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Henry Mikheev
Henry Mikheev

Giant Steps: The Most Difficult Jazz Song Ever? Get the PDF Transcription and Find Out



John Coltrane's Giant Steps: A Jazz Masterpiece




Have you ever heard of John Coltrane's Giant Steps? If you are a jazz fan, you probably have. If you are not, you should. Giant Steps is one of the most influential and challenging jazz albums ever recorded. It showcases Coltrane's virtuosity, creativity, and innovation as a saxophonist and composer. It also represents a milestone in the history and evolution of jazz music.




john coltrane giant steps transcription pdf download



In this article, we will explore the musical structure, the historical context, the transcription and analysis, and the PDF download of Giant Steps. By the end of this article, you will have a deeper appreciation and understanding of this jazz masterpiece.


The musical structure of Giant Steps




Giant Steps is the name of both the album and the first track on it. The album was recorded in 1959 and released in 1960 by Atlantic Records. It features Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. The album consists of seven tracks, five composed by Coltrane and two standards.


The first track, Giant Steps, is widely regarded as one of the most difficult jazz compositions ever written. It is based on a complex harmonic progression that moves through three key centers: B major, G major, and E flat major. These key centers are separated by major thirds, creating a symmetrical pattern that Coltrane called "Coltrane changes".


The chord progression consists of two cycles of four bars each. Each cycle contains three chords that last for two beats each. The first cycle goes from B major to D7 to G major to B flat 7 to E flat major to F#7 to B major. The second cycle goes from E flat major to G7 to C major to E7 to A major to C#7 to F# major.


The tempo of the song is very fast, around 300 beats per minute. The melody consists of rapid eighth notes that follow the chord changes closely. The song has a standard AABA form, with each section being eight bars long. The A sections are identical, while the B section modulates to G major for four bars and then returns to B major for four bars.


The harmonic innovation of Giant Steps




Why is Giant Steps so innovative and challenging harmonically? There are several reasons. First, it uses a novel chord progression that does not follow the conventional rules of functional harmony. Instead of using chords that belong to one key or that resolve smoothly by fifths or fourths, it uses chords that are related by thirds or tritones. This creates a sense of constant modulation and tension.


Second, it uses a high number of chord changes in a short span of time. There are 26 chords in 16 bars, which means that the chords change every two beats. This requires the soloist to navigate the changes quickly and accurately, without losing the sense of melody and swing.


Third, it uses a symmetrical structure that creates a circular motion. The chord progression can be seen as a series of cycles that repeat indefinitely. Each cycle starts and ends on the same chord, but moves through different key centers along the way. This creates a feeling of endlessness and unpredictability.


The rhythmic complexity of Giant Steps




Why is Giant Steps so complex and challenging rhythmically? There are also several reasons. First, it uses a very fast tempo that demands a high level of technical skill and endurance. The soloist has to play fast and clean, without sacrificing the groove and the expression.


Second, it uses a syncopated melody that creates a contrast with the steady rhythm section. The melody consists of eighth notes that are often tied across the bar lines or accented on off-beats. This creates a sense of forward motion and excitement.


Third, it uses a variety of rhythmic devices that add interest and variety to the soloing. The soloist can use triplets, sixteenth notes, dotted notes, rests, or polyrhythms to create different effects and moods. The soloist can also use rhythmic displacement, which means playing the same phrase starting on different beats.


The melodic invention of Giant Steps




Why is Giant Steps so inventive and challenging melodically? There are also several reasons. First, it uses a complex melodic contour that reflects the chord changes. The melody consists of ascending and descending intervals that range from seconds to sevenths. The melody also uses chromaticism, which means using notes that are not in the key.


Second, it uses a thematic development that creates coherence and continuity. The melody is based on a four-note motif that is repeated and varied throughout the song. The motif consists of two ascending thirds followed by two descending seconds. The motif can be transposed, inverted, augmented, diminished, or embellished to fit the chord changes.


Third, it uses a creative improvisation that explores different possibilities and expressions. The soloist can use scales, arpeggios, patterns, licks, or motifs to create melodic lines that follow or contrast with the chord changes. The soloist can also use dynamics, articulation, tone color, or effects to create different sounds and emotions.


