The Giant Steps Turnaround
Do you ever get bored of playing the same turnarounds over every standard? Well if so, I want to teach you some cool alternatives in this lesson…and even if you’re content to play your true and tried turnarounds, I think you’ll still find this info handy to expand your harmonic palette!
The fact is that if you play jazz you are continuously playing turnarounds, whether or not you are aware of it. A turnaround usually consists of 2 to 4 chords which are used to add harmonic motion to a tune before resolving to a target chord. Turnarounds can happen at the end of a tune as a way to lead back to the beginning, or anywhere within its structure to lead to a new section.
Ordinarily turnarounds progress through the cycle of 5ths as is the case with a II-V-I or VI-II-V-I cadence. In this lesson however, we are going to explore a different alternative. Instead of progressing through the cycle of 5ths to our target chord, we are going to do so employing Coltrane changes…namely, Giant Steps. This progression combines a cycle of 3rds and 5ths. As a result you’ll find that the initial chord in this turnaround is functionally distant from your current key center. Therefore it may take some getting used to if initially you don’t find it “pleasing” to your ears. Coltrane changes are an acquired taste for some. Personally, I find them very exciting to my ear when used sparingly and in the right places. Having said that, in this lesson I will over use them, but only with the goal of teaching their application.
Giant Steps is a difficult progression to improvise over, but using just a portion of it as a turnaround I believe is a task that most intermediate guitarists can accomplish with a little practice. In the video I demonstrate its use over “Body and Soul” and “Take the A Train“. I then show you how to substitute different II-V based turnarounds with the Giant Steps alternative.
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