This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the Form, Melody, Harmonic Structure, and Function of the classic jazz standard Autumn Leaves using contemporary voicings and improvisational approaches. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play the jazz standard Autumn Leaves. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today is tune Tuesday, and it's a good one. Today we are going to explore a jazz classic. And without doubt one of my all time favorite tunes, definitely in my top 10. In fact, ever since I began incorporating tune Tuesday into the jazz piano skills podcast monthly lineup, I have known in the back of my mind that this tune would be one of the very first tunes that we would study. There are literally countless reasons as to why this tune has become one of the pillars in the library of jazz literature. For starters, it's been recorded around 1400 times by mainstream and modern jazz musicians alone, and is ranked as the eighth most recorded tune BY JASMINE, just before all the things you are, which of course is another great tune that we will be dissecting soon, for sure. But today, we are going to focus on this beautiful standard that is often credited to the great Johnny Mercer, who actually did not write the tune. He did write the English lyrics, but not the music. So what tune is this? And as if you already didn't know, I am speaking of none other than the most recognized, possibly the most recognized and popular tune from the Great American Songbook, none other than autumn leaves. So you may be wondering if Johnny Mercer did not write this tune, then who did write autumn leaves? Well, the composer is certainly not as well known as the tune for sure. Autumn Leaves was written by the Hungarian French classical composer, Joseph cosma. And he actually wrote it for a ballet with no idea, absolutely no idea that it would become a perennial jazz standard. It's interesting when you stop to think about it, just how many tunes that have been written for other musical genres and settings that ended up becoming jazz standards. Autumn Leaves, certainly one of them, and was copyrighted in February of 1946. And then published for the first time in Paris, France, in 1947. hits a tune that literally gets better with age. So needless to say, I'm excited. I'm excited about tune Tuesday, autumn leaves. But before we jump in, to discover learning play autumn leaves, I want to take a second here at the beginning of this jazz piano lesson to personally invite all new first time listeners and of course all old time listeners to to join jazz piano skills. Simply go to jazz piano skills calm, select a membership plan, click on the join link, and welcome to our jazz piano community. It's that easy. As a jazz piano skills member, you will have instant and full access to all of the educational content, resources, support all of the educational content and resources that are continually growing each and every week. Here's what you can immediately access and begin using to maximize your musical growth as a jazz piano skills member. Number one, you'll have access to all the educational podcast guides the illustration The lead sheets the play alongs. Number two, you'll have access to all of the interactive courses, which make up a sequential and self paced jazz piano curriculum. Number three, you'll have access to the weekly masterclass that I host every Thursday evening, live for one hour online with me every Thursday evening. Number four, you'll have access to the jazz piano skills, private community, skill specific and course specific forums. Plus, number five, you have access to personal and professional support 24 seven, literally, I'm around all the time, all the time. So I'm here to help. I say this every week because it's so important, I simply cannot stress it enough. If you are indeed serious about developing the jazz piano skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist, then you should with out question, become a jazz piano skills member and begin taking advantage of all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support. There are several membership plans to choose from. So you can definitely find one that is going to be a good fit for you. You can become a member for a month just simply try it out if you'd like. There's also a quarterly membership plan. There is an annual membership plan and of course, there is even a lifetime membership. All plans will grant you full access to all of the educational content and materials resources and professional support. check everything out at jazz piano skills calm. And if you have any questions please let me know. I am happy to spend some time with you by phone, email speakpipe. Happy to spend time with you to help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's dive in to tune Tuesday. Today you are going to discover the classic jazz standard autumn leaves, you're going to learn traditional major and minor 251 progressions and you are going to play autumn leaves exercises to help you develop improvisational skills. