Giant Steps

(by John Coltrane)

Famous last words: “Uh oh! The sax player is calling that tune again!” Sounds familiar? Learn this  chord melody and chord progression, and you won’t be taken by surprise at that next jam session!

Oh, and by the way, it’s also advisable to learn the chord changes really well and be able to improvise on this one at a trillion miles an hour… Just kiddin’ (-;


This piece was first recorded in 1959 by the great tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Giant Steps is probably the single jazz composition that had the most effect on all of the music that came after.Coltrane’s revolutionary cycle (composed of 3 key centers a major third appart) had a lasting influence on the harmonic vocabulary of jazz musicians. The “coltrane cycle” is also found on Coltrane pieces such as Spiral, 26-2, Countdown, etc.

Chord Melody Arrangement courtesy of Martin Antaya

It’s a lot of fun practicing improvisation on this tune but, start slowly! You should also try the same cycle in other keys to challenge your ears and fingers.

For instance, in C: the three key centers are C, Ab and E major. You could practice improvisation on this progression:

Giant Steps - progression

Suggested Listening

The original, a true classic on the album “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane. Here’s an interesting Youtube video where you can follow along the whole solo…

Another favorite of mine: Michel Camilo’s take on the album “Spirit of the Moment” , is frantic version that actually starts with a huge a backbeat (!) is another beautiful rendition of this tune.

Finally, I have a definite crush on Pat Metheny version’s of this tune . He plays in a straight 8ths style, and not too fast! Thank god… (found on the Trio Live double-CD record)

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