Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords

In this lesson, you will learn how to play the chords of Autumn Leaves. There are a number of different ways that you can comp through a jazz standard on the guitar. For some people, drop 2 and drop 3 chords are the way to go in their playing. Other players draw upon shell voicings or triads to outline progressions.

In this lesson, you will learn two alternative ways to play the chords of Autumn Leaves:

  1. By using two-note chords, aka double stops.
  2. By using rootless chords.

Autumn Leaves – Two-Note Chords

While three, four or five-note chord shapes are essential sounds for any jazz guitarist, sometimes using two-note chords (aka 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 comping situation, this section outlines a jazz guitar chord study over the standard Autumn Leaves.


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). 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, 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. These 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 note (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 playing.


Interval Comping Picking

Strumming isn’t the easiest way to play double stops.

In order to make things easier on your picking hand, try playing in a hybrid style or pure fingerstyle.

Hybrid picking is playing the lowest note with a pick and the top note with a finger.

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 fashion, even at faster tempos.

If you have trouble with hybrid or fingerstyle picking, feel free to slow things down.  Work the chords 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 separately. 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 its own, start putting together the four 8-bar phrases, then the two 16-bar phrases, before working the study as a whole.


Backing Track

Listen & Play Along

Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords


Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords 1


Autumn Leaves – Rootless Chord Study

Learning to play jazzy sounding chords is one of the most enjoyable and challenging parts of playing jazz guitar. Rather than bog yourself down by learning all new chord shapes, you can adapt shapes you already know to create new sounds in your playing.

One of the most popular ways to do this is to remove the root note from any four-note chord you know. This gives you a three-note triad that outlines the chord and is easier to play than the four-note version. And, since the bass guitar is covering the root note, you don’t lose anything by leaving out the root.

In this lesson, you learn how to remove the root from common chords to create triads in your playing. Then you apply that knowledge to a jazz standard, Autumn Leaves, as you take these triads to a musical situation.


Rootless Chords – Triad Shapes

Before you dive into the chord study below, take a minute to learn about how you can remove the root note from common chord shapes to create rootless chords.

The only trouble with rootless chords is that there’s no root.

This means that you need to visualize the root but not play it.

Because of this, building rootless chords by removing the root from shapes you already know helps you visualize the root note even if you don’t play it.

Here are the formulas to determine which triad you use to create rootless versions of common jazz chords.

  • Maj7 = minor triad from 3
  • Dominant 7 = diminished triad from 3
  • m7 = major triad from b3
  • m7b5 = minor triad from b3
  • Dominant 7b9 = diminished triad from b7


Now that you know what triads are used to build rootless chords, here they are on the guitar to check out. These chords are taken from Autumn Leaves, starting with a 2-5-1 progression in G major.

The first bar of each chord is a common chord shape, then the second bar has the root note removed.

The triad is written below each rootless chord so you can see which triads are produced.


Autumn Leaves 1.1


Here are the chords and rootless chords for the next four bars of Autumn Leaves, a ii V I in E minor.

Again, a common chord voicing is in the first bar, followed by the rootless chord and the name of that triad in the second bar.

Play through both of these examples to get a feel for how rootless chords sit and sound on the guitar.


Autumn Leaves 2


Autumn Leaves Rootless Chord Study

Now that you know how to build these rootless chords, and have played a few triad shapes, you’re ready to take them to a jazz standard.

Here, two or more triad shapes for each chord are used. Start by learning one shape in each bar and comp with those shapes over the backing track. Then, learn the rest of the shapes and comp with those grips over the backing track.

As you can see, the triads are written in a plain rhythm. Start by playing whole and half notes, keeping the rhythms simple as you work on these new chord shapes.

Once the shapes are comfortable, change the rhythms.

You can also treat each triad as an arpeggio and play them as single notes, adding these shapes to your soloing ideas in the process.

Triads are easy to play, sound good and give you everything you need to outline chords and progressions.


Backing Track

Listen and Play Along


Autumn Leaves 3

Autumn Leaves 3.2


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

34 thoughts on “Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Chords”

  1. Michael Joyce

    Thanks for your rapid correction. Terrific job

    1. Bart Brassil

      Ha! my response was pointless! Still – I love that shape for “Roxanne” by The Police ; )

      A nice jazz tango is you want to try out a late 70’s classic!!!

  2. Michael Joyce

    Very nice and an interesting lesson. If I might suggest, there is an error in the example for CMaj7. The standard notation is correct but the tablature shows that the C root is on the 6th string, 8th fret. I believe the C note should have been on the 3rd string, 3rd fret. I don’t think even Tal Farlow could have made that stretch. Thanks for your effort.

    1. Bart Brassil

      You mean the CMaj7 should have had the tab on 3rd fret of A sting? (that common chord shape?)

      Maybe Matt just wanted to show the root C on the E sting?

      (Intermediate player here so this is all questioning and not commenting)

  3. Bart Brassil

    Thanks! I need to learn and work with Triads. Perfect tune for me to jump in on.

  4. momo hidalgo

    gracias por lo que haces, nos ayudas a mucha gente.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top