Giant Steps by John Coltrane has always been considered as a difficult tune for jazz pianists to understand, learn and play. Of course, adding to the complexity is that the tune is usually played very fast. I think, what we really need is a simple, step-by-step approach to studying this tune . . . then developing the tune into our subconscious. Once this tune is totally subconscious, we should be able to freely improvise on it.
This lesson on Learning Giant Steps contains four videos, downloadable PDFs, graphics of examples, and text. Video #4 contains backup tracks for your practice. You can practice soloing over Giant Steps in different styles and tempos. Have fun learning Giant Steps.
- Closed position chords and inversions
- Chord names
- Scales for every chord
Take a look at each of the scales for all the chords in Giant Steps. Make sure you can play the scales fluently. Step #6: Practice flows with closed position left hand chords. Play each of the flows using the closed position chords in the left hand, in all inversions through the tune. Then, play the closed position chords in all inversions through the entire tune.
Practice the Continuous Melody Exercise using quarter notes, quarter-note triplets, eighth notes and eighth-note triplets through the tune. The left hand plays a single bass note or chord .
- Seventh Chords
- Pentatonics (1,2,3,5,6)
- Then, play melodies which use a combination of scales and chords (arpeggios). Be musical. Think forward.
Practice making up melodies from one chord to the next chord. For instance, take the first chord, "B" and play melodic ideas forward to "D7". Always think and resolve ideas forward. Do this until you learn the "flow". Then practice playing slowly over the entire flow. Do this for all three flows. Step #9: Play Giant Steps as a ballad Start playing GS slowly through the tune as a ballad. Take your time. Allow yourself time to think. Try to play the ideas emotionally. Resolve all your melodic ideas.
- Practice Hanon, scales and arpeggios.
- Simplify the chord changes
- Practice in chords
- Practice with triads
- Practice with seventh chords
- Practice with Pentatonics
- Think of melodic rhythm
- Breathe in your playing
- Play musically w/phrasing
- Play GS in all keys
- Play GS with others
- Listen to recordings and transcribe solos
- Bossa Nova - Starts at 15 seconds
- Easy Swing - Starts at 2m 40s
- Fast Swing - Starts at 5m 05s
- Very Fast Swing - Starts at 6m 50s
- Have a good general knowledge of jazz harmony.
- Develop an approach to learning and improvising on the John Coltrane tune, Giant Steps.
Martan Mann is a highly respected jazz pianist, teacher and author. He is the author of an intensive online jazz piano course, JazzSkills for Piano. He also presents individual jazz piano courses under the title: JAZZ MASTERCLASS: Step-by-Step.
Martan has a Master's Degree in Music from San Jose State University and has authored three books on jazz piano improvisation, including: "Jazz Improvisation for the Classical Pianist", "New Age Improvisation for the Classical Pianist", and "Improvising Blues Piano". He has extensively performed solo and trio jazz piano in California and Hawaii. He has been teaching jazz and classical privately for 50 years. Martan has been musical director for many musicals and is a frequent accompanist for top jazz vocalists. Martan performed for 25 years at The Garden City, San Jose's premiere jazz club.