Giant Steps Guitar Licks 239 To 260

Giant Steps Guitar Licks

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Giant Steps Guitar Licks To Boost Your Improvisation Skills

I love playing Giant Steps at gigs, although when this tune is called, the response from many jazz musicians is something along the lines of "erm... can we not play that tune please?"

Some musicians will argue that Giant Steps sounds like an exercise and isn't very 'musical'. I disagree. When the tempo sits nicely and the band is interacting well, Giant Steps is a powerful chord progression that requires the mind, ears and hands to work at a deep level, resulting in a very satisfying performance.

Not For All Musicians

I have played with some phenomenal musicians over the years. Some musicians play purely using a melodic and lyrical approach which always creates beautiful music.

Ginat Steps requires practice. A lot of practice! This is not a set of chord changes over which a musician can improvise by ear alone without doing the work. A deep understanding of the chord changes is essential if you are to master this chord progression.

The Giant Steps Chord Progression

Here is the Giant Steps Chord progression as it appears in the popular software used by many jazz musicians - iREAL PRO:

Analysing Giant Steps

The first half of the Giant Steps chord progression consists of key centres descending in major 3rd intervals and the second half ascends in major 3rd intervals.

Key centres descending in major 3rd intervals:

B - G - E♭

G - E♭ - B

If you precede each one of these key centres with its v7 chord, the following chord sets are the result:

B - (D7  G) - (B♭7  E♭)

G - (B♭7  E♭) - (F#7  B)

These are the two 'Coltrane Cycle' parts of this chord progression.

Key centres ascending in major 3rd intervals:

E♭- G - B - E♭

If you precede each key centre with its iim7 and v7, the following chords sets are the result:

(Fm7  B♭7  E♭maj7) - (Am7  D7  Gmaj7) - (C#m7  F#7  Bmaj7) - (Fm7  B♭7  E♭maj7)

This leaves us with:

Bar 4 = iim7 and v7 of bar 5.

Bar 16 = iim7 and v7 of bar 1.

Learn And Analyse The Licks

Once you understand how the chord progression is constructed, the following licks will give you a great start in improvising over Giant Steps. Be sure to analyse and understand what you are playing so you can create your own ideas.
To improvise over chord changes such as the Giant Steps chord progression, you must understand the chord progression and have great guitar fretboard knowledge.

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Giant Steps - 1st 4 bars

To kick things off, here is a lick for the first four bars of Giant Steps. The lick covers the three-bar 'Coltrane changes' and a ii v into the next set of 'Coltrane changes' moved down a major 3rd interval.

The lick uses various phrasing ideas including slides incorporated into chromatic ideas.

As with all these licks, be sure to move each lick and play the same idea from bar 4.

Giant Steps Guitar Lick

A descending lick for the first couple of bars of the Giant Steps chord progression. This is a lick that can easily be transferred to other strings and moved to fit bars 5 and 6.

Be sure to experiment with this one and play it in various positions as it links chords together nicely.

Giant Steps Cycle Lick

Melodic phrasing has been added to this lick to help you break away from constant streams of quavers.

When working over chord progressions that require thought to navigate the chord changes, it is easy to forget other musical elements such as phrasing, tone, dynamics, etc., as a large proportion of your thinking capacity will be taken up just trying to play notes that fit.

Add any phrasing ideas taken from these licks to any ideas or exercises that are made up of quavers to create new sounds of your own.

Giant Steps Exercise

This lick is more of an interval exercise. If you can figure out the intervals played over each chord, you will see how the same idea is played on each chord.

This lick has a few string-crossing jumps which will test your picking technique.

Don't forget to practise all these licks with a swing feel. This is often forgotten when slowing down faster phrases. Really emphasize the swing feel when you are playing slowly. This will give you a much better feel when playing at faster tempos.

Giant Steps Lick With Phrasing

Various triplets, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and rests have been included in this lick to add melodic interest via phrasing.

As with any lick that works over the first four bars of Giant Steps, be sure to move the idea to the second four bars. You can keep the fingering exactly the same and simply move the entire idea. One of the great things about the guitar fretboard!

Giant Steps ii v i Section

This lick starts from bar 12 of the chord progression. ii v i movements take up the second half of the tune and it is a good idea to start ideas from various points within the progression.

As with all the ii v i licks, move them to the other keys to help you internalise the sounds and fingerings.

Giant Steps ii v i Lick

Compared to the close intervals in the previous example, this lick jumps around the fretboard a bit more. Rhythmic phrasing has also been incorporated into the lick and you can use the phrasing ideas in other licks.

The only thing you might find tricky with this lick is the crossing of strings at a fast tempo. Giant Steps is difficult to navigate from a harmonic point of view, but the fast tempo also gives this progression a high level of difficulty.

Giant Steps Changes

Back to the beginning of the chord progression once again for this lick.

Some interesting intervals and intervallic movement have been used in this melodic line

Giant Steps Bebop Scales

The good old bebop scales are great for playing speedy, close-interval runs, although are not restricted to the bebop style of music. I love using bebop scales everywhere to add chromatic movement and they also work well in Giant Steps.

Giant Steps Guitar Line

This lick starts from bar 5, but make sure you move it to the correct fretboard position so it can be used for the first four bars too. Moving licks to various keys really helps you to understand what is happening in the music,

A couple of triplets have been added to this lick once again to create some interesting phrasing.

Giant Steps Chord Lick - Bars 1 - 4

There are lots of single-note ideas presented so far for Giant Steps, but what about chords?

To give you a few exciting chord ideas for this chord progression, I have split the progression into four-bar sections. This lick can be played over the first four bars of Giant Steps, but you can also move it so that it works over bars five to eight.

With all these ideas, be sure to analyse and move the licks to fit other parts of the chord progression.

Giant Steps Chord Lick - Bars 5 - 8

Bars five to eight use the same harmonic idea as the first four bars, although in a different key. As with the previous lick, this can be moved to work over the chord progression's first four bars.

Chord substitution has been added throughout these licks, so there are many ideas you can steal and use over other chord progressions.

Giant Steps Chord Lick - Bars 9 - 12

The second half of Giant Steps features ii v i harmonic units in various keys. Each ii v i fragment can be moved so that it can be used in three different keys.

Be sure to mix the ideas in all possible key combinations. By doing this, a few licks can be used as seeds to create many new ideas.

Giant Steps Chord Lick - Bars 13 - 16

Once again, the final four bars contain ii v i chord units moved to different keys. All ideas from the second half of the chord progression can be mixed up and moved to fit each ii v i unit, creating many harmonic possibilities.

This lick includes chords using quartal harmony which gives a different sound to the chord ideas in the previous licks.

Various ii v i Comping Chord Ideas

Here are various ii v i comping chord ideas that can be used throughout Giant Steps, or any other chord progression that contains the extremely common ii v i unit.

The guitar tab shows the ideas played straight, with no phrasing. When played in the videos, each idea has rhythmic phrasing included, so be sure to experiment with how you place the chords rhythmically in the bar.

Videos and guitar tablature will appear as the videos are released over the next few weeks, so be sure to bookmark this page so you can easily find the tab for new chord licks as they become available.

If you are enjoying these licks, you will certainly benefit from my Mastering Chords And Chord Substitution guitar course.

Don't forget to expand the guitar tab to full-screen size by clicking on the full-screen icon when you hover over the thumbnail.

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