Practicing “Giant Steps”: Static and Chord Tone Sequences

Here are some more exercises on the Giant Steps cycle. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) While it might not be immediately apparent, the linear patterns shown here are actually a continuation from my previous post on isolating V7s in the cycle. Note that the V7 chords are still spotlighted by emphasizing them with quarter notes, which are led into by the preceding grouping of eighth notes. Think of the dominant harmonies as target tones preceded by a walk-up. In these exercises, I've elected to focus on the treadmill-like cycle of Coltrane changes rather than the full eight-bar A section of "Giant Steps." As is typical of so much of the practice material in my posts, what you're getting here comes straight from my own current explorations and discoveries in the woodshed Don't be cowed by this post's heady subtitle, "Static and Chord Tone Sequences." I'm just not sure how else to describe this material. The goal I'm after is to work with linear sequences that will drill the shifting tone centers of Coltrane changes into my fingers. (Geeze, that still sounds murky as all get-out. Oh, well. Deal with it.) Since I'm an alto sax player, I've written these exercises in the Eb transposition. If you play a Bb or a C instrument, you'll need to transpose accordingly. Exercise one proceeds through the entire Giant Steps cycle in three bars. The first three-bar cycle starts on Ab; the second, on E; and the third, on C. In each series, I've kept the first note of each measure as static as possible, shifting it by just a half-step in the third measure to accommodate the change in key. In exercise two, the harmony continues to repeat itself (i.e. AbM7 to B7, back and forth) while the starting tone for the eighth-note groupings shifts, progressively, from the root to the third to the fifth. In both exercises, pay attention to which target tones you arrive at in the dominant seventh chords. And that's enough of me talking. Dig in, engage your analytical thinking along with your fingers--and, as always, have fun! Oh, yeah--if you enjoyed this post, please check out my many other articles, practice exercises, solo transcriptions, and video tutorials for improvising musicians.

“Round About” Jazz Etude for Bb and C Instruments

Yesterday I published an etude that I wrote based on the chord changes to the Jamey Aebersold tune "Round About." The tune is included in the second CD of the 2-CD set Dominant Seventh Workout (number 84 ins the Aebersold jazz improvisation CD series). Since my instrument is the alto saxophone, it was natural for me to write the etude using the Eb transposition. But of course, the whole world doesn't play Eb instruments. So I promised those of you who play tenor sax, trumpet, flute, and other Bb and concert pitch instruments that I would provide transposed charts for you. Here they are. The top chart is for C instruments and the bottom one is for Bb instruments. Click on the images to enlarge them. If possible, use the Aebersold accompaniment for "Round About" or have a pianist comp for you as you play the etude so you can hear how the lines work with the harmony. If you enjoy these exercises, look here for more, along with insightful articles, transcribed solos, and tips on jazz improv. CORRECTION: Now that this article has been posted for a while, naturally I've noticed a transcription error in the C and Bb charts. (The original Eb chart is fine.) Since you can easily make the correction mentally, I'm going to simply tell you what it is. In measures 3-4 and 19-20, the chord symbol should not contain a sharp sign. The correct chord in both locations is as follows: for the C chart, A7+4; for the Bb chart, B7+4.

Oldies But Goodies

Sorry--I seem to have let an entire week slip by without posting. Many bloggers have a knack for slapping out short, cogent posts in 15 minutes or so, but that's not a gift of mine. Just about every post takes me several hours to write, particularly the ones that include musical exercises. So when I have other things packing my schedule, the prospect of sitting down and creating a post can seem daunting. That has been the case this week. Could be a streak of just plain old laziness somewhere in the mix, too, but mainly, these past few days have been busy ones. My brothers Pat and Terry arrived for a two-week visit Monday, so family has been a priority. And work still goes on, regardless--gotta make a living. Today my bros, my sister, Diane, and I headed to Newaygo, rented some kayaks, plopped them into the Muskegon River, and spent the afternoon taking a delightful 6-mile drift with the current. The Muskegon is a surpassingly beautiful stretch of water. I saw three bald eagles soaring overhead, slews of large turtles sunning themselves on logs, several kingfishers, a green heron, and brilliant red cardinal flowers rimming the banks in swampy areas. Altogether it was a most satisfying day. But of course, as I said, I haven't had time to write. So I figured that instead, I'd refer you to a couple of links to archived articles. The first is one I wrote one year ago, titled "Will I Ever Become a Good Jazz Improviser?" The second article is for storm chasers by guest poster Andrew Revering of Convective Development, Inc., on how to forecast severe weather during northwest flow. I hope you enjoy the articles, and will find your journey back to last August's posts profitable and refreshing. As for me, I'm tired. It has been a long day, it's now after midnight, and I'm going to bed. G'night!