Thanks so much for all the helpful suggestions!
My goal is to get to that place where I'm playing what I'm singing in my head. It is ultimately a Dead thing. 30+ years of Jerry in my head. Playing Jerry for the last 7 years, has really actually expanded my musical tastes. I was pretty much down to listening to the GD for a long time. Too long spent listening to classic rock. When I started playing, it was kind of fun to duplicate a Jimmy Page solo (Since I've Been Lovin' You comes to mind), or David Gilmour ...but that music is almost static. It has to be played as it has always been played, more or less.
Now I enjoy jazz standards more than ever, and actually spend time listening to the jazz station. Not sure I'll ever make it to "Love", but appreciation is definitely happening.
Having been so invested in the Grateful Dead, I've been moving steadily toward that goal of playing within a form...but also into the unknown. I'm not gifted with the ability for vast amounts of rote memorization. Once things like scales, modes, and principles are in my hands & ears...they become an ever growing tool box. I really enjoy open jams, and can find my way into an infinite number of rabbit-holes in some sort of vamp.
Then we take a number like Deal, which really has a chord-of-the-moment necessity. When I read posts from the guys who are really playing, that's just has to be the next tool. I love all these tips. Google Vince Brown...he's the guy I've been studying with. Great player. Makes good money as a solo guy, and plays with most of the regional jazz greats. I had to take a couple of months off of lessons due to summer craziness, but I still play 2+ hours/day.
My eyes fog over when I'm sitting on a G. If I have to think of it as the 3rd of E, or the 5th of C, my eyes glaze over. Too much time has passed...and so had 3 more chords in the song.
When I left active study, we were working on the Garcia/Saunders of Georgia On My Mind. I think Jerry mostly plays this in F Ion (if I remember correctly), but he has that intentionality for landing on the 3rds & 5ths. I can hear it when I'm right, but I have to noodle up to it. Then there is the trap of playing in the mode, and after a while it sounds too melodic. Needs more tension. I start back with Mr. Brown on Wednesday. I'm sure he'll plug me full of ideas as well.
What I have been doing is looking at the modes/pentatonics from the 1st string. I'm trying to build knowledge of where the triads fall in the forms. It's progressing, but not quickly. I'll incorporate your suggestions in the coming weeks.
Pete...let's put that on the schedule for Oct. That weekend is really going to be chaotic, and I'm intending to set aside my rational mind. I'm sure we'll find each other at the shows, and it would be cool to hang out for sure. We're going to take in the after Furthur show with The Brown Addition. My son's buddy plays with them...it'll be a Funk extravaganza. I'm going to temporarily suspend my guitar obsession, and boogie like a freak. As you know...I don't have much choice
Peace to all.