Three Chords and the Truth About Difficult Chord Harmonies


Not many songs have haunted me like John Coltrane’s iconic Blue Train from his Blue Note album of the same name. It’s minimal melody and austere harmony set up an emotive head.

That said the piano chord harmonies are pretty complex for this country boy so I almost didn’t notice it’s a 12-bar blues – three chords. (But apparently Coltrane was really rooted in the blues.) A big thanks to Mike Neer’s responses on the Steel Guitar Forum for the support and advice to getting the chords right (or at least very close.) I had originally posted my audio with chords that were inaccurate and I was happy to be corrected. (Cm7 is not the same as an Eb7#9.) So hopefully I’m a lot closer now.

So, below represents me sticking my toe into the mid-century jazz ocean. No blowing here. Just harmony/chord studying. By far my fav (and prolly everyone else’s) Coltrane piece. Eventually I’d like to expand this recording into a solo section.

Eb like the original:

Note there are three parts to this arrangement (lead, harmony and rhythm) and that I tabbed all three parts into a single line of notation below for simplicity. In no way does my arrangement suggest bar slants starting on measure 13 – it’s just the two lines in harmony. The rhythm chords are intended to emulate the piano in the original arraignment’s head.

Blue-Train-C6A7-lowF-Page_1 Blue-Train-C6A7-lowF-Page_2

“After all the investigation, all of the technique-doesn’t matter! Only if the feeling is right.”
― John Coltrane

This post was originally published at All Aboard the Blue Train. Bad I know, but I was exited to post. And as always please let me know if there’s something I’ve gotten wrong. My purpose here is to learn.

Download my PDF tab here

Download my TablEdit MIDI file here


5 thoughts on “Three Chords and the Truth About Difficult Chord Harmonies

  1. Hi Nate – what a gift your blog is. I’m stomping around the same ground as you, just not as successfully. I’ll be back to dig in when I’m not at work. Just wanted to say thanks.

  2. Great take on this old Coltrane favorite. Never tried to play any jazz before, (except Western Swing, which is all I “know”), but I’m going to put your tuning onto a neck and give this a shot for fun. I have so much to learn re. chords, and only just got started in the last year after I bought a pedal. Been learning theory and the numbers from Mark Van Allen’s CD’s and porting that stuff over to my consoles, which is where I spend most of my time. This looks like a lot of fun, and my wife will love it. Hats off to you for doing the work to find the original score and create a tab from it. Thanks!

    btw, Phil Lesh did a nice take on this once with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes backing him; a cool shot in the jamband style.

  3. Tried this last night. Nice work, Nate. I found that your tuning is quite close to A6, so that was an easy change. Had a blast with it, but I won’t say that I didn’t murder your arrangement. Those big chords were changed often by me, especially each time one was repeated, on the second one. Like all my stuff, not technically perfect, but I try to get the feeling right, as John said..

    Since those were not (impossible) bar slants starting in the 13th measure, I guess you did that with multitracking, right? I didn’t follow what this was last night when I tried it, and so will try it again from the 13th measure on, and this time just play the new, lower track of notes.

    In any case, thanks again. You did a lot of work to create the tab, and with your tuning it is so simple that one can just sit down and play through the entire first passage almost immediately. Try this at home, folks!

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