Autumn Leaves is one of the most popular jazz standards on record, in jam sessions, and on pick-up gigs, 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 jam session or gig, you never know when you’ll be called up to play the head in or out of a tune.
This is why learning the melody is an important part of studying any jazz standard, and why it’s included here in this Autumn Leaves lesson.
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 with this melody and solo, learn 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 Scales
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 scale), although you might sound boring after a while.
G Major Scale
Here are the notes of the G major scale:
|G Major Scale||G||A||B||C||D||E||F#|
Here are the notes of the G major scale on the fretboard:
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 pentatonic scale but has an added blue note.
|E Minor Blues Scale||E||G||A||A#||B||D|
Here is a common fingering:
To get your solos sounding more interesting, you’re going to need some other scales as well.
The Harmonic Minor Scale
Over the B7 and E7 chords, you can play the harmonic minor scale (E harmonic minor over B7, A harmonic minor over E7).
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|
Here’s a common position of the E harmonic minor scale:
Autumn Leaves Backing Track
Here’s the backing track for this lesson:
Autumn Leaves Melody
Here’s the melody arrangement:
Autumn Leaves Solo Study Chorus 1 [0:51 in the video]
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.
This is a B7b9 arpeggio:
Here I use a Gmaj7 arpeggio:
Autumn Leaves Solo Study Chorus 2 [1:41 in the video]
Here I use the Cmaj7 and F#m7b5 arpeggio: