Composed by John Coltrane
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.
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.
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: 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.
-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!
-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!
-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.
-Vital Tech Tones’ Vital Tech Tones album released in 1998. Scott Henderson, Victor Wooten, and Steve Smith. Does it get any better?
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, 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.