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  1. #1

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    I enjoy this tune, I like the sound of the changes that modulate over different key-centers. In a way, the changes constitute the melody, but obviously there are endless opportunities for variation by improvisation.

    The song was originally recorded at a fast tempo, but by slowing it down we can groove on the beautiful harmony and/or we can play long notes that bridge the changes (sounds nice when modulating keys). But the rapid pace of harmony changes in "Giant Steps" makes it a challenge to maintain good melodic feel.

    A common pitfall is to just play arpeggios or triads over the changes, instead of playing within the key. Apparently Coltrane himself spent months working out melodic figures prior to recording, but I wonder...-Is there a trick to tame this song, guiding improvisation by ear?

    Please share your thoughts and philosophy regarding Giant Steps and improvisation.

    Thanks

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  3. #2

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    I think most people need to train their ears for a tunes changes by working on improvisation material over the changes of the tune before they can come close to pure aural improvisation experience. To that end, here are some books about how to work on improvising over Giant Steps that you might find interesting. I know this sounds like a cop-out but I haven't explored the subject in depth myself. I have the Wolf Marshall's book, I think it's useful.
    https://www.amazon.ca/Joe-Diorio-Dep.../dp/0769229948
    https://www.amazon.com/Giant-Steps-G...ustomerReviews

  4. #3

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    It's just another one to "play to targets" over. There's chords that function as movement in it, others as temporary rest points. Nail the rest points and create tension/pull ove the movement parts.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  5. #4
    My best practicing advise is to know the changes very well in a comfortable tempo.
    Then improvise strictly half notes. NO cheating from this ..
    After some days or more or less, you´ll find the common notes of the harmonies.
    That gives you the ability to create real melodies instead of patterns.
    Cheers Uffe
    Uffe Steen Music: http://www.uffe-steen.dk

  6. #5
    Check out "Windowlicker" by Aphex Twin. Do you hear some GS in there? At some point near the end, the bass line is a bit more like GS's, it even does the first..um second modulation.
    Well, its more like iii-V-I but still. Just a fun find.

    There was a youtube tutorial series of GS by some guitarist who did it slow and groovy in one episode . Sounded something similar. For a backing track, it could add some freshness and ..modernness or something.

    edit: I'm pretty sure it was Ben Levin.
    Last edited by emanresu; 09-09-2019 at 01:27 PM.

  7. #6

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    Play the changes.

  8. #7

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    Coltrane played the changes with mainly 4 devices:

    1. Motiff 1235 (5321) also sometimes staring it on different scale degrees like the 5th
    2. Arpeggio
    3. Scale
    4. Very short and simple scale scale/chord melody

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    It's just another one to "play to targets" over. There's chords that function as movement in it, others as temporary rest points. Nail the rest points and create tension/pull ove the movement parts.
    This is where I'm currently at.

    Part 1 (Bar 1-8): Two blocks of four bars, where the third bar in each block is a whole note M7-chord and a target.
    Part 2 (Bar 9-16): Four blocks of two bars, where the first bar in each block is a whole note M7-chord and a target.

    Alternatively, when repeating;
    Part 1: bar 16+bar 1-7
    Part 2: bar 8-15
    Basically all whole note M7-chords are "rest points" that must be nailed.

    Part 2 comes natural to me, repeated figures that ascends in major 3rds. No problems here.
    Part 1 doesn't come natural, probably because the tonal centers change mid bar...


  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Uffe Steen View Post
    My best practicing advise is to know the changes very well in a comfortable tempo.
    Then improvise strictly half notes. NO cheating from this ..
    After some days or more or less, you´ll find the common notes of the harmonies.
    That gives you the ability to create real melodies instead of patterns.
    Cheers Uffe
    Thanks, I know you've done the homework on this piece, so I'll follow your advice.
    Harmony changes every half note during the transitions between the rest points, thus the changes become the melody. The original head is sort of hard-wired into my head, and I need to work on variations, figure out new melodies. For me this is something else than just "play the changes".
    I think your method is the way to go.

    Members of JGF, check out Uffes interpretation:

    Last edited by JCat; 09-10-2019 at 02:26 AM.

  11. #10

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    Don’t emphasise the major chords, play the dominants.

  12. #11

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    I'd suggest playing the changes until they sound natural and you can handle them by ear.

    After that fails, here's another idea.

    First line is (taking some liberties) Bmaj Am Gmaj Fm Eb. Think of that as descending in whole steps.

    Then, Eb to D7 is a half step.

    Same thing for the next four bars. Gmaj Fm Ebma Dbm B then down a half step.

    The rest of the tune is a series of V I's (cross out the iim's for the moment), then drop a half step to a new V7.


