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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Giant Steps (One Step at a Time)

The January 2009 issue of Downbeat magazine has a nice introductory article on practicing John Coltrane's seminal tune Giant Steps. The piece is called Making the Connections and was written by saxophonist David Demsey.

Demsey's article got me thinking about approaches to studying Trane's famous chord sequence. These changes have become integral to modern jazz playing and are an essential ingredient to any serious study of improvisation. Please see the end of this post for a brief list of transcriptions and other material available to musicians who want to explore Giant Steps.

PlayJazzNow just released a set of playalong tracks that will help you work on this chord sequence. We call it TRANE TRAX, and it contains Giant Steps changes at three different tempos, plus the changes to Countdown, 26-2 and Trane's version of Body and Soul. There are no shortcuts to mastering Coltrane's harmonic language of this period. You just have to take it one step at a time.

Giant Steps Resources:

This Song Trellis post is a good place to start.

Here is Lucas Pickford's online transcription of Coltrane's solo.

A nice descriptive piece from placing Giant Steps in its historical context.

A sound clip and transcription of Tom Harrell's solo from

Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer solo transcriptions from

Dan Adler's exhaustive "cycles" study of Giant Steps changes in 12 keys.