9 Rhythm Changes Heads


Rhythm Changes (i.e., the chords for Gershwin’s I got Rhythm) is a very common form to learn as musician.  Below is a starting list of nine common melodies over Rhythm Changes.  They are listed with the key they are commonly played in.  Each title is a live link that, when you click on it, you will have original recordings in the key as well as a backing track and a bit of history and way to approach the tune to learn it by ear (compliments of learnjazzstandards.com).  If you would like a written pdf of the melody, I have compiled several for instruments in C (treble and bass clef), Eb and Bb at this link.  Also, a simple google search on these tunes using the following words (transcription, pdf, solo changes…...for example Au Privave solo Transcription) will give you a ton of resources.

IF YOU ARE STARTING OUT WITH THIS LIST, I WOULD SUGGEST YOU LOOK AT I Got Rhythm, Lester Leaps in, Rhythm-a-ning or Oleo.  The music is available at the link above and they are very approachable tunes!  Let me know if you have any questions.

Mr. L

1. I Got Rhythm (Bb)

This of course is the original rhythm changes by George Gershwin. It’s important to know where rhythm changes came from and be familiar with this tune. Keep in mind I Got Rhythm has a couple extra bars than the standard 32 bar rhythm changes form.

2. Lester Leaps In (Bb)

This head was written by saxophone legend Lester Young for Count Basie’s Kansas City Seven. I suggest this one because it is incredibly easy and just a good catch phrase to know.

3. Rhythm-A-Ning (Bb)

This is a great rhythm changes head by Thelonious Monk. A lot of jazz musicians like to call this one, so it’s a good one to know!

4. Moose The Mooche (Bb)

Charlie Parker wrote a lot of great bebop heads over rhythm changes, and this is a good one! It is believed that the title of the song refers to his drug dealer when he was out in Los Angeles for a period of time.

5. Dexterity (Bb)

Another great Charlie Parker tune. Parker’s heads are often times great studies on their own for learning how to improvise over chord changes.

6. Anthroplogy (Bb)

Another classic Charlie Parker head, and one of my personal favorites!

7. Steeplechase (Bb)

Parker again. This one only has a melody for the A sections and the B section is open for improvisation.

8. The Eternal Triangle (Bb)

This is a rhythm changes head written by saxophonist Sonny Stitt. You can hear it on Dizzy Gillespie’s 1957 record Sonny Side Up. This is a great one to learn because the bridge is re-harmonized, and is worth looking in to.

9. Oleo (Bb)

I can’t not mention this one. It is arguably the most commonly called rhythm changes head and is incredibly important to know. This one was written by Sonny Rollins.

This list should give you a good start, and a good amount of rhythm changes material to draw from. Study up!

If you need help practicing the rhythm changes form, it can be helpful to practice in different keys. Check out our play-along album, Rhythm Changes in all 12 Keys.