Autumn Leaves Chords
and the 2-5-1 progression.

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The song is in AABC form. "Autumn Leaves" offers a popular way for beginning jazz musicians to become acquainted with jazz harmony as the chord progression consists almost solely of ii-V-I and ii-V sequences which are typical of jazz. 

Autumn Leaves chords were originally, and are most commonly, performed in the key of E minor, but are also played in G minor and other keys. 

I learned the Autumn Leaves Chords as a kid, maybe 15 or 16 years old. I think I had just broken up with my first girlfriend (or should I say she broke up with me) and the mood of the song captured what I was feeling as it is with many of our favorite songs.

Years later I was surprised that it turned up as a lesson in music school at Berklee College of music.

Just a few days ago I arranged a swing version on my arranger keyboard and though it would be a good idea to share it with you.

As stated above it is a great way to teach the 2-5-1 progression as well as piano improvisation.

Andy Williams released a version of the song on his 1959 album, Lonely Street. 

The Coasters released a version of the song on their 1960 album One by One.

Al Hirt released a version on his 1965 album, They're Playing Our Song.

The British Invasion band Manfred Mann released a rock version on their 1966 album As Is.

Italian-American tenor Sergio Franchi recorded his version on the 1968 RCA Victor album I'm a Fool to Want You.

 Raquel Bitton recorded a version in 2000 that appears on her album Raquel Bitton sings Edith Piaf. 

Jerry Lee Lewis released a version that can be found on the 2000 album The Jerry Lee Lewis Show.

Autumn Leaves Chords structure

If you get comfortable with the chord progression for this song you will find parts of it turning up in lots of songs you will encounter in popular jazz music as well as other genres. 

The song is most often played in the Key of E minor, the relative minor of G major thus you will notice the F# in the key signature.

For more on key signatures you would do well to study the circle of fifths. 

Every Chord in the song is Diatonic to the Key of G (E minor) except for the B7 chord which functions as the V7 chord of E minor.

There are two lessons I would recommend to help you with your understanding of diatonic chords and some useful exercises that are guaranteed to have you moving through jazz chord changes easily.

Diatonic Chords and Common Chord Progressions

You will notice as you play through the changes that the root motion jumps up a fourth and down a fifth almost without exception.

This is one of the reasons that this tune is taught to beginning jazz students as this motion is very very common in Jazz. 

Another reason for learning this tune is that it is just plain beautiful, easy to play and fun to solo over.


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