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, if you're a beginner and intermediate player, and advanced player or even if you are an experienced professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring the great jazz standard autumn leaves to be very beneficial to begin all jazz piano skills members need to pause this episode right now. And as always, take a few minutes and print the podcast guides, the illustrations and the lead sheets. Make sure your printer tray is loaded. There's quite a bit to print. always important to have these in front of you as we go through the lesson. As I always say, and As the old saying goes, a picture is worth 1000 words. The illustrations in the lead sheets along with the play alongs that I produce for each jazz panel skills podcast episode are designed to illuminate various aspects of the essential jazz piano skills that we are about to explore. So take a second right now and print them out. Okay, now that you have the podcast guides in front of you, I want to walk you through them. Let's begin with the illustrations. There are 11 keyboard illustrations, one for each chord found in autumn leaves. With each one of the keyboard illustrations I have literally mapped out the appropriate scale and arpeggio for each chord. I want you to notice that the scales are notated using orange x's, while the arpeggios are marked with green O's. So basically, you have in front of you the X's and O's of autumn leaves. And not only that you now have in your hands, a viable blueprint, if you will to us and that you should ask literally use for mapping out the chord scale arpeggio relationships of any tune that you are wanting to learn, not just kind of know, but truly learn. And there is a huge difference when it comes to tune study, which I think you already know. You'll also notice that I have included the academic mode name for each scale, so you can identify the origins of each scale for each chord. It's always nice to know where the chords are coming from. So you can validate the scale choice selected for improvising. Finally, I have included 10 essential tips to help you efficiently and effectively study and practice autumn leaves. I want to strongly encourage you to spend time with these illustrations at and away from the piano. Definitely have them at your fingertips, and within eyesight. while practicing at the piano. I use these illustrations as quick as a quick reference. That's why I've designed them right. That's how I've designed them as a quick reference. They will help you maintain focus and save you a ton of time and frustration when dissecting and studying autumn leaves. Okay, so that is a quick a very quick run through of the illustrations. Now let's take a look at the lead sheets. There are 30 Yes 30 lead sheets, so take the time to count them and make sure you have all 30 printed and ready to go. The first lead sheet is autumn leaves. I have notated the melody very simplistically, for study purposes only. Remember, you play melodies like you're singing them and not like you're reading them right. A lead sheet is not intended to be treated like a classical piece of music, where you play every note as melodically and rhythmically written. The second lead sheet is simply the chord changes the chord changes alone of autumn leaves, while the third lead sheet gives you the harmonic function of each chord in autumn leaves. Simply invaluable. The fourth lead sheet musically notates every scale and mode name for each chord found in autumn leaves. Again, invaluable. The fifth and sixth lead sheets deal with voicings the fifth lead sheet as you can see, I have mapped out the left hand shell voicings that I am going to be playing today in all of the demos. While the sixth lead sheet, I give you all of the two handed voicings that I'm going to be playing today at all of the demos. So without doubt the first six lead sheets are gold, spend time with them. And again, begin getting in a habit of producing these types of lead sheets for every tune. You are truly wanting to discover learn and play that you are truly wanting to learn right to add to your jazz repertoire. Now the next 12 lead sheets that you have in your hands, gives you the first autumn leaves exercise that I will be playing today. The exercise is laid out in all 12 keys. It's a great exercise that incorporates both the major and the minor 251 progression, which is basically the whole point of autumn leaves. Okay, now the next 12 lead sheets notates the second autumn leaves exercise and again is laid out for you there in all 12 keys. I'm including this exercise in the lead sheets is kind of a kind of a bonus. It represents a very important to measure segment of autumn leaves that uses either traditional circle movement or can be played using chromatic movement. Once you apply tritone substitutions I won't have time to play this exercise Today however, the very same approach I model when playing the first exercise can and should be applied to exercise too, as well. Like the illustrations, I strongly encourage you to have all of these lead sheets, sitting on your piano and ready for action. I always want to encourage you to study the lead sheets, away from the piano as well. I have said this a million times to students over the past 30 years, my best