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Jazz Piano Lessons: “Autumn Leaves”

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One thing that we're gonna get into
here as we go, is, we're gonna
start looking at some other tunes.
And I've pulled out three or four or
five commonly played standards.
Things that you're likely to encounter
if you go to a jam session, or
something like that, well known standards.
And I'm gonna talk you through how I kinda
make decisions about where to go and
things that I think
about when I'm playing.
We're gonna use a lot of
the tools that we've got so
far as I talk you through this.
Then what I'm gonna do is play
a performance of it for three or
four minutes.
That'll be available as a PDF download and
I'm gonna go through and, at every point,
I'm gonna annotate, make a little note
about what I'm thinking, why it works.
You'll recognize a lot of the stuff
that we've learned so far go by.
Because A lot of what we're trying
to do here is get prepared so
that somebody can throw some sheet music
in front of us and we know what to do.
We have a good basis and
mostly that our mind is open,
and aware of all the different
ways we have to go on it.
Let's start looking at
a tune called Autumn Leaves.
This is a famous standard and Miles Davis
is, again, is somebody who made this
one famous, plays it beautifully
in a number of different context.
In the real book, if you have that,
it's a big fat book of standards
that everybody should probably have.
I believe it's now available for iPhone
and iPad, although I'm not sure that
the melodies are on there,
in the real book I think it's in E minor.
We're going to do it in the more
commonly played key of G minor.
Here's how it goes.
We're gonna see a lot of this stuff.
In fact, I don't think we see
anything go by in this song
that isn't something that we've discussed,
and most of the scales are gonna be
ones that we've looked at already.
Starts out with a two five one, C Minor 7,
to F seven to B flat major seven.
The most common cadence,
probably, in all of jazz.
What can we do on this?
Most simple possible thing, Bop Scale up,
C minor Bop Scale to pause at this,
right there on the five.
Down to the F7 Bob scale going down,
there's our approach pattern.
When I play this,
maybe I'll do it now as a matter of fact,
you can actually get your way all
the way through the tune sounding
like a master playing nothing but
approach patterns to chord tones.
Let me see if I can do it.
I'm not really
sticking only with
the approach patterns.
But you can see,
all of that stuff,
one approach pattern after the next.
Once you get those things
under your fingers,
your grace factor really goes up,
and you are able to sit back,
relax, and you're driving like
this instead of driving like this.
Work those approach patterns,
this tune is a perfect place to do it.
We took a look at our bob scales going.
Let's take a look at
some pentatonic scales.
Let's start on a different
degree than one for fun.
Try again.
[NOISE] All that was, C Minor pentatonic,
[NOISE] F7 pentatonic,
which is the C Minor 6 pent, [NOISE].
And then I closed it out with my
favorite of the Approach patterns.
Look at that.
There's our approach pattern.
And then back down on the
I think I did something Or,
another approach pattern at the bottom,
that's another way to go.
Let's take a look at some
of our arpeggiated triads.
That's beautiful there.
We're using the B flat triad
on top of our C minor seven,
and then I get to the F seven, and
I make the decision let's
go altered on it this time,
and what I'm using there is
the flat five major triad.
Let's use one that we've worked
on though and do a similar thing.
There again with our B flat triad,
which just gives us really the only
new information is the 9 and 11.
Then we're on our F altered 7 sound,
which is just a decision I made for
the heck of it.
Again, I love these because they
open up a whole wealth of other
places to go besides Scale tones and
chord tones.
Little collection.
And then I'm just going like that,
because that's a little piece,
of our F7 altered bop scale,
and that's another way to do this,
let's start playing
that sounds a little happy It's,
what's the good word for it?
It's a little more innocent maybe then,
And the only difference there,
I'm coming down with our altered
bebop scale on the seventh.
Just to put some notes in there that have
a little more color.
Also to get those stronger
half note resolutions.
There's a bunch of places to
go on this very first cadence.
I freely pick between these and as I'm
playing I kinda play at my own speed.
If I can't create a line that covers
the entire three-bar sequence,
which at this point I can, but
if I couldn't, I would do this.
I would play little chunks of these, and
I would also play at a tempo
that I can really hang,
and be thinking, and fingering as I go.
Let's take a look at one more
cool place to go, which,
again, is something that
we've been working on.
Let's go C minor seven and
then when we hit this, let's play it
as an altered like we've been doing.
And let's use that A flat
minor seven pentatonic scale,
tie it in together with some form of
an approach pattern on top, so.
So real simple.
I'm just playing up and down the scale.
There's our A-flat
minor seven, pentatonic.
Let's play it in a little
different inversion here.
Let's go down with our C-minor seven.
We'll take a look at that line.
Da, da, da, da.
There is our approach pattern, and
I snuck it in, in a weird place,
because usually we are going,
one, two, [SOUND] three, four.
