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Tom Quayle

C O L U M N

COLUMNS_TOM QUAYLE

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Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 43

Coltrane
Changes
H

ey guys and welcome back to my column for this issue. Were going to be changing
tack a little bit for this lesson, looking at something new, in the form of a set of
chord changes that re-defined what was possible in the context of Jazz improvisation
and composition. John Coltrane was a revolutionary sax player whose album, Giant Steps,
gave us a brand new chord sequence that has become so much a part of the Jazz canon that
they have been named after the great man himself - Coltrane Changes. This particular set of
chord changes was famed at the time as being incredibly tricky to play over due, in part, to its
inherent complexity and the insane speed at which Giant Steps was recorded. Coltrane was
said to have practised obsessively to develop his vocabulary over these chords and they have
become a standard badge of honour for Jazz musicians who can successfully tackle them.
Coltrane developed the Giant Steps changes by using something known as a three tonic
system. Normally within most popular music, including Jazz, there is a home key with a tonic
chord that the tune will resolve to, usually beginning and ending on this chord. This single
tonic forms the basis of most of the music we listen to. Coltrane developed a system whereby
three tonics or keys were used forming a tri, or three-tonic system. In order to find the three
tonics/keys in question he divided the octave in three equal parts. If we take a starting note,
such as G for example, and move up a major third, we get the note B. Moving up another
major third gives us the note Eb, whilst moving up a final major third takes us back to G again
up an octave. By dividing the octave into these major third intervals, we derive three notes,
dividing the octave into three equal parts and giving us our three tonics or keys - in this case G
major, B major and Eb major.
In order to create a chord sequence based around each of these keys or tonics, Coltrane
preceded each of them with their own V chord, giving us the following V-I relationships: D7 Gmaj7
F#7 Bmaj7
Bb7 Ebmaj7
Coltrane arranged these V-I progressions in the following way to create his famous chord
progression.

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COLUMNS_TOM QUAYLE

Coltrane Changes

Gmaj7 Bb7 Ebmaj7 F#7 Bmaj7


D7 Gmaj7
The genius behind his approach is that he
has started and finished on Gmaj7, making
this the overall home tonic, whilst still
utilising the three tonic system. Coltrane
did this by starting on the first tonic chord
Gmaj7 and then moving up a minor third

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to the V chord of the Ebmaj7, in this case


Bb7. He then resolved this to Ebmaj7 and
then moved up another minor third to the V
chord of the Bmaj7 in this case F#7. From
here, he resolved to Bmaj7 and then moves
up another minor third to the V chord
or Gmaj7 in this case D7. This clever
arrangement gives a chord progression that
can begin and end on the first tonic chord.

Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 43

Lets do this in another key to really make it


comfortable. Well take the key of F major
next. If we start on F and go up a major third
we get A, move up another major third we
get C#, before moving up another major
third back to F again. This gives us the three
tonics F major, A major and C# major.
Finding the V chord or each, we get the
following V-I relationships:
C7 Fmaj7
E7 Amaj7
G#7 C#maj7
If we now take Coltranes approach to
arranging these chords into a sequence, we
get the following:
Fmaj7 G#7 C#maj7 E7 Amaj7 C7
Fmaj7
This chord progression can actually be used
in place of a regular II-V-I sequence in order
to create more movement within the chord
progression and more harmonic complexity.
You must be very careful to make sure that
doing this doesnt affect the soloist or the
melody of the tune you are playing, so an
element of forward planning and etiquette
are involved. As an example of this, we could
change a II-V-I in F major:

Gm7 / / / | C7 / / / | Fmaj7 / / / | / / / /
To the following: Gm7 G#7 C#maj7 E7 Amaj7 C7
Fmaj7
Notice that we have swapped out the
Fmaj7 from the beginning of our Coltrane
progression for the II chord of the key.
Nothing else has changed, giving us an
extended II-V-I progression with far more
harmonic movement and complexity.
I recommend that you try creating Coltrane
Changes progressions in lots of different keys
in order that you get used to both the sound
it creates and its layout on the fretboard.
Once youve done a few you will be able to
find them from any given starting point very
quickly indeed.
In the next issue well be looking at how
Coltrane extended this basic progression
for his tune Giant Steps and beginning our
journey in developing some vocabulary
over this complex harmonic chord sequence
whilst soloing. As usual you will find all of
these progressions tabbed out in standard
tuning in the magazine. Enjoy, good luck
and Ill see you all next time. END >