practicing has always been done away from the instrument. This is this is when you can truly sort everything out conceptually and adequately and properly prepare for the physical work you're going to do once you do approach your instrument, the piano. Remember, conceptual understanding drives physical development. Bottom line, you cannot play what you do not know. It's that simple. Study the illustrations and the lead sheets, study them and study them away from the instrument. I also want to take a second to provide you with some insight regarding the play alongs that you can and of course should be using as well when practicing. There are 72 play along tracks that I have provided for this jazz piano skills podcast lesson on autumn leaves 70 to play along tracks, six for each key. There are two play along tracks for exercise one, one using a Latin basa groove and the other one using a traditional swing or Bebop groove. Likewise, there are two play alongs play long tracks for exercise two again one using a Latin basa groove while the other one uses a traditional swing or bop groove. The last two play alongs are simply autumn leaves in its entirety. Again, one in a Latin basa groove and the other using a traditional swing or bop groove. Now I preach quite a bit that when practicing and learning a tune, you should always explore various tempos and grooves. Well, I thought I would actually practice what I preach today and do exactly that with autumn leaves. And autumn leaves is a great tune to model this approach. So listen up all you jazz piano skills members, you have access to these amazing educational resources. All three podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the play alongs not only for this podcast episode, exploring autumn leaves, but for every podcast episode. So use them, study them, practice with them. They will maximize your musical and jazz growth I guarantee it. Okay, now that we have gone through the podcast guys, and we have them in front of us. Let's start by listening to autumn leaves. I am going to play two versions of autumn leaves. The first treatment I am going to play today of autumn leaves is going to use a Latin Bossa group. I use this kind of treatment a lot. When I play autumn leaves on gigs I just gives it a refreshing twist. Simply because autumn leaves is typically played using a traditional swing groove. So let me bring in the ensemble and let me play a couple courses of autumn leaves and abasa groove. Let's check it out and then we'll talk about it. Okay, here we go. Now that now that is fun What a great two. As you notice I was playing using the Classic Fender Rhodes sound. I love that sound is I actually love that sound as much as I love autumn leaves. And maybe it's because it takes me down memory lane and allows me to relive my teen years growing up in the 70s I'm aging myself here. But you know what growing up in the 70s the Fender Rhodes was the electric piano sound of the day it was the electric piano of the day and every gigging musician toted one around not not bad memories not so pleasant. They were some very heavy keyboards, especially if you had the Rhodes 88 suitcase. The Rhodes 88 suitcase model man that was a beast. So Okay, back to autumn leaves. Now, the mark of any great tune is that you can play it at virtually any sample and apply any groove and it always sounds great. Autumn Leaves certainly fulfills this requirement. And as you just heard, sounds great as a Bossa. Now let's check it out as it is typically played using a straight ahead swing, kind of Bebop groove at a much faster tempo. So with that being said, I'm excited to bring the ensemble back in and play for you a traditional swing in autumn leaves. Here we go. Let's check it out. See, what did I tell you? Great tunes can be played at various tempos with various grooves, and they always sound great. Again, you want to get in a habit of exploring all tunes using this approach. Not only will you thoroughly learn the tune, your development of time, feel, phrasing, articulation, they will all be properly developed any evolve, right? So important because these are elements of music these are elements of jazz that quite honestly no teacher can teach you, you must experience them in order to properly develop them. Wow. So as we embark upon autumn leaves, and utilize a couple of very different and popular grooves, right the Bossa and the swing groove. To explore the scales, arpeggios and voicings for autumn leaves, many questions will indeed pop up. And this is precisely why I am committed to providing all jazz piano skills members immediate, personal and professional support. If you're listening to this podcast through the jazz piano skills website, which I hope you are, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voicemail message with your questions. