Improvising Outros

Add one last touch to your lead sheet masterpiece with a stylish ending.

“Outros” (the opposite of intro) may be as creative or clichéd as the tunes they close. Here are some common approaches to keep in mind as you explore possibilities.

Apply the Brakes

Some arrangements stop suddenly for a surprise effect but it is more common to ease listeners into endings. Like a train slowing down as it approaches the station, playing ritardando near the end of a tune hints that you’re about to finish.  You can emphasize this effect by repeating the last few measures.  Then confirm arrival with a fermata on the final I chord.

This is the end… really… I mean it…

Playing the last chord over and over delays the inevitable.

Range Change

Add pizzazz by repeating the last chord concerto-style in a couple of ranges.

Flying Hands

Play the last chord hand-over-hand Liberace-style for a flashy sound that’s also exciting to watch.  Then “button it” with a final low tonic note.

Scaling Away…

Try improvising a little scale at after the last chord as you fade away.



Combine approaches for a really big ending.

More sophsiticated intro ideas

  • Improvise a coda in free time based on the melody/chords of the tune. 

  • Deconstruct a repetitive bass line or accompaniment pattern one note at a time.
  • Vamp on a turnaround (i.e. I - VI7 - ii7 - V7) before resolving to the I chord.
  • Add a 2nd and/or a 6th to your last chord i.e. C6/9. 

Common 6/9 chord voicings


Watch a video related to this blog post:

Fm C.jpeg

iv - I

Db C.jpeg

bIIMaj7 - I

Ab Bb C.jpeg

bVI - bVII - I

  • Play a deceptive cadence by substituting any chord containing the tonic note for the expected I chord. Here are some possibilities:

Lydian cadence


Finally, here are some great stock jazz endings that everyone knows and loves.


Basie ending


Ellington ending

Watch a video that correlates with this blog:

These are just a few of the possibilities.  For more ideas, observe how your favorite composers and musicians handle endings and then emulate their approaches in your own tunes.

Until next time, enjoy your creative music-making journey.


(A similar article first appeared in Clavier Companion magazine.)

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