I recently revisited Wolf Marshall’s book Giant Steps for Guitar: A Six-Stringer’s Guide to Mastering Coltrane’s Epic. It’s definitely is one of those books that I would recommend anyone interested to develop practical facility to play over chord changes.
At 72 pages, the book is divided into 8 chapters:
- A Brief History
- The Music
- A Guitar Approach to the Music
- Basic “Trane-ing” for Guitar
- Rhythmic Approaches for Improvisation
- ii-V-I Progressions and Patterns
- Model Solos
The first three chapters are an introductory examination of the piece, the historical context in which it was created and how we can look at the harmony of the song.
It starts getting exciting when we go into the fourth chapter as Wolf Marshall examines a guitaristic approach to the music. Concepts like common tones, leading tones and neighbour tones are explained with good examples. Then, he goes into positional patterns, linear patterns and close pattern motions. This section alone is worth it’s weight in gold as it really demonstrates how to outline changes smoothly on guitar.
In the next chapter, Basic “Trane-ing” for Guitar, Wolf Marshall gives 49 basic melodic patterns to navigate over the first four measures of Giant Steps. To be honest, this chapter alone could have been another book on its own as it has so many great examples. As I played through the examples, certain reoccurring motives began to emerge and the variations became more obvious.
The last 3 chapters continue the exploration through a study of rhythmic devices (to get out from playing non-stop 8th note lines), ii-V-I vocabulary (to navigate the rest of the tune) and model solos (to connect everything together).
All in all, this is a great book that uses Giant Steps as the main piece but actually gives many tools and lessons that are transferable to other jazz compositions that are similar in nature (fast tunes, with a lot of rapid chord changes).
Even after years of owning and studying the material from the book, I keep getting new ideas and see different things from the book each time. It’s a book that I know I will keep coming back to and sets a high benchmark for how books like this should (and could be).
High quality stuff. Strongly recommended.
Pros: Well designed book. Amazing content and well thought out.
TLDR: A great book with a LOT of practical exercises and good sounding phrases. Very systematic with tons of examples that you can incorporate into your practice routine. Recommended for intermediate to advanced guitarists, though still worth getting for beginners to jazz (as a mainstay in your library and reference collection).
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