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click and the two of us are interacting and engaging with one another. Send me a voice message with your questions and I will send you a voice message back with answers. Very cool technology, be sure to use it. If you're listening on iheart, radio, Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music, or any of the other popular podcast directories. You can use the link speakpipe.com jet forward slash jazz piano skills. that URL again is speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills. And you can use that URL to send me a quick message if you are a scaredy cat. And again, I say this every week because I know there's scaredy cats out there that are afraid to send me a voice message. Right? If you're one of those, those scaredy cats, then you can post your question in the private jazz panel skills forum. And let the jazz panel skills community help you. If you prefer, you can join the jazz panel skills master class on Thursday evenings, right? Every Thursday evening. 8pm Central time. I am live using the zoom platform which I know you're all very familiar with. Join me Thursday evenings 8pm Central. The link is posted at the jazz pal skills website and get your questions answered face to face. Okay, Thursday evenings 8pm. Central bottom line I provide you with so many ways as a jazz piano skills member to get help. So definitely take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide you with the very best jazz piano lessons, the very best jazz piano educational materials and the very best jazz piano support that's available anywhere today. Okay, the most important thing to know about autumn leaves is that it is built entirely on alternating major and minor 251 progressions. And not only that, but the alternating major and minor 251 progressions share the exact same key signature. In other words, they are what we call in music theory, the relative major and minor keys. So for example if you are playing autumn leaves in the key of G minor, which we are doing today, then the relative major key is B flat major both G minor and B flat major, which are an error of all of a six apart, share the exact same key signature to flats, B flat, and E flat. Now, that's that's a lot of theory that I would strongly recommend studying away from the piano. For today, simply know that we are going to be looking at 251 for the key of B flat major, C minor, F dominant B flat major. And the 251 progression for G minor, which is going to be a minor seven, flat five or a half diminished. These seven altered flat nine flat 13 and G minor seven. These two progressions are what the entire tune of autumn leaves is based upon. So it is with that in mind that I developed exercise number one, so grab your lead sheets and get that exercise number one and pull it out for the key of G minor for the key of B flat, right. So you're gonna see on that with that exercise, it's an eight measure exercise for measures deal with the 251 and the major key. four measures deal with the 251 in the minor key. Now I want you to also grab the lead sheet that has the three note shell voicings, the left hand three note shell voicings. Okay, so now I want to practice my shell voicings using this exercise, right. So I'm going to be using my primary shell voicings for my minor for my dominant for my major, and then also for the half diminished, and the altered dominant and the minor for the minor 251. not going to do anything fancy, I'm just going to experiment with these voicings over the 2514 major over the 2514 minor. So now that you have both those lead sheets in front of you the exercise and in the shell voicings, I'm gonna want to demonstrate how I practice this. So let me bring the ensemble and and let's take a listen. I'm going to run through this exercise several times. Here we go. Let's check it out. Very nice, right what a great way to get comfortable playing shell voicings for 251 Major 251 minor. And of course you have lead sheets there for all 12 keys. And so I would encourage you to practice your shell voicings in this manner using this exercise and you are covering a lot of ground. Again, all your two five ones for major, all your two five ones, your minor two, five ones. Okay. So now we're going to do the exact same thing keep exercise one in front of you, we're going to do the exact same thing for the two handed voicings right. So now grab that lead sheet where I have the two handed voicings mapped out. And again, you'll notice that I use five note shapes structures when I played two handed voicings two in the left two notes in the left three notes in the right. So now I'm going to play that exact same exercise, I'm going to use that basa groove again really nice and relaxed. And I'm going to play through my major 251, my minor 251 and I'm going to explore these two handed voicings. So let's check this out. Bring the ensemble back in. Let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go. Nice right, again, what a great way to practice your 251 major, your 251 minor, while at the same time getting to hand two handed voicings under our belt as well, right. And again, you have lead sheets there for all 12 keys mapping out the major 251 and the minor 251 for all 12 major and relative minor keys. Fantastic. Okay, so now we've looked at left hand shell voicings, we've looked at two handed voicings. Now let's turn our attention to scales. So keep exercise one in front of you. And now just grab the lead sheet with the scales notated mapped out. And we're going