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Chord Tone Exercise Over Autumn Leaves

Bass Clef:

Chord Tone Exercise (Bass clef)

When learning how to improvise in a jazz context, one of the desired goals is to be able to hear the chord changes come out in our solos. While it is important to be learning jazz language and listening to jazz music to understand how to do this, there are things we can practice to conceptualize this.

One practice is to take a jazz standard and play the chord tones (or arpeggios) of each chord. This allows us to establish a skeleton of the harmony and provides a good framework to work from. If we can understand how to navigate through the harmony on our instruments from this basic level, it can act as a spring board into more creative improvisation.

This chord tone exercise uses the harmony of Autumn Leaves. It plays each chord in two octaves, moving up the arpeggio of one chord, and then down the arpeggio of the next.

Note that the pattern changes in measure 19, where it becomes two chords per measure.

If at some point in the exercise the notation exceeds the range of your instrument, try bringing it down the octave, or come up with you own creative way to continue the arpeggio. The concept is to just play the chord tones, so feel free to take liberties with the execution and don’t feel constrained to the exact notation. Good luck!

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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