The historical context of Giant Steps




Giant Steps is not only a musical achievement, but also a historical one. It reflects Coltrane's personal and artistic journey as well as the evolution of jazz music in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


The influence of bebop and hard bop on Coltrane




Coltrane was born in 1926 in North Carolina. He started playing saxophone at the age of 13 and moved to Philadelphia in 1943. He was influenced by the bebop style of jazz that emerged in the 1940s, pioneered by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and others. Bebop was characterized by fast tempos, complex harmonies, intricate melodies, and virtuosic improvisation.


Coltrane joined Miles Davis's quintet in 1955 and became one of the leading figures of hard bop, a style that evolved from bebop but incorporated more bluesy and soulful elements. Coltrane recorded several albums with Davis, such as 'Round About Midnight (1957), Milestones (1958), and Kind of Blue (1959). He also recorded his own albums as a leader or co-leader, such as Blue Train (1957), Soultrane (1958), and Lush Life (1958).


The personal and artistic challenges of Coltrane




Coltrane faced many challenges in his personal and artistic life. He struggled with drug addiction, which affected his health and performance. He was fired by Davis several times for his unreliability and erratic behavior. He also faced criticism from some critics and fans who did not understand or appreciate his musical direction.


Coltrane was always searching for new ways to express himself musically. He studied music theory extensively and practiced relentlessly. He experimented with different instruments, such as soprano saxophone and flute. He explored different musical genres, such as modal jazz, free jazz, avant-garde jazz, spiritual jazz, and world music.


The reception and legacy of Giant Steps




The transcription and analysis of Giant Steps




One of the best ways to learn from Giant Steps is to transcribe and analyze it. Transcription means writing down the notes and rhythms of the music by ear. Analysis means understanding the logic and structure of the music by using music theory.


Transcribing and analyzing Giant Steps can help you improve your musical skills, such as ear training, sight reading, technique, theory, harmony, melody, rhythm, and improvisation. It can also help you appreciate Coltrane's genius and creativity more deeply.


The benefits of transcribing Giant Steps




There are many benefits of transcribing Giant Steps. Here are some of them:



  • It can help you develop your ear and your musical memory. You can train yourself to recognize the intervals, chords, scales, and patterns that Coltrane uses in his composition and soloing.



  • It can help you improve your technique and your speed. You can challenge yourself to play the notes and rhythms accurately and cleanly at a fast tempo.



  • It can help you expand your vocabulary and your style. You can learn from Coltrane's melodic ideas and expressions and apply them to your own playing.



  • It can help you understand the theory and the harmony behind the music. You can see how Coltrane uses the Coltrane changes and other harmonic devices to create tension and resolution.



  • It can help you develop your creativity and your originality. You can experiment with different ways of playing over the changes or creating your own variations.



The challenges of transcribing Giant Steps




There are also many challenges of transcribing Giant Steps. Here are some of them:



  • It can be difficult to hear and identify the notes and rhythms correctly. You may need to use a software or a device that can slow down or loop the music.



  • It can be difficult to write down the notes and rhythms accurately. You may need to use a notation software or a paper that has staff lines.



  • It can be difficult to play the notes and rhythms fluently. You may need to practice slowly and gradually increase the speed.



  • It can be difficult to understand the logic and structure of the music. You may need to use a reference book or a website that has an analysis or an explanation of the music.



  • It can be difficult to create your own interpretation or variation of the music. You may need to use your imagination and your intuition.



The resources for transcribing Giant Steps




Fortunately, there are many resources available for transcribing Giant Steps. Here are some of them:



  • You can use a software or a device that can slow down or loop the music, such as Transcribe!, Amazing Slow Downer, Audacity, or YouTube.



  • You can use a notation software or a paper that has staff lines, such as MuseScore, Finale, Sibelius, or Blank Sheet Music.



  • You can use a reference book or a website that has an analysis or an explanation of the music, such as The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine, The Jazz Language by Dan Haerle, The Music of John Coltrane by Andy LaVerne, or Learn Jazz Standards.



  • You can use a transcription book or a website that has a transcription of the music, such as John Coltrane: His Life And Music by Lewis Porter, John Coltrane: Omnibook by Hal Leonard, John Coltrane: Solos by Hal Leonard, or Saxopedia.



The PDF download of Giant Steps transcription




If you want to save time and effort, you can also download a PDF file of Giant Steps transcription. A PDF file is a document format that can be viewed on any device and printed easily. A PDF file of Giant Steps transcription can contain the notation of the melody, the chords, and the solos of Coltrane and Flanagan.


