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Coltrane Patterns -Why They Are Amazing

What are Coltrane Patterns? Small 4 note fragments that you can use in your solos, and they are amazing because for each chord you solo over there are a lot and they are very easy to play. And this makes them great building blocks for jazz lines of pretty much any kind. What is not to love?

What are Coltrane Patterns

Two basic types: Major: 1 2 3 5 and minor: 1 b3 4 5.

In C major that would, for example, give us a C major: C D E G and an Am A C D E

You could create more but I just want to keep it simple, which is more efficient.

How to not study Coltrane Patterns

It’s funny because my introduction to Coltrane Patterns was to try to solo only using that. This was when I was just starting out and that didn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until a year later when I started to transcribe solos that I realized that these melodies were everywhere, the trick was to not try to only use that in a solo.

How to Find Them For A Chord

Figuring out which Coltrane Patterns are useful is about looking at the ones you have and relating them to the chord.

The context here is a scale, so let’s take a Cmaj7 chord and a Cmaj7 scale.


We have two types of Patterns, the major and the minor.

In C major the possible Major options are C, F and G. You can look at that from the Major triad, there are 3 major triads and you can make a Major Coltrane pattern for each:




and in the same way, the minor ones that are available are A, D and E, following the minor triads in the scale.





Of these Coltrane patterns then we can leave out the ones that include an F which leaves us with 4 Coltrane Patterns that all work: C, G, Am and Em.

The next thing to check out is then how to use these patterns in some lines.

Combining with Arpeggios

Combining the patterns with arpeggios is a great way to start and also a fairly easy way to get into your vocabulary. As you will see it is also a way to use the Coltrane Patterns as an alternative to arpeggios that is a lot easier to play.

Before an arpeggio, demonstrates that it is a very easy melody to make licks with and you can easily put it together with some arpeggios on a Cmaj7

Here is an example that is a little less clear but still a great melody:

The first example was a bit square and you can easily use them like that, but the 2nd example is freer and a little less using 4 note blocks on the heavy beats.

More Melodies & Combining Different Coltrane Patterns

It is also useful to check out how to combine different Coltrane Patterns and also trying to play them in different ways, not only ascending and descending.

Here is first the basic ascending/descending melodies

And you can explore lots of other patterns as well to get a lot more out of these 4 notes. Here are a few examples:

Kurt Rosenwinkel uses the first melody quite a lot, it is in one of the examples in the lesson I did on his I’ll Remember April solo.

Using these other melodies in a lick on a Cmaj7 could sound like this:

Pat Martino’s Dominant trick

Another use that I come across from time to time, but which I associate with Pat Martino is this example of using an E Coltrane pattern over an Am7 chord. It works as either a melodic minor sound or as a sort of chromatic enclosure. That is a little up to how you hear it.

When I was preparing this video I tried to figure out which solo I had this from because it is really something that I connect with Martino, but I couldn’t find it anymore. Let me know if you know a place where he plays it, I am pretty sure I have it from one of his solos.

Using Coltrane Patterns for Chromatic and Outside Things

Since the Coltrane Patterns are really easy to play they are also very useful for shifting in and out of the tonality.

Below is a Cmaj7 example that uses an Em Coltrane Pattern and then shifts this down to an Ebm pattern to create an outside sound before resolving back in the 2nd half of the 2nd bar.

This also works great on a II V I. Below is an example on a II V I in G major. Here I am using a Db major coltrane pattern to slide out of the key and resolve it back into G major on the D7 chord by playing a C major Coltrane Pattern.

Notice how I use the same fingering and phrasing for the melody which gives it a cascading sound.

Coltrane Patterns on Standards

Coltrane Patterns are closely related to pentatonic scales, and are also really a part of that sound. If you want to get better at using Pentatonic scales in your jazz playing then a great place to start is this lesson:

Lady Bird – Arpeggios & Pentatonic Scales


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