    [/QUOTE]

  13. #12

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    I found it helpful to ‘compose’ melodic lines that connect up the chords in the first half. E.g. improvising a good line from Bmaj to D7 did not come easily, so I took it very slowly and composed some nice lines that joined up these chords in a melodic way. After playing these lines for a while, I started to get the sound of the changes much more clearly in my head, then I found I could improvise a bit more. I sort of made these lines into etudes in a stream of 8th notes so I could just keep going through the changes without stopping. Maybe this is a bit like what Coltrane did to tackle the tune at first.

    The second half of the tune is easier, just practise your usual 2-5-1 lines over those moving key centres until they become natural.

    I never play it fast though, I’m not really that interested in speed. I like playing it at a medium tempo.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I found it helpful to ‘compose’ melodic lines that connect up the chords in the first half. E.g. improvising a good line from Bmaj to D7 did not come easily.
    I think this is a much more common (and effective!) technique than people let on.

    This actually happens whether you plan it out or not.

    The more lines and devices you have worked out, the more freely you can improvise.

    Personally, I probably wouldn't bother connecting B major to D7. If you play one or two B maj notes, and then play D7-->G you have a little bit of space, if you need it, and are picking your battles, cos D7-->G is a common move.

    You can always add more D7 if you don't want to leave a little gap.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I found it helpful to ‘compose’ melodic lines that connect up the chords in the first half. E.g. improvising a good line from Bmaj to D7 did not come easily, so I took it very slowly and composed some nice lines that joined up these chords in a melodic way. After playing these lines for a while, I started to get the sound of the changes much more clearly in my head, then I found I could improvise a bit more. I sort of made these lines into etudes in a stream of 8th notes so I could just keep going through the changes without stopping. Maybe this is a bit like what Coltrane did to tackle the tune at first.

    The second half of the tune is easier, just practise your usual 2-5-1 lines over those moving key centres until they become natural.

    I never play it fast though, I’m not really that interested in speed. I like playing it at a medium tempo.
    Thanks Graham,
    Yeah, this is where I've made best progress so far. I've already found that Uffe's method makes me hear new intervals. I'll use these discoveries and will continue to "compose" new melodies. In the process GS-specific patterns can be internalized.

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post

    First line is (taking some liberties) Bmaj Am Gmaj Fm Eb. Think of that as descending in whole steps.

    Then, Eb to D7 is a half step.

    Same thing for the next four bars. Gmaj Fm Ebma Dbm B then down a half step.
    Thanks, this is actually the kind of input I was hoping for; intervals as a quick reference guide. I've discovered a number of interesting half steps...but it obviously depends on the "start note". The intervals and patterns develop as I practice along.

    I shall explore your whole step approach.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCat View Post
    Thanks, I know you've done the homework on this piece, so I'll follow your advice.
    Harmony changes every half note during the transitions between the rest points, thus the changes become the melody. The original head is sort of hard-wired into my head, and I need to work on variations, figure out new melodies. For me this is something else than just "play the changes".
    I think your method is the way to go.

    Members of JGF, check out Uffes interpretation:

    If he rerecords with Telecaster, I might watch it.

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think this is a much more common (and effective!) technique than people let on.

    This actually happens whether you plan it out or not.

    The more lines and devices you have worked out, the more freely you can improvise.

    Personally, I probably wouldn't bother connecting B major to D7. If you play one or two B maj notes, and then play D7-->G you have a little bit of space, if you need it, and are picking your battles, cos D7-->G is a common move.

    You can always add more D7 if you don't want to leave a little gap.
    Thanks Christian,

    -What would you say is the key of this song? It starts in B-major, but only for a short while...BM7 to D7 actually contains one of those interesting half steps...

  19. #18

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  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCat View Post
    Thanks Christian,

    -What would you say is the key of this song? It starts in B-major, but only for a short while...BM7 to D7 actually contains one of those interesting half steps...
    Well it gives equal weight to three keys so from the POV of harmonic theory it's in B, G and Eb.

    However - I always heard it as Eb. I think that's what it ends on on the recording?

    So we hear structurally as well. The Eb is kind of the last tonic chord, and the C#m7 F#7 is like a turnaround back to the top of the form, if that makes any sense. Normally you can judge a tune's key by what it resolves to in the penultimate bar. Works for most standards... Works here too, oddly enough.

    So Just Friends is in G, not C. Autumn Leaves is in Gm, not Bb, and so on.

  21. #20

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    Here's some intermission music while I record a video


  22. #21
    Barry says "You have to go to D immediately!" "Horn players are not supposed to be involved in it. They play Dee-Da-Daa-Da-Dee-Da. They don't know how to improvise. They couldn't run Giant Steps to save their lives. You can't learn improvisation by knowing chords"

    ...

