Autumn leaves

A gate to the world of jazz – Autumn Leaves. Originally a melody from a French musical play by Joseph Kosma, it is one of the best known and most beautiful jazz standards I know. Would you like to start playing jazz? It’s easy… First you play the theme, then you improvise over the chords, then you play the theme once more. Or is it not so easy at all?

How to play a jazz theme properly? The theme (basic melody of the song) is usually written in a simple rhythm. It is up to each musician to decide where to play long or short notes, how to phrase, where to place stress and where to make breaks. Below you can compare simple scores with a “live” audio jazz version.


Autumn leaves – instructional recording – theme


How to improvise? Just go ahead and play, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just try over and over again. Listen to other players and keep trying. You have to have mastered your instrument to a certain degree and you will need some theoretical knowledge as well, but the most important thing is your ears. Jazz improvisation is a long-distance run, but once you have started you won’t want to stop.

I have written down a solo for you to try out. You can use the slow or medium harmonic accompaniment for creating your own solos (or, of course, for improvising).


slow solo (120 BPM)
autumn leaves – slow solo

medium solo (170 BPM)
autumn leaves – solo

slow harmonic accompaniment (120 BPM)
autumn leaves – slow backing track

slow harmonic accompaniment (170 BPM)
autumn leaves – backing track


How to play jazz chords? Jazz music typically has rich harmonies. But how can you play such chords on the accordion? Play the bass note and the chord over it to receive the required jazz sound. I have put together simple instructions on how to play all the chords and chord progressions that you can find in the song.



How to play the left-hand accompaniment? The easiest way is to play the bass and the chord keys simultaneously on all four beats of the bar. You can thus imitate the sound of the guitar and the double bass. However, don’t forget to place slight stress on the second and fourth beats.

What can I say to conclude? Don’t freak out if your first attempts don’t sound quite right. It takes some time – just like it takes a child several years to learn how to walk. And be creative! There are no limits to imagination and what I play is just one of many possible ways to play this song.

I wish you a lot of patience and success!


video, instructional recordings, scores, article | Stanislav Samuel Raška
published on 31/03/2016