Autumn Leaves Melody & Solo Study

Autumn Leaves is one of the most popular jazz standards on record and is a must-know tune for any jazz guitarist. Because of this, having a strong hold on the melody and improvising is essential learning. While other instruments, such as sax, trumpet, and vocals, often play the melody on a gig, you never know when you’ll be called up to play the head in or out of a tune.

In this lesson, you will learn to play the melody of Autumn Leaves, combined with chords to fill up the gaps.

Next, you will learn a guitar solo over the chords of Autumn Leaves, and the scales needed to play that solo.

Learning the melody is an important part of studying any jazz standard. Even if you are excited to dive into the solo, take the time to learn the melody, it builds a strong foundation of the form and tune in your ears and fingers that will make soloing easier over these changes.

Have fun learning this Autumn Leaves melody and solo. Study it over the backing track, incorporate licks and ideas from the solo into your own playing, and dig into one of the most famous jazz tunes in the repertoire.

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Autumn Leaves Video

Autumn Leaves Scales

Jazz guitar scales are an important tool for improvisation and essential learning for every jazz guitar player.

In this section, we will have a look at the basic guitar scales needed to solo over Autumn Leaves. There are other scale options besides the ones on this page, but in this lesson, we’ll stick to the basics.

 

G Major Scale

You can get away with playing over the entire chord changes of Autumn Leaves with just one scale, the G major scale (aka G Ionian mode), although there’s a great chance you’ll sound boring after a while.

That’s why you will learn to combine the G major scale with other scales.

Here are the notes of the G major scale:

 

G Major ScaleGABCDEF#
1234567

 

Here are the notes of the G major scale mapped on the entire fretboard:

 

G major scale diagram

If the major scale is new to you, start with this position:

 

G major scale in first position

 

E Minor Blues Scale

Another scale that you can use over the entire chord changes of Autumn Leaves is the E minor blues scale.

The minor blues scale is almost the same as the minor pentatonic scale but has one more note, called a blue note (#4 or b5).

 

E Minor Blues ScaleEGAA#BD
1b34#45b7

 

Here is a common fingering for the E minor blues scale (the blue note is colored… blue!):

 

E minor blues scale

 

To bring variety to your solos and sound interesting to your listeners, you’re going to need some other scales as well.

 

The Harmonic Minor Scale

The most common scale of choice to play over dominant 7 chords that go to a minor chord is the harmonic minor scale.

There are two dominant chords like this in the chord changes of Autumn Leaves, B7 and E7:

  • Play E harmonic minor over B7 (goes to Em7)
  • Play A harmonic minor over E7 (goes to Am7)

 

Here are the notes of the E harmonic minor scale:

 

E Harmonic Minor ScaleEF#GABCD#
Played over B711513b71b93

 

And here is a common position of the E harmonic minor scale:

 

E harmonic minor scale

 

Autumn Leaves Backing Track

Here is the backing track for this lesson:

 

Autumn Leaves Melody

Here is the melody arrangement, where I combine the melody with chords. An arrangement like this is called a chord/melody arrangement.

 

 

Autumn Leaves melody page 1

Autumn Leaves melody page 2

Autumn Leaves Solo Study Chorus 1 [0:51 in the video]

In this solo, I combine scales with arpeggios.

To study this solo, start by learning in groups of 4 bars. Once you get that working, play the entire solo.

 

 

Autumn Leaves solo page 1

Autumn Leaves solo page 2

 

Bar 34-46

The first section of the solo concentrates on simple voice leading lines.

Voice leading is the smooth movement of notes from one chord to the next. Each “voice” is moved by the shortest distance possible and mainly the 3rds and 7ths of the chords are used.

 

Bar 47

Here I play a B7b9 arpeggio:

 

B7b9 arpeggio

Bar 49

Here I use a Gmaj7 arpeggio:

 

Gmaj7 arpeggio

Autumn Leaves Solo Study Chorus 2 [1:41 in the video]

 

 

Autumn Leaves solo page 3

Autumn Leaves solo page 4

 

Bar 76-77

Here I play a Cmaj7 arpeggio:

 

Cmaj7 arpeggio

And an F#m7b5 arpeggio:

 

F#m7b5 arpeggio

To learn how to make melody arrangements and improvise guitar solos like the one above, check out our Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar series.

 

The Easy Guide to Jazz Guitar 3 eBook Bundle

 

PDF IconAutumn Leaves Melody & Solo Study.pdf

 

  • Victor Sacramento says:

    Thank you for sharing your work. I’m learning a lot about jazz and music in general. Muito obrigado.

    • Dirk Laukens says:

      Hi Victor, you are welcome, thanks for the feedback!

  • Doug Hughes says:

    Thank you for sharing your in-depth Jazz Guitar knowledge with me. Autumn Leaves happens to be one of my favorite songs, so it is a great place to start. I am an accomplished guitarist, but my journey began with Country Music many years ago. It became a way of earning a living, so I stayed with it. Nevertheless, I like (and play) other types of music. Thanks again!

  • Danny Barcenas says:

    Thank you so much Sir Your lessons are inspiring novice guitarists like me More power to you

  • ElTíoChet says:

    Thanks for sharing all this great stuff. By now, I’m just a spanish bartender, but I’d like to contribute to your project by purchasing some books or classes. There are materials to study over years!

    Regards, Edu Ruiz

  • Marcello says:

    hi,

    thanks for your lesson, very useful!
    Is there a guitarpro version of this tab? it would help a lot the practice.
    I can find many version that use different tabs though.

    Thanks!

  • Jubston says:

    I love this and thank for the lesson… but measure 14 of the melody is missing the A (high e, fret 5). It’s in the music notation, just not the tab.

  • Dave says:

    This is nice. Would there be a way to get the tabs/voicings for the chords as well? Thanks,

  • jim@jimrolfe.com says:

    Looking forward to investigating your site. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • jabulani says:

    wow! incredible chordmelody of autumn leaves and single note melody solo with arpeggio and different Brazilian scale like harmonic minor

  • Antonio Trujillo says:

    Great job!!!

  • JJ says:

    Thanks,I’ve been looking for the best book for studying jazz,and this is it..

  • Joseph says:

    Thank you very much!

  • John Doerr says:

    I love how this Jazz plays so beautifully

  • Ingolf Reiche says:

    Great! I am a bassplayer, so.
    Can you help me there,also?
    Greetings, Ingo

  • Ian Kibugi says:

    You made this jazz piece very easy.
    Thanks alot for your creativity and efforts.

    • Namisio K Monari says:

      Hi Ian, i’m having trouble with jazz in general and was curious to see if you would like to meet. Your name tells me you must have Kenyan roots at least if you are not in the +254. Hola and let me know. Thanks.

  • Maddy says:

    Hi Dirk,
    I love your version of this classic, I’ve got a very big audition coming up and I’ve decided to perform this piece! I was wondering if you could email me an mp3 version of the backing track so I can use it in my audition.
    Many thanks,
    Maddy

    • Dirk Laukens says:

      Hi Maddy, there’s a download button on the audio player. Good luck with your audition!

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