~ Bach & Coltrane ~

~ searching across the centuries ~

'I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.'

J. S. Bach 1685-1750

'Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious.'

John Coltrane 1926-1967

Developing the diatonic harmony available on an equal tempered keyboard instrument of J.S. Bach.

wiki ~ J.S. Bach


Developing melody and into chords following along the pathways pioneered by John Coltrane.

wiki ~ John Coltrane

"Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist."
wiki ~ Pablo Picasso
Bach's evolution
four part harmony
the piano
major ~ minor
writing for a soloist

structure / form

Coltrane's evolution
Americana songs
the blues
451 into 251
sheets of sound
V7 before each chord
each chord is V7

pedal tones


In a nutshell. One third of our musical trinity is the harmony that drives our music along, supporting the melody and combining with rhythms to get the dancers up and the house a rockin'.

In our theory studies in this work, Bach and Coltrane become our bookends. While we do go a bit beyond in the theory, but this is mostly speculation. Both Bach and Coltrane did the shedding and made their understandings clearly in the music the wrote, that we have preserved to this very day.

Essentials attempts to create a combined historical, theoretic and cultural evolution timeline of harmony's evolutions and tonal qualities from an inside, diatonic basis on through to the distant realms of outside; the polytonality, atonality and eventually the full 12 tone chromaticism of free jazz and beyond.

inside / outside
diatonic basis
the chromatic buzz
towiki ~ free jazz

European Bach bequeathes to us a vast library of music, much of which exemplifies the new harmonic potentials of his day, as the tuning of pitches was tempered to equal and adapted into the piano. Bach's "371 Chorales" and "The Well Tempered Clavier", became a harmony basis for our own early Americana church hyms. From these wholly diatonic works, we inherit the harmony backbone of what becomes our own Americana gospel musics.

From this basis, Americana Coltrane creates for us a complete diatonic evolution of tonal harmony. From a triad basis, we venture completely through and exhaust the complete diatonic realm,

the diain Americana jazz composition, within a decade span that electrified the global jazz community. Early empowered with a public school education, as a wind player melody was foremost. As the .

to wiki ~ WTC

That we have publishing dates and scores for both composers makes our 'in hindsight' theory work a snap. Artistically is where the real challenge begins as we each must decide for the creation of our own current work which elements along these evolutionary pathways are necessary to bring forth our own art. Then the shedding begins to master the chosen resources; the pitches and their evolutions into arpeggios and chords.


Keyboard chords. For our theory story here Bach's WTC represents the vast range of diatonic harmonic resource we gain by the perfection of the equal temper tuning of the pitches. For prior to this time different ways of tuning apparently do not have the full 12 pitch / key center potential as equal temper tuning provides.

ways of tuning

So the tuning precision of the 12 pitches 'encouraged and allowed' the scope of Bach's masterwork? In theory, that's the idea put forth here. As such it becomes a bookend for our theory studies. For while melody goes to the early mists of antiquity, the chords as we know and enjoy them today do not really exceed 500 years.

Saxophone chords. Coltrane started out with the full equal tempered resource of chords equally from all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. He played saxophones, so no real way to play chords; select pitches struck together as on a piano. Coltrane conquered this reality through combining sheer will of velocity of pitches / rhythms with arpeggiating the pitches of each chord that comes along in a song's chord progression. This approach we know theoretically today as 'sheets of sound.'

chord progression

'Sheets of sound' is a melodic cascade of notes that create a chordal effect not unlike that created by an orchestral harp, but Coltrane's jazz is way way faster in basic tempo and articulation of the number of pitches in a phrase. It's hard to hear the changes in these sorts of lines, the pitches just go by too quickly for most of us to hear and understand its theory. Further aural challenges develop through Coltrane's chord substitution principles.

towiki ~ sheets of sound
hear the changes

While very few strengthen to this level of actual performance, knowing its pitch theory is rather quite simple really. An alternative to 'sheets of sound' in the last decade or so is the rapid chromaticism of pitches that in 'harmony theory sense' lies just a bit beyond the organization of 'sheets of sound', a further degree in the blurring of tonal direction, altering of the tonal gravity, aural predictability and tonal center arrival of the art.

aural predictability
tonal center

Two pathways in. So in the next menu there's two main pathways to initially choose; chords or melody. Find these exact same listings on the main menu of the title page.



(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.


Coltrane, John

American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane's work forms the basis of Essentials to understand the evolution of the theory of Americana music. Following in his path, here recreated by a historical timeline of the recording and release of his original compositions, we create a study of the development of our Americana tonality and its modernization of the last century or so.

As a single note melody player, my belief is that Mr. Coltrane's journey is partly driven by simple boredom. As his practicing standards are legendary, Coltrane simply exhausted things and moved to a new level of challenge simply by evolving the harmonic complexities of his compositions through basic theoretical manipulations of the pitches and intervals.

Remember, that we're thinking of improv 'through the changes.' That new or additional chords in a chord progression gives the improvisor another opportunity for exploration. In doing so he advances the harmonic schemes of his day into new and yet unviewed vistas of creative opportunity for those who follow. Read on !

Coltrane's harmonic evolution

Coltrane's harmonic evolution. With triangles and colors to create our seven chakras, we can apply the basic theoretical evolution that gets us from our core essential One / Five / One cadential motion to our endpoint of the new cadential and harmonic cycle motion championed by Mr. Coltrane's seminal composition "Giant Steps."


~ Bach & Coltrane ~

~ two searchers across centuries ~

'exhausting the existing resources so as to discover the new ways forward ... '

~ Coltrane's harmonic evolutions ~

~ Bach's chorales ~

~ Americana's love of V7~

~ and the pulse of the blues