythms remain the same while the notes in the double-stops change.

By keeping the rhythm similar between phrases, you are keeping each of the two phrases linked even though the harmonic and melodic content is changing over the course of the tune.

If you enjoy this type of comping, try practicing over this, or any, tune and work one or two rhythmic ideas over each phrase in order to bring a deeper sense of rhythmic cohesion to your jazz guitar comping ideas.



Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords


Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords 1

Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords Backing Track

To help you practice this study, as well as practice Autumn Leaves in general, here is a backing track that you can use in your jazz guitar practice routine.



Do you use double stops in your jazz guitar comping ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar Chords

  1. WasteyeloAug 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Autumn Leaves – The tune that just keeps giving. 🙂 One of the first tunes most Jazzer’s learn to blow on, it can be easily brushed aside. This article proves that there is always a new approach, always new ideas, ways to think about the changes. Another fantastic lesson. Thank you.

  2. xonelnojAug 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Beautiful, Dirk, simple and easy to digest and use. Like Irving Ashby used to say ‘…keep it simple and lyrical, don’t muddy the water’. JL

  3. NINAAug 6, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks, I love this song!

  4. RoyAug 7, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Thanks Dirk, that was a nice early morning work out on the guitar.

  5. ThatsEarlBrotherAug 7, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I was involved in other non musical chores and people.During which, in my head, i was comparing(singing)the English then French lyrics of this tune.A slow sensitive feel then my plan was sometime next week, when i have time, to work the guitar part.Sort of a Pass/ Fitzgerald thing.And lo and behold here is Autumn Leaves!!!Oh Mister MaGoo you’ve done it again.Thanks!!!

    • MarshallNov 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      I would love to hear the words for the French version. Can you send it to me? Thanks!


  6. carlosAug 7, 2014 at 4:08 am

    man. I’m lovin your lessons, I’m from Brazil and here we have a lot of rhytmic diversity, and joining in your melodic lines and harmonies I’m having a great resulting and sonority, my guitar playing is more soft and plaesurable to play and listen. thanks for your lessons… bye, we see ya later..

  7. colinAug 7, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Great lesson, great standard tune. agree it’s the tune that keeps on giving:)

  8. LorenzoAug 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Beautiful lesson, Dirk, as always!

  9. G.D.Aug 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm


    Always great stuff, always great to hear from you and your lessons. Keep on, super work.


  10. GiuseppeAug 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Nice lesson!

    I only have a doubt. In the first bar e.g., you play D-B and C-A (and I understand this part) but then you play B-G. Isn’t it G# the 6th of B?? Shouldn’t it be B-G#?
    Sorry I’m a bit of a newbie 🙂

    Thanks for any replies!

    • Matt WarnockAug 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks. That chord is B7alt, so the 13th is a b13th rather than the normal G#. Hope that helps.

      • GiuseppeAug 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

        But he is playing it over an Am chord, plus we are in the key of Em, aren’t we?

        • Matt WarnockAug 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

          Sorry, was looking at the B7alt bar. The key of Em has a G in it, not G#, that would be E major, that’s all. In that bar Am7 is the iim7 chord of G major, the key of the first four bars, and so there is a G not G# in G major. The intervals come from the key of the chord, not always major or always minor, they are diatonic 6ths. Hope that helps.

          • GiuseppeAug 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

            Yes, that helps a lot!
            Thank you

          • GiuseppeAug 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

            I was confused cause at the beginning I thought it was in the key of Am. Actually, the # on f is missing after the clef 🙂

  11. raulzAug 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Dirk, as always an awesome lesson from you!!

  12. LarryAug 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Enjoy your lessons. Can’t wait to get at this one. Always learn from you. Appreciate your knowledge and taste.

  13. Yaw AsumaduAug 7, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Really great lesson.

  14. maxAug 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    i don’t get how 4ths can be used to outline trad 3rds or 7ths as described above. help!

    • Matt WarnockAug 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Hey Max, 3rds and 7ths are a fourth apart depending on the inversion. So for Am7 you have C-G, but if you play them upside down you get G-C, a fourth. For D7 you have F#-C, which is a tritone or #4. So that’s how 4ths are used to outline 3rds and 7ths on those chords.

  15. downhill240Aug 8, 2014 at 3:51 am

    This lesson really got me focusing on the interval shapes. The double picking is something I want to master and the tempo works in wonderfully. All-in-all, it’s all in this lesson! Thanks for sharing with us!!!

  16. Vincent SmithAug 8, 2014 at 3:57 am

    I am a traditional flat picker but do pick/finger octaves. This lesson opens up some new doors for me in pick/finger of 2 part harmony. Thanks much for this lesson.

  17. evebroughtanaxthistimeAug 11, 2014 at 2:06 am

    Wow dude! Shot once again for knowing a song worthy of, or at least giving a go at surpassing history. Can’t allow meself the pleasure now, busy-busy-busy, but come Saturday, it hopefully might sound like this: “Either play it through, or go practise in the…not here.” They love me. Thanx again.

  18. JayAug 19, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks Dirk!

  19. stanley westerborgOct 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    nice, Dirk. you’re magic!

  20. anonApr 18, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Who is “Dirk”? The name at the top of the page is Matt Warnock.

    • Matt WarnockApr 18, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Dirk is the owner of

  21. GrendleAug 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Cool chord arrangements for comping…will have to practice using double-stops…thanks for the lesson

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