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MICHAEL CASSWELL

COLUMNS_MICHAEL CASSWELL

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All imagery Louise Ince

Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 43

PRO CONCEPTS 42
Popping Lines

his Pro Concepts Im going to be


talking about approaching and
playing a Popping Line. We have
touched on this before and it really is a facet
of contemporary guitar playing that very few
can get right. It usually gets ignored by you
guys and considered easy, right up to the
point when you are sitting in an expensive
studio, being paid to play for a big name
artist, faced with a name producer who
actually knows what he is doing and who
turns and faces you and says OK, we need
some of that single line popping funk stuff on
here, yknow, like on Off the Wall by Michael
Jackson. Thats the point you suddenly
realise there is a huge hole in your playing
and youve probably spent a little too much
time playing drop tuned Metal, and not
enough time working on your funk chops!
Most players get found out pretty quickly
when dealing with this topic, and heres why.
Firstly, construction and composition of
a good popping line is not easy. It has to
have a musicality within the part which
compliments the overall sound of the music.
It has to be slightly catchy and infectious
without being irritating.
It mustnt get in the way of the vocal or
clash rhythmically with anything. It has
to be executed perfectly (although Logic
and Pro Tools can save your arse with some
basic editing). It has to be the right sound
and tone. And most importantly it has to
have the feel and groove that makes it sit

beautifully timing wise, which means you


need an excellent understanding and feel of
the sub divisions that you can use in the song
time signature. This means you have to know
where an up stroke should be as you strike
the string, and obviously the downstroke. So
when you think about a good popping line
like this, there is a lot to the subject and a lot
to get right, which is why so many players are
simply average at it, or worse, nowhere on it.
There is simply no easy way to teach this
style, and I have tried to skim through four
examples with a loop pedal and no drummer,
so you can at least see the approach, not just
with the lines, but also the chordal grooves
behind them.
Chord ideas and grooves are another huge
subject and if you look hard enough in
previous Pro Concepts, you will find me
covering various rhythm approaches and
hear me continually say how crucial rhythm
playing is if you really do want a career as a
player in the industry.
Even the pick you use and how you hold it
can affect the end results. For a fatter warmer
tone I expose less of the pick so the strings
get hit with some flesh at the same time.
For a more percussive popping sound then
obviously a little more of the pick can be
used. Everything comes from the wrist and
not a stiff forearm and playing things at half
speed first can help you get the feel for the
part. You are dealing down and up strokes,

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COLUMNS_MICHAEL CASSWELL

Popping Lines

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Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 43

where they sit in the 16th note subdivision, plus


string muting, plus dynamics. Its the details that
really make the difference.
These sort of guitar parts can crop up in many styles
and genres. R&B, Rock, Funk, Blues, so its worth
getting a feel for it. You might want to Google Paul
Jackson Junior as a starting point and maybe check
out his playing and session credits. Its also worth
me saying that its much easier to copy an already
established line than it is coming up with your own
cool parts. A good easy starter to try to copy and
play is the iconic popping line played on the Bee
Gees Staying Alive hit, which is a great example of
the guitar line almost being the hook to the song.
Also give Michael Jacksons Human Nature another
listen with fresh ears, as a young Steve Lukather pops
and weaves throughout the song with huge feel and
groove.

I cant tell you how many times I have had to step


up and compose or lay down a serious popping line
to earn my money. Sometimes not just one line,
but two or three that work together at the same
time. The chances are, you may be in that situation
at some point, so maybe you could try to replicate
the ideas I demo in the tutorial to see if you find
it tricky or not. Obviously try to come up some
of your own ideas, record them and be truthful to
yourself when you listen back. Does your playing
tick all the popping line boxes? Its a hard topic to
get right and many simply dont. But its a rewarding
style to play when you do nail it.
I really enjoy a groove within music, so I do try to
get it happening if the situation allows. But it is
usually with a good bass player and drummer rather
than just a loop pedal! END >

Michael Casswell has a new video Friends For Life, from his latest album
Complaints About The noise. Be sure to check it out!

Friends for Life by Michael Casswell (Official 4K music video)

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