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How to learn/solo on Giant Steps?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by NDBass, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. NDBass


    Jan 22, 2012
    Brooklyn, New York
    I really want to learn Giant Steps just to have as part of my repertoire for general auditions. I can play the melody with good fingerings just fine, it's that I'm having trouble absorbing the chords, and that with the difficulty of playing at Coltrane speed makes it hard to solo on. Any suggestions?
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Listen slower then play slower.

    John Patitucci's "Monk/Trane" off Remembrance is a beautiful, medium-tempo stripped-down rendering of "Giant Steps." The band is JP, Brian Blade and Joe Lovano (at his best!). It's a lovely, loping approach which might help you to hear the general outline more clearly. And, of course, Mr. Patitucci's playing would inspire almost anybody!
  3. MrDOS

    MrDOS Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2006
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Inspires me to become a plumber! LOL
  4. good advice (Metheny also does this tune as a medium bossa). i would also recommend either transcribing or getting a transcription of Trane's solo. He is very clear about what he is doing. This will provide many ideas about how to approach these changes. For example, he employs 1-2-3-5 patterns often in many permutations. So... practice these over the tune starting with 1-2-3-5, then 5-3-2-1, then others. This will help to get the progression in your ear. Also, comp through it on the piano.
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    The thing about that tune, and many of the "Coltrane Matrix" tunes is that, except for a couple of transitional ascending minor third things in bars one and five.... the rest is all ii-V-I progressions. In this case, each successive two-five is a tritone from one another. So if you have your ii-V's together, you should be in good shape. Duck soup. If you get the geography of it, you should be able to play it in any key with no problem.
  6. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Though I find it a hard one to make my solo very musical. I sound like I'm running exercises... Of course so do a lot of sax players.
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    But that's whum sayin'... make it as musical as any other two-fiver, should be good... the way I do it is to try to stay way ahead of the changes. If you sound like you're chasing them, then it can sound disjointed.
  8. amen! i've really tired of playing this tune at sessions primarily for this reason
  9. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    "Though I find it a hard one to make my solo very musical. I sound like I'm running exercises... Of course so do a lot of sax players."

    And so did Coltrane. One of the greatest musicians, playing one of his warm up exercises, leaving Tommy Flanagan, one of the greatest, most musical pianists, in a confused muddle.

    Giant Steps is magnificent played as a ballad.

    Steven Schuster
  10. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Giant steps isnt about being musical. (read the whole thing, and follow me ok?)

    Its like running a four minute mile. Its a pinnacle of jazz chops. Before you can do it well, you gotta be able to do it.

    the 1 2 3 5 patterns are a great idea, and Trane's solo will definitely help, and i am working on this tune now.

    Heres what im working on:

    Take the tune and expand it so the minimum length for each chord is a bar, or even two. Slow it down. Memorize the chords. Make sure you know it.

    Work on it from a scale point of view, a chord point of view, a pattern point of view and a big picture point of view.

    Once its comfortable, collapse it. Start with the measures first, then try speeding it up. Make sure you still have space and are comfortable. Then take it up a notch.

    After a while (weeks, months, whenever) when you think you are getting there, just freakin play along with it and go for it at normal speed. Push through and push harder. let the ideas come and then burn that ****er down.

    Then clean up your sloppy stuff, revisit your choices and what you would do different and keep learning it.

    after a couple years i bet it will sound great. I'll see you there.
  11. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Yet another recommendation for Patitucci, Lovano and Blade playing "Monk/Trane" on Remembrance. It's a thoroughly musical bass solo (and sax solo).

    Somewhere I heard an alternate take of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" on which Tommy Flanagan also plays a chord solo. That fact nailed down for me that Mr. Flanagan's solo on the familiar, released recording was completely intentional -- no muddle!
  12. lsabina


    Sep 3, 2008
    Flanagan, who supposedly received the lead sheet the night before the recording session from Coltrane, thought the tune was a ballad. His horror at the count off must of been something! But he did record a burning version of the tune years later...
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    It was pointed out to me that there's no law requiring you to always play 8th note solos.
    If the tempo is stupid fast, play something melodic, floating above the time.
    As far as sessions are concerned, if I don't want to solo, when they look at me, I simply shake my head 'no'. No big deal.
    Most of the horn solos I've heard on GS suck.
  14. NDBass


    Jan 22, 2012
    Brooklyn, New York
    Much appreciated. I guess I was too stuck on trying to wow the audience.
  15. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
  16. Do yourself a favor, buy a copy of Walt Weiskopf's book on Coltrane's changes.
  17. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    One way to simplify the matrix- look at the ii-V's as Vsus-V7


    Eb / Dsus D7 / G / F#sus F#7


    This mentally clarifies things for a lot of people, and is always an option in your lines, and with pedal points, etc....

    Also, NDBass, never concern yourself with wowing the audience. It comes off as neophyte and insincere. Play from your heart and try to make people dance and smile, and you'll always be happier with your results.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I am still fascinated by folks who call this tune, play all of this gibberish as fast as they can and are unable to play anything cogent over CENTRAL PARK WEST.
  19. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings

    I'll never forget the jam session with all the conservatory kids playing Giant Steps with everybody taking 100 choruses. I called Wine and Roses and was met with blank stares and 'do you have a chart?'.:help:
  20. My suggestion- Sit down with the chart and analyze it for common tones between chords. To use the first 3 measures for example:
    B = B, Eb, Gb (putting all accidentals in flats for easy reading)
    D7 = D, Gb, A, C
    G = G, B, D,
    Eb = Eb, G, Bb

    So you have this collection to work with, (staying within the chord structure)
    Eb, Gb, G, A, Bb, B, C, D, Eb,
    Play it beginning and ending with an Eb, and this gets you through the first 3 measures.

    Reduce it to one note every two beats and you get:
    Eb, Gb, G (or B), Bb, (or D), Eb,

    Look at it with the adjacent common tones =
    B = Gb
    D7 = D, Gb,
    G = G, D,
    Eb = G, Bb (G, to set up for the upcoming A-7)

    and you get:
    Gb, D, Gb, G, D, G, Bb, (G)

    so you could use these in this order to build your solo. Look for pentatonics and half step motions- they tend to attract the ear. Listen for where you can land on a tone that is a whole or half step away from the principal chord member, setting you up for a tension / resolution.

    Again, this is more or less staying within the principal chordal tones, but I feel it's better to begin with the basic structure first - learn to play inside first, to look for something melodic and memorable, then learn how to play outside the chord structure. Anybody can play fast aimless scales over Giant Steps. It takes a musician to create an inspiring melodic solo over those changes.

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