to keep this simple, I'm going to think in terms of ascending and descending motion. And I'm going to play my major scale over my 251 for the major key starting on C, right, so it's gonna sound something like that I'm gonna play from the root to the nine, five, and then I resolve, right, so again, nice, right? So I get my two, five, just nice ascending descending motion. And I'm using the B flat major scale starting on C, I'm trying to avoid getting wrapped around all the the mode names Dorian and Mixolydian. And Ionian right, they're all the same scale, it's the B flat major scale. So I'm using an entry point of the C for the C minor, I'm ascending up to the ninth, and then descending down to the ninth of B flat major through resolve it, okay. And I'm going to do the same thing for the minor 251. I'm not going to try to get wrapped around the modes, the harmonic minor scale the all the theory, you can study that and you can see that on the lead sheets, you can study that away from the instrument. But right now I'm just going to play that scale that minor harmonic minor scale starting on the root of a half diminished. Five resolving to the one to the G minor, right again. Really pretty one more time, so I got the half diminished. Five, what the G minor. Okay, again, trying to just keep it very simple thinking in terms of ascending and descending motion, with the entry point being that half diminished, right? The entry point either being the minor for the major 251 or the half diminished for the minor 251. I think it will make sense once you hear it. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Right, I told you it makes sense. Once you hear it, my focus is really getting acclimated to the shapes and sounds for that 251 and B flat major and for that to five one and G minor. And I would encourage you to do The same thing to apply the same approach for the remaining 11 keys utilizing the lead sheets that you have there practice it the same way they are. The first and most important goal is to get used to the shapes and sounds of the major and the minor 251. Okay, so now we're going to do the exact same exercise again. And this time, we're going to focus on arpeggios. We're going to continue with our sandbar swing groove that we just utilized for the scales, we're going to use utilize the same swing groove for the arpeggios. And we're going to take the same approach where we're thinking in terms of ascending and descending sound, starting with our minor chord for the 251 and major and our half diminished chord for the 251 and minor. And we're going to arpeggiate through the entire sound. So we're going to arpeggiate from the root all the way through the 13th. So for the minor, it's going to sound something like this all the way up through the 13th all seven notes, right, and then we're come right back down through the dominant through the exact same sound and then resolve it to the one very pretty. Again, very pretty sound. Now we're going to do the exact same thing for the minor 251. So it's gonna sound something like this a half diminished. Come right back down through that sound on the dominant. resolve it to the G minor. Hatim it's a very haunting and beautiful sound. Listen again. Beautiful. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's listen to this in context, I'm going to do exercise one, I'm going to play through to five one for the major 251 for the minor using arpeggio motion, ascending and descending. Let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go. Wow, how cool is that? Right, using scale and arpeggio motion through our major 251 through our minor 251. What a great way not only to learn autumn leaves, but to learn jazz piano skills that you need to have a command of because these major and minor two five ones are laced through all of jazz literature. In fact, there's no avoiding it right, you have to confront major minor, two, five ones, and get comfortable with them in all 12 keys. And that's why I've provided you lead sheets in all 12 keys of the major and minor two, five ones. But now let's have a little fun and do a combo, right. Let's put our scales and arpeggios together. But before we do that, I want to encourage all of you jazz piano skills members, if you haven't done so are ready to take a look at the jazz piano skills, courses, the interactive courses they are fantastic. And I'm getting ready to release here in the next week, two weeks most types the course dealing with the 13th sound that we just arpeggiated through on the major and minor two, five ones. The courses Make up a sequential curriculum that use a self paced format. To help you thoroughly study the essential jazz piano skills that you need to command. In order to become an accomplished jazz piano pianist, right, you have to have a command of these skills. Each course is packed with detailed instructions and illustrations, in depth educational talks, interactive learning, media training, traditional guides and worksheets, high definition video demonstrations of me playing the skills and all 12 keys, play along tracks, lead sheets, and of course professional and personal educational support as well. And mobile access easy