Skip to main content

String Theory with Jimmy Brown: An Effective Strategy for Soloing on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”

These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the Holiday 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.

In 1959, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane invited an ensemble of elite jazz musicians to join him in the studio to record a track for his forthcoming album, 1960’s Giant Steps.

The brilliant improviser and composer threw his rhythm section a curveball by springing on them the title track, a tune characterized by a fast tempo and a complex and highly unusual chord progression…and giving them no time for rehearsal. (This scenario was not uncommon during that era and usually did not present a problem for anyone involved, as the jazz scene’s A-list musicians were all very accomplished players and well versed in the style.)

Coltrane himself had already spent hours alone soloing over the tune’s progression and had a bunch of ideas worked out and ready to string together in seemlingly endless, fluent combinations.

Jimmy Brown

Over the past 30 years, Jimmy Brown has built a reputation as one of the world's finest music educators, through his work as a transcriber and Senior Music Editor for Guitar World magazine and Lessons Editor for its sister publication, Guitar Player. In addition to these roles, Jimmy is also a busy working musician, performing regularly in the greater New York City area. Jimmy earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Performance and Music Management from William Paterson University in 1989. He is also an experienced private guitar teacher and an accomplished writer.