Improvising over Autumn leaves with guide tones

Hello & welcome to todays lesson on improvisation. After I received many questions about Autumn leaves and how to start improvising over it, I decided to help you with a short introduction to guide tones. Lets start with the underlying harmony of the A-section of the tune:

Am7 / D7 / Gmaj7 / Cmaj7

F#m7b5 / B7 / Em / E m

Knowing the underlying harmony is the first and vital step to start improvising. Next, we have to identify the root, third, fifth and seventh of the chords. For those who don´t know how to do that, please find a good private teacher and talk to him about chords and notes in the chords. Feel free to mail me for private lessons.

Chord  Root Third Fifth Seventh



Gmaj7 GBDF#

Cmaj7 CEGB

F#m7b5 F#ACE


The notes of the chords (arpeggios) perfectly fit for the improvisation. Sometimes there is no time to play many notes because the chord change very fast. Or maybe you are not aware of all the notes all over the fretboard. For that reasons, guide tones are the perfect way to start. Guide tones represent the sound of the chord very well. You can say that guide tones are something like the heart of the chord, describing the harmonic structure of it. Guide tones are always the 3rd and the 7th of a chord.

For that being said, here we go with the guide tones for Autumn leaves:

Am7 C and G

D7 F# and C

Gmaj7 B and F#

Cmaj7 E and B

F#m7b5 A and E

B7 D# A

Em(7) G and D

After all that talking, lets take this notes and make it sound 🙂 Play the guide tones using half notes. Try to play them in one position without flying around the fretboard. You can download a short notation using the link below.

Notation guide tone exercise

I hope this will help you start a nice improvisation. If you like to learn more, please contact me for a lesson on jazz or guitar.


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