The most feared song in jazz, explained
Jazz Deconstructed John Coltranes Giant Steps

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Making sense of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Follow Vox Earworm on Facebook for more: And be sure to check out Earworm's complete first season here: John Coltrane, one of jazz history’s most revered saxophonists, released “Giant Steps” in 1959. It’s known across the jazz world as one of the most challenging compositions to improvise over for two reasons - it’s fast and it’s in three keys. Braxton Cook and Adam Neely give me a crash course in music theory to help me understand this notoriously difficult song, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. Even if you don’t understand a lick of music theory, you’ll likely walk away with an appreciation for this musical puzzle. Braxton Cook: Adam Neely: Note: The headline for this video has been updated since publishing. Previous headline: Jazz Deconstructed: John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" Some songs don't just stick in your head, they change the music world forever. Join Estelle Caswell on a musical journey to discover the stories behind your favorite songs. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out Watch our full video catalog: Follow Vox on Facebook: Or Twitter:


Adam Neely : Thanks for having me!

Young Paderewski : " Coltrane was somethin.' " Miles Davis

Joanne Zo : Tommy Flanagan was told that this recording session was for a ballad and was instead handed this. Bamboozled.

W C : Today I learned I'm too dumb for jazz. Very interesting video.

Anton K : I don't think you're giving Mr.Flannagan enough credit. I think he made a conscious choice with the style he played, the only other chordal instrument in the arrangement, he played his changes is stark contrast to Coltrane.

Versaucey : *(jazz music stops)*

MANU ALEX : Your presentation and graphics design is out of this world. Awesome stuff

Legit Jester : Why does the animation and song remind me of the Monsters Inc. Intro

B. Von Schnauser : I feel like I just got out of calculus class...

Mount Swervemore : Going from Spanish, to Arabic, then to Japanese very quickly is probably the best explanation you can give for this composition. Imagine using those 3 languages to create a sentence that makes sense. Utterly insane.

Sappy. : The drummer was probably like, "Ha! You guys go improvise!". xd

Brandon Gilbrech : I respectfully disagree with your conclusion about the piano solo. It seems to me that he decided, as the only chordal instrument, to continue to establish the chords in each bar, and then use passing tones to get to the next chord in the sequence. He could have easily chosen to not play the chords and just run from note to note, but that would have sounded too much like the saxophone run. I think where you see incompetence it was just a choice. Additionally, they were probably playing to a four track, if he had the opportunity to play just the chords, and a solo onto another track, he probably could or would have. I think you're doing the man a little dirty, unless he specifically has said that he was run around by the solo. Other pieces by Tommy Flanagan have a very similar style, Coltrane would have known, when he hired the dude, what he was going to get. Give the professional some credit.

robviolin1 : If one can improv giant steps in all 12 keys 🔑, I would say you really know your stuff.

pknm : 5:20 i’ve been playing tyler the creator’s “boredom” on piano and just noticed it has that progression, cool

Rhys Bees : LOL I love how everyones just angry about how the video did Flanagan dirty

hey its me jop : *me at the start of this video* "Oh, giant steps, haha - wouldn't if be funny if they brought in adam neely?"

Astrobum : What people think: Legendary, Greatest piece ever, the best, Playing this is crazy What John Coltrane thinks: I wrote it while taking a dump

Dwight Turner : The only keys I know about unlock my house and start my car.

Dennis G : Thank you for taking the time to put this info all together. Much appreciated.

ktpinnacle : I've enjoyed music for many decades. I knew that jazz was complex and advanced, but I never knew why. It was a language I didn't understand. This video did a lot as an introduction and an appreciation.

insaneintherainmusic : This is the best Earworm episode yet. Everything was explained so well and the visuals are top notch as well. Thanks for spreading Coltrane's innovations!

Dennis DeRien : This was the best educational video I've seen during the past year or so, and I've come accross it at the most appropriate time in my life this year. Thanks for the excellent work and just lovely production. It brought a much needed smile to my heart.

Chau Nguyen : Great explanations. I have no background in music theory but I felt comfortable through the whole video.

Charity Ijiomah : I've never been able to understand music theory when it's explained since I'm such a visual person but this video made it so much easier for me to digest. The color wheel analogy makes so much sense. S/O to whoever thought of that, and S/O to the motion graphics or video artist, awesome work!

La Table Ronde airsoft : WoW. Not only is the content of this video essay incredible, BUT OMFG THE EDIT !!!!!!!!!

Harvani Sumawijaya : Who else was pleasantly surprised to find adam neely

Nima Scolari : 3.1k thumbs down. Wow... the world needs a reset button.

MisterTalkingMachine : There YouTube, I watched it. I was not expecting Adam Neely. Should have watched this earlier.

Matt Bumbee : why did 3:25 sound so much like breath of the wild music

Mynrogue9 : And...this is why i love jazz *ever since i was in high school*..

Cody Stinson : So, Is Giant Steps the Dark Souls of Jazz?

Deplorable Citizen : 00:10 - "It cemented John Coltrane as a legend among jazz sax-oh-phone-ists" I always thought it was pronounced "sak-soph-on-ists" (the middle two syllables rhyming with "off" and "on", instead of "oh" and "phone").

The Bari Child : This is freaking amazing stuff I wish I knew about earlier. Man, this YouTube algorithm actually works!

Riley Matthew : Me, not understanding most of the video but appreciating anyway: sick

Crowned : The G Major Triad does not have any tension in it as demonstrated in this video. If you put in the natural (Dominant) 7 - then it does have tension to resolve. Come on guys. Listen to it.

Илья Смагин : 1:04 I wish they invited Adam... Oh my

mastershake9801 : Can we take a step back and talk about that record player for a moment.

Joseph Wilson : Am I the only one who totally hear breath of the wild at 3:22?

Manager Hum Ripple : Vox actually produced something worth while

Arman Nobari : The motion design in this (and all of Earworm tbf) is absolute fire

bluetarget : damn that timing with the music when he hums the tunes... please keep making more videos

Matthew Davis Buehrer : "Giant Steps" is the plane in which art, science, and witchcraft find a center. Such a masterful play on the colonizers tuning, while reiterating what the Gregs were too low evolution to understand. Pieces like this is why music is still held as the highest of the alchemical arts. It is infinitely unfortunate that we have lost the knowledge of the power behind music, but super fun that we are in the process of rediscovering Cymatics. We aren't far from bringing back the ancient sciences. Coltrane was constantly tapped into a different plane. Like many of the Cymatic Knights, he never felt completely tethered to the Normies world, and always sought to escape the pain and terror it wrought on his existence.

Ashton Lyons : Am I the only person who is highly annoyed by Adam Neeley?

BPP 9 : I would of understood algebra better maybe thats why I am not a musical but interesting i did like it

Paul NC : Hell yes. I get so mad when people say "jazz has no structure'. It has next level structure!

Virginia Waller : YouTube/internet/people all coming together to improve human lives in the context of education. Admirable.

Ice sphere : Who would win The most feared jazz album of all time. Or Windows sample #9

Jim Heid : Another superb video! Though Flanagan's solo doesn't exactly sound like a "struggle". Besides, he was playing a polyphonic instrument, unlike Coltran's sax. :-)

nemo227 : I don't understand the term "most feared song in jazz". Jazz musicians LOVE to play new tunes, new phrases, new musical structures. They love to live with certain chord changes, key changes, rhythms, instrument combinations. They love to live with it, play it fast, slow, play it forward or backward, and make it their own. I would never use the word "fear" when talking about music.