[SOUND] One, two, [SOUND] three,
so that the target note lands on a one.
Here, I went like this
be, dee, da, da, and right there,
our D is landing on one but
there's no reason not to do that.
It actually sounds cool,
we're accenting the weird note
I think that's what I did,
I went like that.
And again, we closed it out with
a little piece of a bop scale.
But let's do it with an approach
pattern on the bottom, instead.
That's not technically the approach
pattern that we've been working with which
would've been
but why not?
I play that all the time.
The top note can be anything,
the important thing is that we're
zeroing in on that target note
both from above and from below.
All of this stuff just kind of freely
floats through my brain, look at this.
Why not treat that first chord, the C,
instead of as a minor chord,
which is what everybody's expecting there,
let's play it as a C
with an A triad on top.
Then take that A triad down a half step
to the A flat triad over our F seven.
You probably remember the lesson where
we discussed a couple good options for
upper structure triads to arpeggiate,
to break into their,
to play like this instead of this,
on a dominant chord.
And, for example, if we're going to
make that into a C altered seven..
We talked about the A flat,
the flat six major triad.
We talked about the natural six
minor triad.
We talked about the natural
six major triad.
So any one of these can be integrated
into our line as a new place to go.
Let's do this though when we get to our
five chord, those chords, the upper
structure triads that we've discussed
to arpeggiate would be D flat, D minor.
And again really the only function of that
one is to put the 13 in our chord, but
this one, one of my favorite ones, has a
natural 13 and a flat one in it together.
And that's a more interesting sound, so
that's where those two ideas come from,
you can also just if you
wanna expand a little bit.
The B the flat five, but the ones
we discussed being the flat six and
the natural six major triad,
let's work those in there.
That's where those come from.
Let's play that.
We'll do the simplest version of that and
arpeggiate these triads.
Let's play a little simpler than that.
Cool sounding line.
Notice two things about this, one is that.
What I'm doing here.
I'm not playing.
I'm dropping those notes.
That's a really kind of important
part of the jazz vocabulary that
John Coltrane got us into in the 50s.
You're thinking in terms of.
actually what the listener is hearing
And that give a break to the monotony
of the rhythm of constantly playing
repetitive eighth notes,
it puts a nice little breath in there.
The beauty of John Coltrane one of
the three great geniuses of music ever.
So, and what I did,
The other thing to notice,
is look at now our very
wide approach pattern.
All I'm doing is playing an A triad up
A flat triad coming down
is very similar to,
but I'm just widening out the notes.
The thinking is the same.
I have that note kind of in the, the back
of my mind as a pleasant place to land
on B flat major seven, so, and
there I didn't even play the note.
That kind of articulation is something
that's well worth developing.
It sounds really cool and modern.
We're talking about how to look
at a chart when its put
in front of you and
maybe muster our resources.
Think about places to go on it.
There are some places that just,
they're baked in an ideal world, you know.
You can look at the chart to Autumn
Leaves, which is what we're looking at,
and see that you're gonna
deploy your bop scales.
On there.
Great way to go.
You've got your approach patterns.
You could make a solo entirely by playing
motivically with approach patterns and
people would love that.
You've got your pentatonics.
We've got our arpeggiated triads.
We've got a little bit of
cool substitutions going.
And we're really in great shape to play
a nice long one, especially if we
start out by being very thoughtful.
Which, you know, God help us.
Just start by being thoughtful.
But there's no reason to
start out ripping off lines.
Start in first gear.
People really appreciate
being brought along.
For the ride like that.
We've looked at the first four chords
of Autumn leaves
The C minor, the F seven, the B flat
major seven and the E flat major seven.
Now we come to our minor turnaround.
A minor seven flat five.
There's the seven, there's the
minor third, here's the flat 5,
then we come to our D 7 altered chord,
there's our big altered voicing
on that and then, G minor 7.
Let's look at some ways to go on this one.
There's our A minor seven flat five.
First thing that comes to mind,
[SOUND] and
that's our C minor Bop scale.
Which as we've discussed,
puts exactly puts all the notes of this
minor seven flat five chord on the beat.
Minor seven flat five was
always a weird chord for me.
Before I got hip to this idea of
the eight note scales, the bop scales,
cuz what they teach you to play on
that typically is an F7 scale, but
there's nothing
wronger-sounding than this.
And again,
that's a legal note in the scale.
Why isn't it working?
Well, cuz we're putting it on the beat.
[SOUND] The bop scale puts only the notes
that are in sync with the harmony
on the beat.
here we are with another altered chord.
This one is written into
the chart as an altered chord.
And it should be because it's
resolving to a minor and
on this we've got our
usual wealth of resources.
By way of bop scales.
That's our D
altered bop scale.
There's an altered note.
Another altered note.
A little passing tone that brings
everything into focus for us.
