Coltrane

Hey Jazz Guy,

I’m mystified by ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Coltrane changes’, can you explain how that harmony works? –Confused in Cambridge


Dear Confused,

John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ was a landmark moment in jazz, a beautiful tune that has proved fascinating ever since. We will break it down to examine this brilliant piece of music. This is a three tonic system. If we divide the octave into three equal parts, we get three notes, each four half-steps apart, for example B, Eb, and G. Then we build major triads on these notes [Ex 1], they will be our three tonics. The genius of the progression is the relative dominant chords in front of each major chord make the resolution stronger. The first half of the progression [Ex 2] illustrates this technique, starting with BMaj7 then dominant (D7) to the next tonic (GMaj7) followed by another dominant (Bb7) to the last tonic (EbMaj7). Notice that a ii-V is used to ‘recycle’ the tonics and start the sequence again on GMaj7. The second half of the progression [Ex 3] just places ii-Vs as preludes to each key change, beginning with Eb, then ii-V to G, ii-V to B, ii-V to Eb, finally another ii-V to get back to the top. Because the motion is so complex, the aim when soloing is to play accurately over the shifting tonal centers. Over the first four chords [Ex 4] the line is almost exclusively chord tones. This is important because when the harmony changes so rapidly, it must be clearly articulated by the soloist in order to sound ‘correct’. Practice each piece of this tune slowly and carefully, taking one small step for you, one Giant Step for your jazz abilities!

Link to PDF Example: HJG – COLTRANE

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Harmony

Follow Me!

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: