Followup to Giant Steps: after I did the harmonic analysis to the Coltrane classic, famous for being difficult to improvise over I applied another concept and discovered something interesting to apply. If you saw that previous lesson, understand that this entry is doing one of the things I said was a bad idea in the earlier one, so take this with a whole shaker of salt…
A brief look at minor conversion
A quick and simplified description of minor conversion: Typically one of the first artists many people think of when using the term “minor conversion” is guitar virtuoso Pat Martino. While I find his playing dazzling, and his personal story deeply inspiring, usually the description of this concept gets into what I think is intentionally confusing: starting with interesting anomalies of diminished chords and geometric drawings, yadda, yadda.
Here is the real simplified deal with minor conversion, and I may make a more concerned effort in a later entry 🙂 but the gist is that for basically any good melody or lick… let’s keep this in C major: Anything sounding good for Cmaj7 family, sounds good for Am7. It also sounds good for D7. (ii-Vs, and therefore Amin licks work over D7) So now we know that all those Minor licks that we’ve learned can go over Maj7 or Dom7 chords if we transpose. But that’s not all: Amin also works over F#mb5 and B7#9 or flat9… basically the altered chords for a minor ii-V. Or; one lick can work for Cmaj7, Am7, D7, F#m7b5, and B7 altered chords. Major resolution, a major ii – v, and a minor ii-V.
Shifting up a fifth: Gmaj7, em7, A7, c#m7b5, and F#7(b5,#5,b9,#9) will all support a lick in e minor.
For a ii – V – I in the Key of G, a player with a lot of minor licks would play an A minor melodic idea for the first half (a min for Am7 and D7 chords) and an E minor idea for the second half (Gmaj 7, e is the relative minor to G major)
If you’re interested in going down this rabbit hole, I highly recommend working this concept with songs like Blue Bossa, Autumn Leaves, etc. before doing it with Giant Steps. That said:
CD’s Giant Steps “Trick”:
Remember on the last entry where I said “Don’t put stock in any of the ‘easy tricks'”, I’m telling you right now, up front; that’s what this is. But if you play lines using this minor conversion system (as I will do occasionally) something interesting emerges during those really hard key changes in the first half of the tune – ascending half step changes.
Take a look at the added green text.
Bar 1 is a B major to D7. B major is relative to G# minor, and D7 converts to A minor… slide up a fret and repeat, or continue the line you were already doing (up a half step).
Bar 2. Gmaj to Bb7. Gmaj converts to E min, Bb7 to F min…
If you consider the shifts of a fifth within V-Is and ii -V – Is as “related”, we’re still making a frightening number of key changes very quickly, many over the half bar as before, but now we’ve gone from shifting a major third to moving half steps and shifting fifths for the most part. I find this more mentally manageable than the “Giant Step” major thirds transitions. If you’re really strong with ii-V-I ideas, you probably will want to shift back to thinking of those the standard way in the second half of the song. Or you may find the minor conversion method is a great way to blow through ii -V -Is, you can consider those key shifts minor thirds instead of major thirds.