That's a way to go on it.
If you want to get a little bit
ambitious with this play the E flat
minor bop scale on it.
And what that does for you is it takes,
it's still got a very
strong sound of D seven,
because we're putting the F sharp,
we're putting the guide tones
on the beats still, but
rather than kind of wasting an opportunity
by putting the tonic on the beat,
we're putting a hip note on
the beat instead, the E flat.
Then on the beat we're also putting a B
flat instead of an A, and that,
to me, makes this whole thing.
It's like it's a teetering thing and
if we play it just as this.
And we play the inside D7 altered
bop scale, it's tilting.
It wants to go to the next thing.
If we're putting more
tensions on the beat,
now it really desperately wants to
pull itself to the next chord and
that gives us kind of the sensation
being pulled through the tune.
That's a way to go with
bop scales on these.
Let's look at the next resource.
Let's put some approach
pattern stuff together.
Following up on what I was talking about,
why not try an approach
pattern that goes like this?
[NOISE] This is not something
that you need to practice.
I'm illustrating though that we can
open those approach patterns way up.
If you find yourself on here,
let's say we're coming down.
[NOISE] Let's do it better.
It's difficult to come to it, but
my point is, that at any point, you can
throw in an approach pattern that's
half an octave, more than half an octave
from where you ended your line.
Doesn't need to come
at the end of a scale,
It could just as easily be
you know, something like that.
So there are some options on there,
pentatonic scales
what we would use here of course on
the A minor seven flat five is
the C minor six pentatonic scale,
which includes every note from
the A minor seven flat five.
Plus, a nice tension.
The F is always welcome here on
the A minor seven flat five,
on the D altered, [SOUND] once again,
our flat 3 minor pentatonic scale.
Love those pentatonic scales for
the way that they really get you up and
down the keyboard.
And if you listen to a lot
of chic Korea He has really
beautifully evolved unusual ones.
But he does a lot of stuff where
it's kind of five notes per octave,
maybe a four note per octave.
Kind of a shape like that, but
he gets up and
down the keyboard real quick.
And that's, a dimension of our playing
that's well worth developing is
that we've got stuff that we've can
play that's kinda close knit like this.
We've got stuff that has
a little bit more sweep.
And we've got other stuff like our
arpeggiated triads that really move and
we're constantly kinda keeping an ear out.
For ways to vary that up because
variety is the spice of jazz really.
So there's one to play.
One that we've touched on but
we haven't gone that nuts with is
the flat two minor bop scale, and
it needs to be at the sixth on this.
Check it out this is the E flat minor
I actually played a clam at that speed.
[SOUND] David Sanborn says if
you play a clam, play it again.
I played it again, he's happy.
And that's really great, too.
Look at the stuff that you
put on the beat, there.
We've got our tritone, so we're making a
strong statement about the seventh chord.
Whereas, if we use the flat three minor,
I kind of feel like we might need a little
help from our left hand, establishing
that all of this is happening over
that because we don't have that in it.
[NOISE] And now we're down to G Minor 7.
A lot of people play this
chord as the minor major 7,
which is another thing
that we've discussed.
And if you want to get that sound,
do what we've talked about in our lessons
on getting to the minor major seven.
For one thing, the bop scale for
this, the inside grass
roots if you will, bop scale for
this, has the F sharp in it.
But it's a passing tone.
And it's better to have it in there
as a passing tone than nothing but
if we want let's look at
a way to put it on the beat.
That sounds very cool to me.
And what I did is I took a look
at what I want on the beat.
Well, I kind of want a D triad.
That gives us the major seven, and
it also throws the nine in there.
What scale can I use that would
put those notes on the beat?
And it comes right to me.
A little bit of a twist
on our D 7 bop scale.
Puts all these cool notes on the beat,
instead of the chord tones.
And now you've gone with
the minor major seven sound.
But it's really clear that you've
gone there because let's look
at this in context.
Play a little bit, on our minor two five,
put maybe your 110 bpm or
your 80 beat per minute,
two five to one track, to G, on there.
What that was [SOUND] just arpeggiating
a C Minor triad, which, of course,
is what we find right there on
our A Minor seven flat five.
Then on our D7 altered,
I'm choosing to arpeggiate
the six major triad,
which is one of the two
triads we've talked about.
You could also arpeggiate a B Flat triad.
a bunch of approach
patterns in there.
And then I
There's several different approach
patterns too, mixed in with bop scales.
Let's mix them on in with pentatonics.
on the way down.
then I went with that E Flat
minor sevens bop scale.
A lot of what happens to people when
they're improvising,
they got their scale and
they're smoking along on it and
they next change happens and
they don't really have
a graceful way to get out of it.
Any time that happens, bang yourself
in one of our four approach patterns.
Any one of those,
target yourself a chord
tone on the next chord.
