Giant Steps: Practical exercises and patterns for aspiring electric jazz bassists

Primary author: Frederick Snider

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Pullman


Giant Steps is an iconic and difficult jazz composition by the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. It was released in 1960 on the album with the same name Giant Steps.

Giant Steps is a controversial composition for its difficult cyclic chord progression. Many jazz musicians find Giant Steps extremely difficult, using excuses as to why they do not perform it. Famous jazz musicians, to include the great jazz alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, refused to perform Giant Steps, claiming Coltrane’s version sounded like an exercise. The bottom-line is many jazz musicians do not know how to approach it.

There are books written on how to approach Giant Steps and are not bass-friendly. For that reason I have come up with a practical approach on how to study and perform it with ease on the electric bass.

I have formulated exercises and patterns that are broken down measure by measure and chord by chord. If studied correctly, students will achieve technical facility, sounding like Coltrane. The trick is not to push the process, putting the cart before the horse like many musicians do. Jimmy Heath stated, “Trane worked on Giant Steps for 4 years before recording it.”

Besides exercises and patterns, I have created a backing track with varying tempos—slow to very fast. With exercises, patterns and backing tracks, students have all they need to be successful.

I am planning on getting my project published by—Aebersold Jazz.