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Autumn Leaves (Jazz Standard)

The Jazz Guitar Lessons

C'est une chanson, qui nous ressemble

Autumn Leaves is a popular song written in 1945 and the original lyrics are in French! Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyric in 1947 and it's since been a pop and jazz hit in both languages!

It's a very popular jazz standard for beginner's as it's harmonically pretty simple but it's a great one to develop and learn things like chord melody and walking bass!

1. Listening

Before starting work on the song, you really should try and listen to a few versions, particularly vocal versions, I think listening to one with a lyric really helps you understand the phrasing of the melody. Of course some songs don't have words, but if a song has words, find some vocal recordings.

Check out how they all vary the melody a bit, and remember when you play it you don't have to play it 'exactly as the book says', in fact if you do, you are missing the point!

Vocal Versions:
Eva Cassidy (not really a jazz version, but it's beautiful).
Frank Sinatra (If Frank sings something, it's worth checking out, legend).
Nat King Cole (A version from his own TV show, what an incredible voice).
Yves Montand - Les Feuilles Mortes (Just in case you wanna hear the French version!)
Sarah Vaughan (This lady is just amazing, great guitar playing on it too, it's all scat improv vocals)

Instrumental Versions:
Cannonball Adderly (Amazing band, Miles on trumpet, a superb version, possibly my favourite!).
Joe Pass (He's one of my all time favourite guitarists, and he's a typically incredible solo version!)
Barney Kessel (Incredible guitarist, great chord melody at the start and then some great improvisations).
Stan Getz (Wonderful tone and some really tasty simple twists to the melody and well steal-able lines!)

2. Learn The Chords - Video Lesson (JA-520)

Remember to start real simple and learn the root notes and chord types and be real solid with them before getting into any substitutions!


3. Learn The Melody - Video Lesson (JA-521)

Make sure you memorise the melody in one position. Of course later it's a good idea to be able to play it all over the neck wherever you want, but that will come later, first really nail it in one position.


4. Harmonic Analysis - Video Lesson (JA-522)

Next up is understanding what is going on with the song harmonically, looking at the key changes and what scales would be played over each chord. Here's the PDF File of the Tip Sheet for you too!


The Form: A B
Most usual Key: E Minor (G Major Scale), also common in G Minor (Bb Major Scale)

Am7 D7 Gmaj7 Cmaj7
VII / II of Em III7 / V of Em VI (I of Em)  
F#m7b5 B7 Em Em
Am7 D7 Gmaj7 Cmaj7
VII / II of Em III7 / V of Em VI (I of Em)  
F#m7b5 B7 Em Em
VII / II of Em III7 / V of Em VI (I of Em)  
F#m7b5 B7 Em Em
II V I  
Am7 D7 Gmaj7 Gmaj7
VII / II of Em III7 / V of Em II / V in D Maj II / V in C Maj
F#m7b5 B7 Em7 A7 Dm7 G7
VII / II of Em III7 / V of Em VI (I of Em)  
F#m7b5 B7 Em Em


* Note - the chords shown above are from my own composition "Fall Off Trees" which happens to have the same chord changes as Autumn Leaves, but as they use the same harmonies it's worth looking at here!


5. Exploring

Now this bit I can't help you with much because it's better if you do it on your own. But here's some basic things you should be exploring:

1. Try playing the melody in different parts of the neck (different positions)
2. Try out some chord substitutions, both extensions and substitutions and seeing what works.
3. Try using only arpeggios to make an improvised solo.
4. Try using only scales to make an improvised solo.
5. Try playing the song in other keys.
6. Transcribe as many solos for this song you find THAT YOU REALLY LIKE (I don't recommend wasting time transcribing and learning solos that you don't like, it's a waste of time).
7. Try using the licks you steal from your transcriptions and mixing in with your improvisations.
8. Try making up your own chord melody (chords and melody at the same time).
9. ?


6. Walking Bass (JA-523)

As an extra for this tune I've added in a Walking Bass lesson for my song "Fall Off Trees" (chords above) which as it has the same chords as Autumn Leaves makes a useful study at this point.

Download: You really need the TAB for this - so here's the PDF File and the GuitarPro file for you!



You'll find the chart for this tune in both of these Real Books!

Real Book 1

The Real Book Vol. 1 in C

This is the "real" real book. The original one, well not quite, it's the slightly newer version that the one 'everyone uses' which is the 5th edition - but this one is LOADS better, seriously, loads better. I bought this 6th Edition after starting this course and wish I'd bought it sooner!

Buy at
Buy at

New Real Book

The New Real Book in C

This is a "new" edition with lyrics and more modern jazz classics and fusion tunes - compliments the above real book, both are recommended.

Buy at
Buy at






Lesson ID: JA-520