Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Autumn Leaves Bass Transcription

Continuing the Miles Davis theme, here's a transcription of Sam Jones' bass line under Miles' solo on Autumn Leaves! This tune is full of ii V I's (4 majors and 5 minors per chorus!) which makes it a valuable tune to have some proficiency on. Next month I will be transcribing the full Miles solo that fits over this bass line to see how the two work together.

This is the first walking bass line I've transcribed and there where a couple of things in particular that I wanted to see how Jones approached; how he tackled two chords per bar, which crops up at the end of each chorus. And also his note choice on the C9. The C9 appears in bars 27-28 and 59-60. Both times this comes around Jones plays the same phrase, I would guess that this is to help the listener's ear become accustomed to where the end of each chorus is coming up. When I play over this section of the song I tend to get a very boxy and obvious bass line coming out as I play R - 5 or R - 3, something like that. Jones does start with R - 5 for the G-7, but then doesn't play another root until bar 31/62! The notes Jones chooses for the C9 are the 7th and 9th which help outline the harmony.

As you may expect what I got from this transcription was a whole lot more! There is so much even from the two choruses I have gone through that I won't be able to highlight every example but I'll go through some of my favourite moments.

The first thing that I noticed about this bass line is the use of very simple ideas, it most definitely makes me realize the art of not over playing, filling the role of a bass player and supporting the soloists. A great example of this comes in bar 24 over the Eb major.

I often feel that while I'm walking it's a crime to go back and play the note I've just played for fear of sounding boring, Jones proves this isn't the case again on bar 41 playing C octaves over a C-7. Again on the Am7b5, Jones plays R R b5 R, clearly outlining the overall harmony on that bar.

Continuing from Jones' simple ideas, I was also quite surprised at the amount of standard arpeggios I found. Pretty much every time the double bar of G-7 comes around he will play up and down the G- arpeggio, the same thing happens when the BbM7 EbM7 come around.

Another feature that really stood out to me was the shape of the line being played. You can clearly see from the example below without even needing to play the line how much it flows. This is pretty much a constant feature through the song, as well as through most jazz bass lines! This smoothness is definitely something to strive for when creating your own line.

The final point to make with this is his use of chromatic notes to lead you into the next bar. This is something that has been heavily covered in online lessons but when you play through this transcription you will see why! 
Two examples of this stood out to me in this transcription, the first in bar 46 where Jones plays a chromatic leading note on beat 3 and 4 instead of just 4. The second was in bar 54 where Jones plays an E natural over the F7, the third of the chord, but he uses this as a passing note to a Bb (5) on beat 1 of the next chord, EbM7. This example is below and also doubles up as a nice ii V I to learn.

For more on this specifically visit Scott Devine's website and look for his lessons on beginning walking lines.

Full transcription available here!

And here's the video :)


  1. For a student like me, this kind of work is perfect. Really helps when you analyse bass parts and understand why the greats played like that, theory wise.
    Great, keep it up!

    1. Glad you're finding it useful! I'm still fairly new to this jazz stuff but going through the music of the greats in as much detail as you can really starts to clear things up at a pretty rapid rate, I'd highly recommend it!