  23. #22

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    Yeah, I mean take listen to Coltrane's opening salvo

    II-V-I lick into B. Trane play two notes of the chord - F# D#, and then moves straight into a 1-2-3-5 pattern on D going into a G triad.

    TBH Trane's solo sounds like a collection of common place Bebop patterns of the type you might find in Barry Harris class.

    Also his first two phrases go

    ------> Eb
    ------> B

    With a bit of a rest. The -----> constistute the challenge of the tune. Those are the bits to practice. Everything else is commonplace.

    (At least if you are an experienced bop improviser, and if you are not, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO AWAY and come back when you are.)

    So lock down these bits:

    D7 --> G --> Bb7 --> Eb
    And
    Bb7 --> Eb --> F#7 --> B

    So it's like

    C#m7 F#7 B
    (EASY - hardly touch B, small breath)
    D7 --> G --> Bb7 --> Eb
    (Little rest, 4 whole beats)
    Am7 G7 G
    (EASY - hardly touch G, small breath)
    Bb7 --> Eb --> F#7 --> B

    The rest is II-V-I's, two bars each. EASY.

  24. #23

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    Video done. Probably easier to understand than the posts, but no doubt even more annoying than NES music


  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Video done. Probably easier to understand than the posts, but no doubt even more annoying than NES music

    Very nice,

    This week I eat, breath and spit be-bop.

    "We chose to go to the moon, not because it's easy, but because it is haaard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. That challenge is one we are willing to accept" ...."A small step for man, a Giant Step for mankind"

    I'm not deep into bop, I just play music I like. I got a few bop tunes on my repertoire and now I intend to add Giant Steps, that's all. I have no intensions to copy Coltrane, and I prefer a tempo where the changes can actually be heard.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCat View Post
    Very nice,

    This week I eat, breath and spit be-bop.

    "We chose to go to the moon, not because it's easy, but because it is haaard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. That challenge is one we are willing to accept" ...."A small step for man, a Giant Step for mankind"

    I'm not deep into bop, I just play music I like. I got a few bop tunes on my repertoire and now I intend to add Giant Steps, that's all. I have no intensions to copy Coltrane, and I prefer a tempo where the changes can actually be heard.
    Well Tranes lines all sound great slow too

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCat View Post
    Thanks, this is actually the kind of input I was hoping for; intervals as a quick reference guide. I've discovered a number of interesting half steps...but it obviously depends on the "start note". The intervals and patterns develop as I practice along.

    I shall explore your whole step approach.
    I'm glad it made sense.

    I don't usually aspire to play patterns, but I'll take any port in a storm.

    So, here's another way through.

    First four chords, just major triads. B C D Eb (yes, Eb triad against Bb7). Then, in bar 4, you can play a D triad or a C triad and a D triad.

    Next four, same concept. G Ab Bb B then to Bb. This actually makes the harmony Gmaj, Bb7sus, Ebmaj9, F#13sus, depending on how you want to name things.

    You can go thru the rest of the tune with a similar concept. Starting in bar 8, Bb, Eb, D, G, F#, B, Bb, Eb, Dbm. That's up a fourth then down a half step, up a fourth, down a half step, etc.

    The idea isn't to memorize this and feature it on your next album. Rather, it gives you a way to play something that sort of fits. It may start you thinking about what else follows a simple pattern and fits. Most important, while you're working on this, the sound of the chords may embed themselves in your head at which point you'll play through the tune entirely by ear -- which is probably going to be better.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 09-11-2019 at 01:42 PM.

  28. #27
    Hi JCat
    I have my funky backingtrack, Bpm: 90, here on my YT channel
    to work on all the fine answers in your thread.
    (Feel free to read more on the YT Channel.)
    Cheers Uffe

    Uffe Steen Music: http://www.uffe-steen.dk

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Uffe Steen View Post
    Hi JCat
    I have my funky backingtrack, Bpm: 90, here on my YT channel
    to work on all the fine answers in your thread.
    (Feel free to read more on the YT Channel.)
    Cheers Uffe

    Awesome, I really dig the groove and the tempo (and have already downloaded the track from your site )
    Your backing track is on my DAW as we speak. Thanks!

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uffe Steen View Post
    Hi JCat
    I have my funky backingtrack, Bpm: 90, here on my YT channel
    to work on all the fine answers in your thread.
    (Feel free to read more on the YT Channel.)
    Cheers Uffe

    i hit it with my .strandberg* Boden OS 8 when you first posted it
    on YT, Uffe! Such a great version of the tune to play on!!!

    Hopefully i did it justice....