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.

Autumn Leaves Video

Autumn Leaves Jazz Guitar Lesson - Melody & Solo

 

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 Scale G A B C D E F#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

 

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 Scale E G A A# B D
1 b3 4 #4 5 b7

 

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 Scale E F# G A B C D#
Played over B7 11 5 13 b7 1 b9 3

 

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:

 

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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.

The voicings used in this arrangement are rootless chords. By removing the root and only playing on the higher strings, you don’t get in the way of the bass guitar.

 

Autumn Leaves rootless chord voicings

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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71 thoughts on “Autumn Leaves Melody & Solo Study”

  1. Bill S

    Thank you for this great lesson! Would the chord names as you’ve shown them here, be the right ones to plug into Band In A Box to yield a backing track that is (more or less) the same as you provided here? And in case you’re feeling generous ;-), what BIAB ‘style’ did you use to create it?

  2. Anonymous

    Hey what about melodic minor on Gm6? Would be nice to cover that.

  3. Anonymous

    my question will maybe sound weird but is there a g- version of the amazing solo ?
    tx

  4. PAUL

    Over the B7 chord in the melody I see C#. It looks like melody uses Melodic minor. Is that correct? Would be melodic minor an option for improvisation?
    Thx

  5. Christian

    great. good job. I try to practice on your video. but I don’t understand why you play C sharp at bar 52-53 to help me. what did you think? which scale or arpeggio?

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hi Christian, the Dorian sixth on Em7 is the result of the chromatic voice leading that starts on bar 50. E goes to D# at the end of bar 50, goes to D at the end of bar 51, to C# a the end of bar 52, and finally to C in bar 54.

  6. Chris

    I love your guitar tone here, it’s so smooth. Are you playing with flatwound strings? My Ibanez JSM20 with roundwounds doesn’t sound quite as nice. Great lesson, thank you!

  7. Mob

    Great illustrations great jazz lines super nice simple chord progressions love the site

  8. Gianluca

    Hello, very beginner here. I cannot understand how the 3 notes voicing is built in the first part. measure 2 A-7 and A-6? Measure4 G+7 C+7? Measure 6(???) then I stopped because I don’t understand. With what criteria you choose the voicing in the measure and how do you build them? can you help me please? Thanks!

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hi Gianluca, these are called rootless chords. I added a diagram and some text above the sheet music of the melody that explains this in more detail.

      1. DAVID FORESTER

        Good answer, those diagrams really helped me understand the arrangement. You can be proud that you are introducing so many musicians to this wonderful genre of guitar music. Thank you, Dirk. You have a cogent way of teaching that really works for me.

  9. Dreyfus Froe

    This is a great site! I am 84 years old and still learning as beginner in Jazz. I appreciate your sharing!

  10. Emmanuel

    Thank you Dirk. Really appreciate your passion for jazz education 🙏🏻

    1. Dirk Laukens

      You’re welcome, Emmanuel, thanks for the feedback!

  11. Victor Sacramento

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

    1. Dirk Laukens

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

  12. Doug Hughes

    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!

  13. Danny Barcenas

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

  14. ElTíoChet

    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

  15. Marcello

    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!

  16. Jubston

    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.

  17. Dave

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

  18. jim@jimrolfe.com

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

  19. jabulani

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

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

  21. John Doerr

    I love how this Jazz plays so beautifully

  22. Ingolf Reiche

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

  23. Ian Kibugi

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

    1. Namisio K Monari

      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.

  24. Maddy

    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

    1. Dirk Laukens

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

  25. Rudy qualls

    The educational format is outstanding. Often played this without thinking of the notes I was playing nor the possibilities by using variations on arpeggios within chords such as leaving out the 6th and the 2nd. I will go back and work on this again incorporating your ideas. I wish I was younger again and you were my teacher. Great job, Fantastic analysis and especially the communication format broken into these segments

    1. Bob Newell

      Well as to being younger it’s never too late, I just turned 70 and am starting to learn some jazz guitar (after playing folk and classical in previous years). This is a great lesson and I really appreciate it and the rest of the site content.

      1. Dreyfus Froe

        70?… You are just a youngster!!…I’m starting this Jazz stuff at 83 and Loving it!! Now if I just had a little more time…L.O.L

  26. clinton albertus

    This sounds really great, how do I get my guitar to sound like yours?

  27. Peter Davis

    Great site. How do you get that nice fluty sound?

  28. Ric

    I have just downloaded your free e-book and subsequently listened to your rendition of Autumn Leaves.
    I loved your performance – you have a lovely touch.
    I find both your website and your e-book to be exemplary and I find your generosity in sharing your knowledge and experience most humbling.
    Much respect and thanks!