And not only have you stuck
the landing on the next chord,
you're positioned to continue
playing in sync, down from there.
Cuz your on a chord
tone to start with.
Let's look at some more
possibilities on here.
And let's see,
we did some arpeggiated triads.
Let's explore the pentatonics just
a little bit more cuz I wanna
to that F Minor over D7 altered chord.
Let's play these in tempo,
too cuz we've been expanding them to two,
two, and four.
Let's go one bar of
the A Minor seven flat five,
one bar of the D seven altered,
and two bars of that.
I could see that one coming,
I think that's what.
any time you know there I'm resolving to
the nine on the G Minor
which is also a nice sound.
We're at the bridge of Autumn Leaves,
which almost always means
bars 17 through 24.
A nice feature of a lot of standards is
that they've got your handful of chords in
there, your handful of cadences.
And they kind of reshuffle those around
in a way that's not that exotic.
And Autumn Leaves is one of these.
When we get to the bridge we see this,
which we just worked on.
Exact same cadence, A minor seven flat
five to D seven altered to G minor seven.
All of that stuff is the first four bars
of the tune again.
They're working a different
melody over it.
So we've already looked at
resources on those things.
Then the next thing that happens is.
The only thing
in there that needs
a looking at
is this little quick
sequence of chords.
G minor seven,
to F sharp seven, to F minor
seven to B flat seven to E flat.
Let's take it apart for a second.
What really is this thing it's
a sequence of two five ones.
And all they've done is make
a tri-tone substitution for the C seven.
They're going like this instead.
So it's really a very simple
chord progression.
And as I've pointed out
in a couple different
these are interchangeable.
But this helps us as we're looking at how
to play this because we can
either go with some stuff
that works on this chord,
the F sharp seven.
All with the natural tensions.
This is an F 13 chord.
And what I would choose to use on that
Is our A flat seven bop scale with
the flat 13, the thinking being
as we've mentioned before,
that this puts these
good notes on the beat.
Those on the beat you're in great shape.
It also is a very similar, there's a lot
of stuff to tie into there
with the chord it's going to.
There's our G minor seven.
Let's look at how that works.
I turned the A flat
seven bop scale into a quick
approach pattern.
So that's one way to do it,
is to honor this as an F sharp 13 chord.
A simpler way to think of it
might be to look at it as this,
as a C seven altered chord.
And then we're just playing really
standard issue two, five, one stuff.
Maybe you would practice this
by putting up our two, five,
one play along track to F minor.
One bar, one bar, and two bars.
and there all our ideas come
into play right there.
That was just a little figure into
into our E flat minor pentatonic over
the C altered chord.
Play straight-up bop scales on it.
And that's cool.
We end on the nine.
All that was G minor bop
scale from the root.
Once we land on that,
which is part of the C altered bop scale.
You can go like that.
If we wanted to arpeggiate some
triads I might think about
darkening this up a little bit by playing.
Certainly not that.
[LAUGH] On our minor 7 chord here
and there, real simple, basically
arpeggiating a B flat triad over G minor,
the most inside possible thing,
when I get to the C seven.
You can go the long
ways with this.
And this gets you right
in to the F minor seven.
Play a line like this.
As it happens, these changes
are happening two to the bar, so
you have to kind of think quick.
Let's look at that.
What I did there.
I'm really kinda cheating there,
I'm treating all of these as minor chords.
And playing a little padding.
that's something that's really easy to do.
Let's move it up a little bit.
That's actually really nice.
Think about that.
Just arpeggiating the chord up.
And there's our little familiar six major
upper structured triad on the C seven.
We can keep going with this.
Where would we be next?
Play a little common shape like that.
One thing, Michael Brecker once said
something to me that made me laugh.
Mike probably had more
difficult music to read
put in front of him than
any other musician ever,
because if you had something real
difficult to play you called Mike.
Dave Liebman also was a guy
that you could call, and
he would stroll right through anything.
John Scofield the great guitar
player has a reputation for
being able to make something sound
great on the first read through.
But Mike said to me one time,
he said that [LAUGH] whenever he
gets to something that's too hard,
he just plays as fast as he can.
And [LAUGH] that's certainly an approach.
Let's look at a way to kinda
cheat on this thing here.
We're gonna find something,
that works across all these chords at
least close enough that
it'll get us to the E flat.
And it'll free us from, my god, [SOUND],
these things are flying by wait.
I can't keep up.
Let's do this.
One thing I'd like to mention as
we get started is that there's no
better motivic material than
the melody of the tune.
If you wanna make an old jazz guy smile,
play a little bit of the head.
You know,
quote that a little bit in there.
Because old school, that's how this
started was as improvisation and
some riffs on what was already
there on the melody of it.
Kind of embellishing that and
then expanding from there.
So as we start here,
I'm gonna probably work with that for
my first little chunk of the tune.