Giant Steps – Chord Melody, Single-Note Solo & Chord Shapes

Composed by John Coltrane

Tune’s History

Giant Steps is a Coltrane tune which also happens to be the name of the album on which it is included. It was recorded in 1960 and this tune is often regarded as a benchmark for improvising musicians.

Giant Steps: Giant Steps

The “Coltrane Changes” as they are known, are the foundation for several of Coltrane’s tunes such as Countdown and 26-2. More on that in a second. Players often like to reharmonize other tunes using these changes. You can really get crazy with it!

This is one of the more challenging – if not the most – in our list of standards so please take your time with this one.

The Nuts and Bolts

Giant Steps cycles through three different key centers separated by major 3rds. Altogether the roots of these chords make up an augmented triad. It’s really quite a neat device, and once you get the hang of it, is quite fun to explore.

Download your “Giant Steps – Chord Melody, Solo, and More” PDF here.

Giant Steps: Thumbnail

In its original key, the three key centers are B major, Eb major, and G major. Some teachers will have you play around in each key center modally and that is perfectly valid, but getting all of the changes including the ii V progressions leading up to each key is important.

Make sure you can make it sound musical and make each change come out, so to speak.

Giant Steps: Comping Ideas

Here are some basic chord voicings to get you started on comping for Giant Steps. Be sure to take your time with this as this tune is a lot to handle both, harmonically and improvisationally!

Giant Steps: Comping Ideas

Giant Steps: Chord Melody

In this chord melody, we are simply taking you through all of the chords with the melody notes on top. I made it a point to not focus on ties or syncopations and just give you an idea of how you can voice this so the melody notes are on top.

Giant Steps: Single-Note Solo

As we mentioned previously, this tune is widely regarded as a benchmark of sorts for improvisers and aspiring musicians. Make sure you take your time and absorb some of the licks here.

We are mostly making use of standard ii-V licks and a few outside ideas while trying to hit the changes.

Giant Steps: Backing Track

If you’d like to download the backing track, you can do so here.

Giant Steps: Chord Reference Sheet

We are also giving an in-depth chord reference sheet so you are able to comp over Giant Steps more effectively.

Download your “Giant Steps – Chord Melody, Solo, and More” PDF here.

Giant Steps: Thumbnail

Suggested Listening

-John Coltrane’s Giant Steps album released in 1960. This is where the tune was first premiered and ‘Trane does not take his time getting right to it. Tough changes at blistering speed!

Giant Steps: Giant Steps

-Michel Camilo’s Spirit of the Moment album released in 2007. This one is a bit of a frantic version that actually starts with a really quirky backbeat. Definitely worth checking out!

Giant Steps: Spirit Of The Moment

-Pat Metheny’s Trio Live album released in 2000. In this version, Pat takes the tune a bit slower with a straight 8th type feel.

Giant Steps: Trio Live

-Vital Tech Tones’ Vital Tech Tones album released in 1998. Scott Henderson, Victor Wooten, and Steve Smith. Does it get any better?

Giant Steps: Vital Tech Tones


Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.

4 thoughts on “Giant Steps – Chord Melody, Single-Note Solo & Chord Shapes

  1. Listen to Coltrane’s Original and Other Sax-Players Versions, and LISTEN to it for a while (like Months, Years…OR Minuts and Seconds, if Your’e one of THOSE 😉 ), while you work with the Chord Changes and work out / get familiar with those who’s Echonomical space-vise (Positions) on the fretboard.

    Tip: Start out in the VII- Position.

    Listen how Sax-players flow trough the Chord-changes and eventually try to transfer the Basic ones to your Guitar. Guitar-versions are entertaing but from a Learning point of View; they tend to be very Ornamental and Technical and then you’d be Distracted from their Blazing Technicality.

    The Jamie Abersold’s Coltrane Book/CD (Or eventual Digital Versions in PDF / Mp3 or Flac) is Excellent!
    Then you “play along” with Great Musicians who’s recorded Versions in Various Tempi (Two speeds for “Giant Steps”) Which’s REALLY Helpful and gets you there “Faster”.

    GOOD LUCK, Be Patient and Have FUN, and Remember to Take Five now and again!
    ( OR: Tell ME To Go Fxxx Myself “Mr.-Know-It-All”, and DO IT YOUR OWN WAY! 😀 )

    Erland. 😀

Was this page helpful? Let us know!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.