Jazz Guitar Standards – Autumn Leaves – Phrase development

Autumn Leaves has a lot of ii-V-I progressions in both G major and E minor (minor ii-V-i) so you might be tempted to plug in your favorite jazz guitar licks, especially if you’re a beginner. It’s great to be able to play something, anything over a jazz guitar standard especially if you come from a rock/blues background. Once you have fun plugging in your favorite licks, the next step would be to provide more cohesion to your solo. One way to do this is to repeat the lick that you played over Am7-D7-Gmaj when you play F#m7b5-B7-Em. When I say repeat I don’t mean note for note but tweak it in a way that fits the minor progression. Luckily G major and E minor are related (E minor is the relative minor of G major).

Also we want to work on playing over the bar line instead of playing two separate phrases over each progression. So adding a few notes during the C major bar approaching the F#m7b5 is a great way to start. So enough talk, let’s get to the phrase!

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The phrase starts with an ascending A minor arpeggio then continues to F# over the D7 (the 3rd). The notes over D7 basically outline a D7 arpeggio with the root being approached from a chromatic step above and below. Then we hit the B over G major7 (the 3rd) ending on the root (G). Over the minor progression we approach the F# with a descending scale (over Cmaj7) then play a similar phrase but this time encircling the D# since we’re playing a B7 (the 3rd). Then we land on G over the Em7 (the 3rd).

This phrase is easily explainable as it uses mostly arpeggios (chord tones) and we repeat the melodic idea to give the listener something to grab onto. Playing one line after another that aren’t related can get really boring. Try changing the notes over Cmajor7 to approach the F# note (eg. from below, triad instead of scalar approach, etc). Also try changing the ending phrase over Em7.

Also take small pieces of the lick and use them in shorter phrases before playing the full lick. In other words, take some essence of the lick and use it in other parts of the solo, it could be as small as an interval or idea (eg. chromatic encircling, rhythm, etc).

I have another example over Blue Bossa where I create a short, melodic phrase and repeat the idea.

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