Giant Steps by John Coltrane continues to be one of the landmark pieces in jazz history. Whether you like it or not, it has become part of almost every jazz musician’s journey. At some point, almost every jazzer (or aspiring jazzer) I know has attempted to play this piece. Some try to learn a chorus (or more) of Coltrane’s legendary solo and some opt to figure out their own way to surviving the tune. I know I’ve had my share of having to play this tune at jam sessions. It’s a scary one for most of us and definitely requires a lot of study to get used to.
I remember one of my guitar teachers, Rick Vandivier making me play through the piece, modulating a half step higher after every chorus during one of my lessons with him as a Masters in Music student back at San Jose State University. I’ve also studied different books that have helped me gain more confidence of the tune including a cool Joe Diorio book and a lesser known one by Wolf Marshall. Over the years, I still feel this tune packs a punch and is one that I still need to work on!
This new master class from Jamie Taylor is a special addition to the jazz pedagogy space with his guitaristic take on studying the piece. The 30-minute plus video is centered around two etudes that Jamie has composed to help us gain control on Giant Steps.
The first etude uses voice-led triads that are around the lower register of the guitar. In addition to helping us learn the changes, this etude also gives us an opportunity to practice economy picking or alternate picking depending on our preference. The second etude explores tetrachords and is reminiscent of Coltrane’s solo. Both etudes are played first at a suggested performance tempo and is then demonstrated at a slower tempo.
In addition to the etudes, Jamie also gives tips to help learn the tune more effectively and avoid common pitfalls. I especially like his tips on how to memorise the melody and chords of Giant Steps.
As with Jamie Taylor’s other newer videos, the video and audio quality is top-notch and well edited! In addition to the Soundsliced examples, Jamie also includes a beautifully notated and annotated 11-page PDF booklet that complements the video. This is all done with immense care to detail.
I really love how Jamie has made sure the material to be as easy to digest for the student. I can see how dedicated he is from all aspects of this masterclass. Strongly recommended and definitely one that I’ll be practicing from.
Pros: Excellent video, PDF and extremely well organised material for study!
TLDR: If you’re having any problems soloing over Giant Steps or are just looking for some additional help to improve your chops on this tune, this is a great video to get!