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Learning Giant Steps

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by henry2513, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    I've started studying Giant Steps, a super frustrating song.

    I've got an incredible teacher and what he's having me do is transition from walking over the tune to soloing over it by playing 8th notes at different tempos over the changes in the upper register.

    I thought that I could share some challenges here and (hopefully) any victories so that anyone who is thinking of tackling this tune can gain some insights from my struggles lol

    Here's a video of my attempt on the exercise I was given. It's super challenging playing ONLY 8th notes and trying to make it swing. I've been working at right hand dynamics for the last month and I think I succeed at times and fail miserably others but that's about the only positive thing I have to say about this vid.

    Lots of rough spots in the vid and a train wreck lol but there'd nothing to be gained by posting a reasonably good attempt.


    Hopefully others who have already kicked this tunes ass can chime in with insights for us who are still wrestling with this one.
  2. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    The biggest challenge in this video is intonation. Just sayin.
  3. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Ha :D, that's the least of my problems at this stage of learning this tune. I have much bigger problems than that lol.
  4. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    Meh, honestly all Giant Steps is is a bunch of really fast key changes, except for the first couple bars, and you can just use some hyper-diminished-augmented junk over that. Practice your tonal centers and changing them up quickly.

    I practiced that tune for probably hundreds of hours. How many times have I had to blow over the changes on stage? Zero. The tune is just an exercise anyway.
  5. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Yeah, that's the same thing my teacher said, just a bunch of key changes really and the the last bar in the tune and the first 7 bars is a bunch of V I's etc that are parallel. He pointed out that the tune starts a bar early and if you move the last II-V to the to top the first 7 bars plus the last bar in the tune are the same harmonic pattern. Pretty cool.

    I agree it's just an exercise but IMO valuable.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't know...in the right hands, Giant Steps can move me on an emotional level, which I can't really say about a lot of bebop. I'd say that the more you do it, the more you will take those notes you're playing and come up with interesting little takes on it. You seem to have a good grasp of what notes to play, but sound a little unsure of how to make it sound more interesting. I say go right to the source:

    Check out what Coltrane and Tommy Flanagan do in their solos. Check out some other versions of it, too. I remember the late Shawn Lane having a great version of it on guitar. If you're having a hard time thinking of something to do, steal licks from the other versions. Everyone steals.

    Honestly, I might have started you soloing with something a little easier ;) but you sound like you're hanging and getting a grasp of it so it's all good.
  7. eee


    Jan 17, 2009
    Tommy Flanagan totally botches his solo in the original recording, it's kind of funny. Can't say I'd do any better though.
  8. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    looking at that video I'd say both tone and intonation are issues here.
    Slowing it right down and using simpler lines might allow you to sort both issues whilst actually learning the tune properly whilst playing something that sounds like music.
    Good luck and have fun!
    .....Always have fun!:)
  9. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
  10. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca

    Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. I actually asked my teacher to help me through Giant Steps so whatever pain is self inflicted hahaha.
  11. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Thanks for the link, I watched a few videos this is super helpful, I appreciate it!
  12. I don't think there is a bigger problem than intonation when you play fretless. If you can't play something in tune it's always going to be painful to the listener and (hopefully) to yourself as well.
    I went to a guitar clinic at a college with Scofield many years ago. A student asked him how he approaches playing over Giant Steps. Scofield's response was "I don't know why you would want to play this tune...Much too hard!" That was funny. I'm sure Scofield could shred over that tune.
    The teacher who was in the room got all red faced but there is some truth to that. Just from a practical working musician's standpoint, In the time that you can get Giant Steps together you could probably nail 20 other tunes that people actually call on jazz gigs. Chances are that even if you totally nail it, it's still going to sound like crap because everybody else is going to struggle.
    But if you are into the challenge and you like to torture yourself, keep on going.You're doing good so far.You're a hell of a lot further along in that process than I ever got and probably a lot of guys who actually claim to know it.
  13. Oh yeah and check this out
  14. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    There's a much older song that Giant Steps is rumored to have been drawn from. Roger's & Hart's, Have You Met Miss Jones. The challenging part here is limited to the bridge. And it's a great tune. Get a handle on this and Giant Steps should come easier.
  15. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    I like to torture myself haha, actually it's not so much torture as fun, I enjoy working on this tune, even if it is frustrating. My intonation did suffer in that video because of the difficult time I was having trying to make it swing and control dynamics but I'm having an easier time of it now so i can focus on my intonation more.

    I hear you about learning this tune, it's actually making the other tunes I'm learning a bit easier.
  16. Araman


    Sep 19, 2012
    bass teacher , IBASS-SCHOOL
    playing Giant Steps is not difficult if you play it (very)slowly ( then you can play it faster and faster)
    it's difficult because of the tempo
  17. Zootsuitbass


    Mar 13, 2011
    Not that I can do it. But the big picture point is to be able to impose those changes over other tunes. ALA Coltrane.
  18. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Just thought I'd update this thread with my progress on this tune. I really would love feedback.

    Thanks guys, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to listen. It's really great to have a place where I can get feedback on my playing.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  19. avvie


    Oct 12, 2010
    Maui, HI
    There was a kinetic key chart to this song posted on another forum once. i've asked for it to be reposted if it's available.
  20. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    You're navigating the harmony well. But this take sounds like a wall of scale and arpeggio exercises with no room to breathe. Try starting with short phrases and really breaking them up, then start playing longer phrases.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014

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