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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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May 1, 2014 | Taking Giant Steps; Improv secrets!

We recently posted a couple cool videos of the classic bop tune, Giant Steps. The fast changing chords are both iconic and intimidating to the novice player, but even an intermediate one can learn some tricks to open up the song. The following masterclass video with pianist Mike Wolff can be an eye opener not only to this complex tunes, but ones with simpler harmonic vocabulary.


Even if your legs aren't long enough to take "giant steps," there are still some fantastic secrets to honing your own soloing vocabulary.

Video Link: Giant Steps Improvisational Concepts

Tune Basics; Understanding bigger picture, the pattern that repeats itself a 3rd down and a series of 'ii V7 I' Turnarounds.

Approaches to playing through the changes
1.) Playing arpeggios based on the chords and developing melodic ideas based on them. Sevenths, & just the simple triads
2.) Playing scales/modes based on key centers, B, G, and Eb. Up & down consecutive notes
3.) Playing Pentatonics, major and minor 5-note patterns. (Don't always start on the root!)
4.) Playing the "Big V" approach. Using scales (altered, diminished) based on the dominant of the key center and resolving on the tonic of the key center.
5.) Moving down by whole steps. Use scale & triads of key centers going down by consecutive steps.
6.) Chromaticism. Cheating by playing a string of consecutive chromatic notes.

Mix it all up!

Special bonus material: Guest writer Mark Wilson gives us a chord melody transcription of the head. Enjoy!

Mark Wilson: Giant Steps PDF
Giant Steps.jpg

Click image for download

Improvisation Techniques
Closing in on Bluesette
Raking it in. Autumn Leaves Pt. 2
A Path to Modal Improvising
More Appropriate

Posted by Ted at May 1, 2014 10:37 AM

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