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Harmonica Lessons: Soloing on "Giant Steps"

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Here's something I've promised that
I was going to do for a long time and
this is a tune that, gee, it's one of
those things you eventually have to
confront if you are a jazz musician.
No matter what instrument you play.
It's John Coltrane's Giant Steps.
[MUSIC]
I tried to put a few other lessons
on here.
Just explaining how the melody works, how
the bass line works, what the chords are.
And now I'm going to explain to you
how to play some simple solos on it.
Basically, what the chord
structure is It's
a symmetrical root movement
of minor thirds and fourths.
But, these things also have functions
within the keys that they're
moving between.
They're really, the tune is really
all in three keys, B, E flat and G.
Which go along the augmented arpeggio.
[MUSIC]
Which is why the tune is so disorienting.
It gives you kind of
a case of musical vertigo.
[MUSIC]
B, D 7, G, B flat 7, E flat.
So you realize what is
really happening here.
First you play in B for a little while.
[MUSIC]
And then you play the five-one of G.
[MUSIC]
And then the five-one
[MUSIC]
of E flat.
[MUSIC]
And then the two-five of G.
[MUSIC]
And then the five-one of, of E flat and
the five-one of B.
[MUSIC]
So it's all five ones.
But since they're a major
third apart from each other,
they're never really in the scale of any
keys that are directly related because
they're really along the whole tone scale.
The implication of these harmonies,
there's no fifth in the scale
that connects these three keys together
[MUSIC]
It's a whole tone scale, so
this is why Coltrane wrote this.
It's trying to create something
that sounds very congruent and
normal where the chords are moving
around in a disorienting way.
So what you have to train yourself how
to do is to play normal sounding runs,
but adjust your thinking
process to the fact that
the keys are changing in an abnormal way.
I'll show you what I
mean,so I'm playing in B.
[MUSIC]
You see what
I was doing?
I was playing in B and then D-7,
G, B-flat seven to E-flat.
Tying these things together in
a way that was actually melodic.
[MUSIC]
That's another pattern that works.
[MUSIC]
And the patterns are symmetrical
because all the chord
changes are symmetrical.
It's like a Rubik's Cube,
like a musical Rubik's Cube.
[MUSIC]
And then you sit for,
for one bar on E flat.
[MUSIC]
And then a two-five of, of G.
[MUSIC]
And then you, you're in G.
[MUSIC]
And the five-one of E flat.
[MUSIC]
And then the five one at B.
[MUSIC]
And then the two five of E flat.
[MUSIC]
And then the two five one of G.
[MUSIC]
Then the 2-5-1 of B.
[MUSIC]
And then of E flat.
[MUSIC]
And then B.
[MUSIC]
And so the way you
deal with these changes.
You have to hit,
on the down beat of each chord change,
you have to hit a note that's in the scale
of the key that you're arriving at.
So B
[MUSIC]
D
[MUSIC] G [MUSIC]
B flat, E flat.
So,
[MUSIC]
that's a simple one.
[MUSIC]
I hit the roots of each
of those chords, okay.
So this is just a little
bit of a helpful hint for
some of you more advanced jazz players
here of how to play Giant Steps.
You have to keep adjusting your mind
to the changing musical landscapes.
It's like playing one of those video games
where those things are coming at you, and
you got to shoot down, or
you gotta drive around them.
It's very much like
a musical obstacle course.
So I'm gonna play some of these changes.
I've tried to play it at a slow tempo,
and then.
[MUSIC]
Melody.
[MUSIC]
It's a C Harp by the way.
[MUSIC].
Something like that.
So I tried to lay some very logical,
clear almost like playing
it almost like an exercise.
Because,in order to learn how to play this
tune well, you have to approach it with
intellectual rigor as if it was
an exercise and then only after you have
proper respect and fear for this tune
will you be able to sound artistic on it.
Okay?
Good luck.