mobile access to all the courses in the lessons using any of your smart devices, whether it's going to be your tablet or your phone, your laptop, your desktop, computers, your TV and yes, even your watch. So check out the jazz piano skills courses at jazz piano skills.com. Okay, so now let's put our scales and arpeggios together, we're going to keep it simple, I'm going to keep thinking in terms of ascending and descending motion again, right. This time though, I'm going to use scale motion to ascend, I'm going to use arpeggio motion to descend through the dominant chord, and then resolve it to my one chord. So it's going to sound something like this scale. arpeggio all the way through to the one chord. Listen to that again. Nice, and I'm going to do the exact same thing on the minor sound. So I'm going to start on that I mean, a minor 251. So I'm going to start on that half diminished, I'm going to use scale motion. And then arpeggio motion through that dominant sound, resolving to the minor, very pretty, again. So you're going to see when we start combining scale and arpeggio, motion ascending and descending and just play scale and arpeggio motion, nothing fancy. It's going to sound very jazz, like and very improvisational. Alright, so again, the objective here is to get used to the shapes and sounds of the major 251 and the minor 251. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let me model this. Let me let me play this for you and see what you think. And then we'll talk about it. Okay, here we go. Let's check it out. Very, very cool. What a great way to practice right, we've practiced our left hand shell voicings, we've practice our two handed voicings, we've practiced our scales, we've practiced our arpeggios, we've put them all together over a major 251 over a minor 251. That is, is the song autumn leaves. Right. And beyond that, not only are we learning the makeup of autumn leaves, but we are learning jazz panel skills that are needed to play countless number of jazz standards and jazz literature, right because these major two five ones and these minor two five ones you cannot escape. You must be familiar with them and be familiar with them in all 12 keys. And again, you have the lead sheets for all 12 keys in front of you. One other quick note, I was using ascending descending motion, right. You've could have gone descending ascending. You could have used arpeggio scale instead of scale or pitch In other words, there's a lot of different combinations. There's a lot of different ways to be creative to explore the shapes and sounds. So do that, be creative use various combinations to create various motion and various sounds. Okay. Now, a quick note on exercise number two, there is a to measure segment and autumn leaves in the last eight measures, where it literally goes 3625 write kind of a three six to five motion, although it's not really 3625 in the, in the context of autumn leaves, but it's circle motion is what I'm getting at right G minor to C seven F minor, to B flat seven. And it is played using most jazzers. You'll find it both ways. You'll find jazz musicians who will play it in traditional circle motion G to C to F to B flat, you'll find jazz musicians who were like to play the tritone subs to create half step motion. So they're going to be going G minor to G to F minor to E seven. Right so they create this nice half step motion. So exercise two deals with both the circle motion and the half step motion of this two measure segment that is found within autumn leaves. Practice that those two patterns those two progressions in the very same way that we just practice the major 251 and the minor 251. Again, the circle motion and the half step motion This is laced through all of jazz literature as well. So get familiar with them. And again, you have lead sheets in all 12 keys for this exercise. Wow, we have covered a lot of ground in a very short period of time. And I certainly hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring autumn leaves to be insightful, and of course beneficial don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz piano skills masterclass. 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode The discuss autumn leaves in more detail, and to answer any questions that you may have about the study of jazz in general. Also, as a jazz piano skills member, be sure to use the educational podcast guides not only for this podcast episode, but for every podcast episode, every podcast lesson that I teach. And also be sure to check out the jazz piano skills courses that I've mentioned as well. All of these educational resources and materials are there to help maximize your musical growth. Likewise, be sure that you are an active participant of the jazz piano skills forums. Get out there, introduce yourself and make some new friends get involved. As always, you can reach me by phone at 972-380-8050 my extension is 211 by email, Dr. Lawrence d. r. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found on the jazz piano skills website. So many ways to get in touch with me. Please reach out with any questions that you have. Well, that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano