The Coltrane Matrix


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The Coltrane Matrix, by Bill Plake,  is an excellent resource for anyone looking for fresh ideas when playing over the Giant Steps chord changes. The book offers 40 lines designed to move beyond some of the standard, clichéd approaches to this chord sequence. What is particularly useful is that the theory behind how each line is constructed is clearly explained. Knowing the details behind the line allows them to be more easily memorized and also provides a roadmap on how to construct your own lines once you have mastered these.”

-Jeff Rzepiela, professional saxophonist/flutist,  jazz artist, teacher, arranger, and transcriber/webmaster and of the jazz transcription website, Scooby-Sax

“When they encounter so-called “Coltrane Changes,” even experienced players sometimes resort to simply outlining the chords or playing extremely conservatively.  In his book, The Coltrane Matrix, Plake has taken numerous jazz techniques (all of which he identifies and explains) and applied them to this challenging chord sequence.  This gives you, in every key, forty extremely diverse examples of the nearly endless variety of melodies that can come from Coltrane changes. It’s a terrific book!”

Steve Peterson, Multi-instrumentalist, Salt Lake City, Utah

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For all treble clef instruments. Downloadable in pdf format, 82 pages, plus 1 mp3 backing track. Price: $12.00

The Coltrane Matrix (also known as the “Coltrane changes” and the “Coltrane cycle”) is a staple in modern jazz harmony and improvisation. Besides being the harmonic centerpiece of John Coltrane’s iconic composition,  Giant Steps, this chord sequence is also used to re-harmonize a variety of standard songs and ii7-V7 cycles. Yet, because of its strong tonal shifts, it invites a kind of improvisational approach that sometimes over-emphasizes the harmonic form at the expense of melodic freedom and invention.

In this book I offer 40 unique melodic ideas improvised/composed over these chord changes that aim at some less obvious ways to approach them. Each melody purposely avoids most of the cliche movements often heard in solos improvised over this sequence, and each can serve as a short study introducing or developing  a particular musical concept, such as:

  • Polymeter
  • Symmetrical scales 
  • Implied, or “false” resolutions
  • Rhythmic displacement
  • Upper partial harmonic substitution
  • Triad pairs
  • Intervallic based melodies
  • More…

I’ve written this material with the intermediate/advanced jazz improviser in mind (and with the assumption that you’re familiar with, and have studied, these chord changes). Rather than being an introduction to the Coltrane Matrix, this material is instead a way to explore this compelling chord sequence even further. With this book you’ll:

  • Increase you’re fluency and freedom improvising over Giant Steps, Countdown, and other such  “Matrix” based compositions
  • Broaden your understanding of harmonic and tonal relationships in general over all chord changes
  • Gain experience with various modern jazz concepts and applications (triad pairs, etc., as mentioned above)
  • Challenge and improve your ears
  • Expand your thinking as an improviser
  • Improve your technique

Each melodic idea is transposed into all 12 keys for practice and easy reference. Also included is a reference with a brief explanation (harmonic, rhythmic, thematic, etc.) of each of the 40 melodic ideas, as well as an introductory text with suggestions on how to best approach and practice the material.

I’ve made available (for free) a downloadable backing track (C instruments, Bb instruments and Eb instruments) for you to practice with. Click here.

For all treble clef instruments. Downloadable in pdf format, 82 pages, plus 1 mp3 backing track. Price: $12.00

Click the links below for a pdf  SAMPLE PAGE from the book, and for a midi sound file of the page for you to listen to:

The Coltrane Matrix: 40 Unique Melodic Ideas-sample .pdf

The Coltrane Matrix: 40 Unique Melodic Ideas- midi sample

If you’d like to gain more of an idea about the concept, format, benefits and practice guidelines found in the book, click the link below for a pdf copy of the INTRODUCTION CHAPTER:

The Coltrane Matrix: 40 Unique Melodic Ideas-Introduction Chapter .pdf

 If you have any questions about the material in this book, or are having problems downloading the pdf, please contact me. I’ll get back to you promptly. Thanks!
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