Two Giant Steps Licks

Lately, my book The Giant Steps Scratch Pad has enjoyed a modest spate of sales. I appreciate that musicians take an interest in it. On my part, it was a labor of love, and it’s gratifying when you, my readers, find it worthwhile enough to shell out your hard-earned cash to obtain a copy. Every purchase is a shot of morale for me, not to mention a nice dent in my electric bill.

As a way of saying thanks, I thought I’d share with you a couple of favorite new Giant Steps licks that I’ve been practicing. They correspond to the A section of Giant Steps’ A-B form and have a bebop flavor to them.

Since I’m an Eb alto saxophonist, I’ve written the licks out for my instrument. C, Bb, F, and bass clef instruments will need to transpose accordingly. ‘Nuff said. Without further ado, here are the licks. Click on the image to open and enlarge it.

Coming Soon: The Giant Steps Scratch Pad in All 12 Keys

My book The Giants Steps Scratch Pad is enjoying modest success. While it’s not flying off the shelves, musicians are buying it, and I find that gratifying because I haven’t done much to market it other than display it on this and a couple of other jazz websites, and run a few ads in Craigslist.

Available in separate editions for C, Bb, Eb, and bass cleff instruments, the book supplies 155 licks and patterns designed to help jazz instrumentalists master the Giant Steps cycle. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no other resource out there like it that helps musicians actually practice Coltrane changes. The closest I’ve seen has been for guitar players.

But enough about that. If you want to learn more about The Giant Steps Scratch Pad, visit my sales page. This post is to announce the upcoming release of a new edition of the Scratch Pad that covers all 12 keys.

I’ve had this edition in mind for a while. I finally got the project underway but have held back announcing it until I felt certain that I’d see it through to completion. Today, with just three keys left to go, I think it’s safe to say that this new, all-keys edition is gonna happen. I hope to wrap up the main grunt work within the next few days. I wish it was as easy as simply hitting the transposition button on MuseScore, but while transcription software is great, it doesn’t eliminate the need for hands-on editing. So I’ve been sifting through each key page by page, changing the range where necessary, correcting wrong notes, inserting and deleting accidentals, and so forth.

Once I’m finished, I’ll proofread the results to make doubly sure that the manuscript is glitch-free. Then I’ll assemble the whole lot and make it available as a PDF download. I will not offer it as a print edition through unless I get requests to do so. Judging from my sales of the present editions, people would much rather download the PDF and get the guts of the book instantly for cheaper rather than pay the shipping costs (even though the full-color cover looks sooooo sharp!). And I’m fine with that. Prepping a print edition is a lot of extra work; I have to charge more for it in order to make less than half the profit; and Lulu’s insistence on putting a single, slim book inside a cardboard box that costs nearly $4.00 to ship is just plain crazy, not to mention a sales-killer.

Anyway, stay tuned. It’ll still take a week or two, but The Giant Steps Scratch Pad for all 12 keys is on the way. I haven’t determined the price yet, but it’ll be reasonable, something that’ll let you still pay your utility bills while helping me to pay mine. I should add that this edition is written in treble clef. I may do a bass clef edition in all 12 keys as well–I’m not sure right now. One thing at a time.

“Giant Steps” Licks and Patterns

After posting a couple days ago on how to use the augmented scale with “Giant Steps” changes, I’ve experienced a renewed interest in woodshedding John Coltrane’s high-hurdle chord cycle.

There was a time in my musical life, maybe ten years ago, when I became moderately obsessed with “Giant Steps.” I painstakingly wrote down my practice material in a music notebook, which I continued to add to until I had a veritable blizzard of ideas to work with.

Today, looking through the web, I see plenty of resources that explore the theory behind the changes to “Giant Steps.” However, I don’t see much in the way of licks and patterns, of application-oriented stuff that a sax player can actually wrap his or her fingers around. So, since I’m presently re-exploring my “Giant Steps” notebook, I thought I’d share a page with you.

Click on the image to the right to enlarge it. It’s all hands-on stuff. If you want to study Coltrane’s theory involving key centers moving by major thirds, you can find plenty of information on the Internet, such as this excellent Wikipedia article. But understanding the “Giant Steps” cycle isn’t the same as playing it, and that’s where this article can help.

One caveat: since I’m an alto sax player, I wrote out the changes in my key. If you play an instrument pitched in Bb or C, such as tenor sax or flute, you’ll need to transpose.

The patterns shown here are for the first four bars of the tune’s A section. With it’s lopsided arrangement of V7-I cadences–which would be simple enough in themselves to negotiate if Coltrane hadn’t placed the bar lines so inconveniently–this section is the one that can be hard to master. I wrote out material for the B section as well, but what I’ve shown here will probably be more to your immediate interest.

Enjoy the material, practice hard, and have fun!

UPDATE: My entire “Giant Steps” practice notebook is now available for sale in C, Bb, Eb, and bass clef editions. Using music notation software, I transcribed all of the handwritten material (including the above image) into a clear, easy-to-read format; wrote a front section that discusses the basic theory of Coltrane changes and gives tips and insights for practice; and had a cover professionally designed.

The Giant Steps Scratch Pad is available as

* PDF download–$9.50

* Print edition–$10.95 plus shipping

The PDF will provide you with the full contents of the book instantly and save you money. The print edition gives you the complete, finished production complete with glossy cover. If you enjoyed the licks and patterns on this page, then The Giant Steps Scratch Pad is for you. View page samples from the Bb edition and order your copy today!