Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise was composed by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1928 for an operetta (a kind of light opera) called The New Moon. Artie Shaw’s recording of Softly (1938) brought the song into the jazz world and made it into the popular jazz standard it is today.
In this guitar lesson, you will learn how to play the melody and how to improvise over the chord changes of Softly.
Softly is 32 bars long and has a classic AABA structure.
The harmony of the tune is fairly simple:
- The A parts are a repetition of minor II V I progressions in C.
- The B part starts on Ebmaj7, the relative major of C minor. It then goes to Fm7 via C7b9 and ends on G7b9, the dominant of Cm7.
- Emily Remler – East to Wes (1988)
- Jim Hall – Alone Together (1973)
- Chet Baker – Ballads for Two (1979)
- John Coltrane – Live! at the Village Vanguard (1962)
- Miles Davis – In Person Friday and Saturday Nights a the Blackhawk (2003)
- Stan Getz and Kenny Barron – People Time (2010)
- Sonny Rollins – A Night at the Village Vanguard (1958)
Softly – The Melody
Here are the lead sheet and guitar tabs for Softly’s melody.
Most of the melody is in the C natural minor scale, besides a chromatic embellishment here and there. The natural minor scale is also known as the Aeolian mode, the sixth of the guitar modes.
Listen & Play Along
Jazz Guitar Patterns
Here are a couple of jazz patterns I lifted out of the solo and that are worth memorizing and working out in different keys and positions.
Pattern #1 (Bar 40) – Minor
The first pattern uses a G minor triad over Cm7.
|Played over Cm7||5||b7||9|
Pattern #2 (Bar 43) – Minor
Pattern 2 is based around a Bbmaj7 chord, including the classic 1235 pattern in bar 2.
|Played over Cm7||b7||9||11||6|
Pattern #3 (Bar 45) – Minor
Pattern 3 is a classic Wes Montgomery lick and uses the same substitution as the previous pattern, Bbmaj7 over Cm7.
Pattern #4 (Bar 46) – Minor
Pattern 4 is based around the chord shape of an Ebmaj7 chord, which is a common substitution over minor chords.
|Played over Cm7||b3||5||b7||9|
Pattern #5 (Bar 48) – Major II V I
Pattern 5 is a classic bebop lick that uses a 3 to b9 motif over the dominant chord.
Pattern #6 (Bar 56) – Dominant
Pattern 6 uses a Bdim7 arpeggio over G7, bringing out the b9 sound.
|Played over G7||3||5||b7||b9|
Pattern #7 (Bar 58) – Minor
Pattern 7 uses two substitutions over Cm7 – Gm7 and Dm7.
|Played over Cm7||5||b7||9||11|
|Played over Cm7||9||11||6||1|
Softly – The Solo
Here is the complete solo over Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.
Listen & Play Along