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hey Ric, thanks for the feedback, glad to hear you like our lessons!

  29. shiro

    Dear sirs,
    I’m not able to grab stream of chord of any tunes, and sound of chords though. This could help improving my jazz guitar skills? I’ve beenplaying the guitar in a local jazz band for four years. Taking any solos and playing any conping are not impossible for me so far. Keeping the time with chords arranged by our instructor is the only one that I can play.

  30. jake

    thanks for a great lesson Dirk. very helpful indeed. regards Jake

    1. Dirk Laukens

      You’re welcome Jake, thanks for the feedback!

  31. Francesco

    Thank you! It is one of the most “easy to follow” lesson i’ve ever seen

  32. john

    Is there a printable .pdf option for this lesson? Apologies if it’s here and I missed it.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hey John, I just added a printable pdf at the bottom of the post…

  33. Henning Kock

    Thank you for your material. You are great talents.
    I like well-known and audience popular jazz standards with your different kinds of improvisations (and of cours the improvisations can be used partly for most other songs.) Yes, please keep doing this.
    I even use your excellent material for my piano and vibraphone.
    Best regards.
    Henning Kock, Gibson ES175D Natural, Yamaha keyboards, Jenco vibraphone.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the feedback Henning!

  34. NIcolás

    Thank you very much Dirk. This is amazing…

  35. Stuart

    Thanks for the lesson! I’ve been tiptoeing around Autumn Leaves for a while just sticking to the triads to make the changes, so it was good to see a suggestion of flavour using the Harmonic Minor. You mention you use it over bar 63 in Solo Study Chorus 1 but the first three notes as tabbed out are a semitone lower than expected: D – D# – D rather than D# – E – D#.

    1. Leo

      Yeah I have the same question as well. The first two notes in 63rd bar is a semitone down from the E harmonic scale. They sound really good but maybe shouldn’t technically be called E harmonic minor here.

  36. Xwpis ONOMA

    Thank you for the transcription, I have been seeing this tune mostly in Bb (e.g. Gm leading into the starting Cm) and a few times in G as here. Which is the original version? Also, how do I download the backing track as an audio file, i.e. mp3, etc. Thank you so much!

    1. Jerry

      The original is in G minor I believe.

  37. Aidan

    Wow, what a delightful rendition. Truly inspiring playing, a joy to listen to. this is the jazz I want to play.
    Already enjoying the introductory exercises in the “easy guide to chord melody”, at a much appreciated 50 % off. Thanks for all the highly valued free stuff guys, especially the thorough studies like autumn leaves. This one’s for the repetoire, it’s only a matter of lots of enjoyable practice.

  38. steve

    Hats off and cheers to you for giving up this project to work on !! I am a fan of your wonderful lessons!! Although I am not a big fan of modes and scales I understand how it is important, thanks much!

  39. Randall

    I have been wanting to learn this song, and I can’t wait to do so now! Heck Yeah!!! -=80)

  40. Rob

    Excellent, A pleasure to follow and play. Keep doing this.

  41. Charlie Meyer

    Great lesson. Thanks for presenting in a way that’s understanding and attainable.
    Cheers.
    Charlie

    1. Dirk Laukens

      You’re welcome Charlie, thanks for the feedback!

  42. Poppa Madison

    Great Job Dirk, with this now legendary song.

    I regret abandoning to the rubbish bin, all the old original London U.K. 1940’s -1950’s band sheets I once had which included this and many of the old hits complete with guitar chords etc. They would have been something I could share with you as well as them likely to have been worth a packet of money today ! The pages used were half A4 in size and I used to wonder at how those in the band could see them to read them when actually playing. Oh me Oh my ! I was young and ignorant of music then and had no idea what I was denying myself for the future !
    To top it all, the beautiful Hofner Committee guitar inlaid with Mother of Pearl fretboard markers, which I bought in the 1960’s in London’s West End music shops enclave, suffered the indignity of a broken neck when I inadvertently left it on the double bed in our caravan while travelling! It was damaged beyond economical repair and today would have been worth a great deal as a collectors item if I still had it.

    I still have the one 1969 colour photo of myself and my duo singing partner Chris Bird showing me holding my Hofner Committee and Chris holding the Hofner Beatle guitar with closely matching colour and adornments which I bought in Sydney Australia, and taught her to strum along to some of our songs with.

    Cheers

    Poppa – Brisbane — Australia

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the feedback, Poppa!

  43. Cliff

    Excellent arrangement! Tasty solo! Thank you!

  44. Matt

    This is a very well put together lesson at just the right level for me. Starting with the chords and melody and then introducing the solo and scales makes it easy to follow.

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Thanks for the feedback Matt!

    2. brian

      Hi Dirk, well done, lovely Arrangement!

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