How to download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription




There are several ways to download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription. Here are some of them:



  • You can buy a PDF file of Giant Steps transcription from an online store or a publisher, such as Sheet Music Plus, Musicnotes, Jazzwise Publications, or Jamey Aebersold.



  • You can download a PDF file of Giant Steps transcription from a free website or a blog, such as FreeScores, 8notes, Jazz Transcriptions, or Sax Shed.



  • You can create your own PDF file of Giant Steps transcription by using a notation software or a scanner, such as MuseScore, Finale, Sibelius, or Adobe Acrobat.



How to use the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription




Once you have downloaded the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription, you can use it for various purposes. Here are some of them:



  • You can use it to study and analyze the music. You can compare the notation with the audio and see how Coltrane and Flanagan play over the changes.



  • You can use it to practice and improve your playing. You can play along with the music and try to match the notes and rhythms.



  • You can use it to perform and share the music. You can play the music with other musicians or for an audience.



How to share the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription




If you want to share the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription with others, you can also do that easily. Here are some ways to do that:



  • You can email the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription to your friends or colleagues who are interested in the music.



  • You can upload the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription to a cloud service or a social media platform, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram.



  • You can print the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription and give it to your students or teachers who are learning or teaching the music.



Conclusion




Giant Steps is a jazz masterpiece that showcases Coltrane's musical genius and innovation. It has a complex musical structure, a rich historical context, a challenging transcription and analysis, and a convenient PDF download. It is a great source of inspiration and education for any jazz lover.


If you want to learn more about Giant Steps, you can listen to the album, read the books, visit the websites, or download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription. You can also try to transcribe and analyze it yourself, or create your own interpretation or variation of it. You will discover new things and enjoy the music more.


Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it useful and interesting. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about Giant Steps:



  • Q: Who is John Coltrane?



  • A: John Coltrane is one of the most influential and acclaimed jazz saxophonists and composers of all time. He was born in 1926 and died in 1967. He played with many jazz legends, such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie. He also led his own groups, such as the Classic Quartet and the John Coltrane Quartet. He recorded many albums that are considered jazz classics, such as Blue Train, My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme, and Ascension.



  • Q: What is Giant Steps?



  • A: Giant Steps is both the name of an album and a song by John Coltrane. The album was recorded in 1959 and released in 1960 by Atlantic Records. The song is one of the most difficult jazz compositions ever written. It is based on a complex harmonic progression that moves through three key centers: B major, G major, and E flat major. These key centers are separated by major thirds, creating a symmetrical pattern that Coltrane called "Coltrane changes".



  • Q: Why is Giant Steps important?



  • A: Giant Steps is important because it represents a milestone in the history and evolution of jazz music. It showcases Coltrane's virtuosity, creativity, and innovation as a saxophonist and composer. It also challenges and inspires generations of jazz musicians and listeners who want to learn from it.



  • Q: How to play Giant Steps?



  • Q: How to play Giant Steps?



  • A: To play Giant Steps, you need to have a good ear, a good technique, a good theory knowledge, a good vocabulary, and a good creativity. You need to be able to hear and identify the chord changes quickly and accurately. You need to be able to play fast and clean notes and rhythms that fit the chord changes. You need to be able to understand the logic and structure of the chord progression and the melody. You need to be able to use scales, arpeggios, patterns, licks, or motifs that create melodic lines that follow or contrast with the chord changes. You need to be able to use dynamics, articulation, tone color, or effects that create different sounds and emotions.



  • Q: How to transcribe Giant Steps?



  • A: To transcribe Giant Steps, you need to have a good ear, a good notation skill, a good reference source, and a good patience. You need to be able to listen to the music carefully and repeatedly. You need to be able to write down the notes and rhythms of the music by ear. You need to be able to use a software or a device that can slow down or loop the music. You need to be able to use a notation software or a paper that has staff lines. You need to be able to use a reference book or a website that has an analysis or an explanation of the music.



  • Q: How to download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription?



  • A: To download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription, you need to have a good internet connection, a good device, and a good website or store. You need to be able to access the internet and browse the web. You need to be able to use a device that can view and print PDF files. You need to be able to find a website or a store that has a PDF file of Giant Steps transcription. You need to be able to buy or download the PDF file of Giant Steps transcription.



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