Hello, and help with solos.

Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Gratefulegg » Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:02 pm

Hey everyone, long time lurker, first time poster.

So, after years of playing rhythm, I finally want to buckle down on leads. The big holdup I"m having is this; I don't know (or how to know), what scale to play for a particular song.

For example, take a basic song like Knockin on Heavens Door. I would assume it's in the key of G. But does that mean I'd play the G major scale? Or a blues song like Big RR Blues. I'd think that's in A, so would I play the A minor pentatonic scale? I'd also assume Bertha is in G, but read on here Jerry plays G mixolydian. How is that 'determined'?

I'm sure there's a very complicated theory 'formula' to understand this, but if anyone can put it in simple terms, I'd appreciate it!

Also, a few years ago I saw somewhere on here a list of pretty much all Dead songs, with the key they're in, as well as the scale to solo. If anyone knows where I can locate it, I'd appreciate that too!

Thanks everyone. Good to finally be aboard here!
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Lephty » Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:52 pm

That's a pretty big topic, but I can give you a few clues to get you pointed in the right direction. And I'm sure there are a bunch of other folks on this forum who will have some great suggestions too. Here's my $0.02:

Knockin' On Heaven's Door is indeed in G major, and the G major scale will work nicely over the whole thing (though you'll find that if you can learn to follow the chords a bit as you solo, you'll find some nice melodies and you'll sound a little less "noodly"). Bertha is also in G major, and the G major scale will work over all of it, but the solo section hangs on a C chord for quite a while, and you'll find it sounds better if you follow that C chord in your solo.

Big RR Blues is indeed a blues song, but I think you'll find that the Am pentatonic doesn't quite sound right. Instead, drop your Am pentatonic scale down 3 frets (as though you're playing in F#m), which gives you the A major pentatonic. This will sound a little more appropriate for this song, which to my ears sounds more "country" than "blues" (even though it is technically a 12-bar blues progression).

The Am pentatonic would sound better in Mr. Charlie, for example, which has more of a "blues" sound.

Beyond that, I would recommend investigating:

1. The CAGED System, which will help you find the "right" notes around the neck as you follow a chord progression.
2. The modes (dorian, mixolydian, etc.), which work for some of the "jammier" Dead songs like Dark Star, The Other One, etc.
3. The blues, because most American music has at least some roots in the blues, and the blues can teach you a good sense of timing and phrasing.

And if I may be so bold as to plug my own website, there are free lessons there on CAGED and the Modes, among other things (link in my signature).

Good luck to you!
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Gratefulegg » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:35 pm

Thanks bro. I'll definitely check out your site.

LOL. Yeah i know it's a big topic, and I could spend years trying to figure it out. I just bought a loop pedal, and have been laying down some loops, but still really didn't know what scale to use with them.

What you said makes perfect sense. The only thing I'd ask is, since Bertha is in G, but most of the solo is over the C chord, would the lead still be played in G (emphasizing the C notes), or would you play a different scale completely (like C or something)?
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Lephty » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:54 pm

There are a few ways you could treat that C chord in Bertha, but in the interest of simplicity I would say that you'd be right to think of it as staying in the G major scale, but emphasizing the notes of the C chord.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby old man down » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:54 am

Welcome Gratefulegg, and always good to see the new year kick off with a thread on how to play solos.

I also came from a background of rhythm guitarist and wanted to later learn lead. (was always learning lead, just didn't really know what I was doing) So, I know where you're coming from.

Good, you got a looper. Great start. Now, hopefully you are in your 20s, because you have a lifetime of "enjoyable" work/understanding of how it all falls together in front of you, and you'll have time to keep chipping away at things, bit by bit.

If your rhythm skills are developed to the point where you can apply the "cowboy" chords further up the neck, all over the neck, fluently, this will serve you well in the long run. It will allow you to embellish lead solos with surrounding rhythm comps, doing both at the same time as you practice, once you reach a higher level of competence. All really good improvisers/soloists can harmonize their lead lines simultaneously to some extent, and it just comes with time...lots of time. (practice)

Solos on guitar are essentially extremely refined rhythm, rhythm that is reduced to picking single strings during the travel of the pick over the strings from a rhythm perspective. Garcia was so good at this. It is the feature that gave his picking the sparkle we all know because it would keep his picking right on the beat, allowing him to drive a song and make it pop.

With your looper, pick songs you want to learn, break the solos down into snippets, learn them, string them together, and then see how they fit with the chords and the key. Couple this with what you learn from studying the CAGED system, what you can learn on line by asking questions, and slowly it will all sink in.

I'm still learning, so I'm not going to pretend that I can help you much more than this. But I will add that if you keep at it, 10 years down the line you will marvel at how much better you "get it" and can "apply it."
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:13 am

old man down wrote:Welcome Gratefulegg,

If your rhythm skills are developed to the point where you can apply the "cowboy" chords further up the neck, all over the neck, fluently, this will serve you well in the long run. It will allow you to embellish lead solos with surrounding rhythm comps, doing both at the same time as you practice, once you reach a higher level of competence. All really good improvisers/soloists can harmonize their lead lines simultaneously to some extent, and it just comes with time...lots of time. (practice)



+1
IMHO the best way ( there is no one way ) to begin to learn Jerry style is to learn the fretboard and where the chords are.
know where all the " C " chords are on the neck for example .... do it for all the chords. IMHO this is as important as running major scales or whatever .....
Watch a vid of Jerry playing Bertha .... his fingers arent just going wherever ...... in most cases there is a chord(s) there ..... and the basis of the solo is in the chords .....
Hope this helps
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Gratefulegg » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:43 pm

Thanks guys. Yeah, I figured there probably aren't any other threads about playing solos, so I better start one.

Unfortunately I'm pushing 40, so probably too little too late for me. Still, it would be cool knowing that Jerry's playing _____ scale in say Sugaree or something, and trying to jam along.

Scales, modes, CAGED, etc, etc. Ugh. I just figured I'd take tomorrow off work and learn everything!
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Pete B. » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:56 pm

Where are you located.
Someone could probably give you a Jerry primer lesson.

I usually start by showing the Do-Re-Me thing in open G.
The Do-Re-Me thing is the Major Scale. All the other Modes are built on the Major Scale.
Then I show how the intro to Friend of the Devil is the Do-Re-Me thing played backwards.
Now you're making music using the most basic scale.

Once you understand the basics, the GDeads use of Music Theory 101 just comes jumping out at you every place you look.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby JonnyBoy » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:20 pm

When I use to give guitar lessons and players that have chording down pretty well but want to be soloing too, the first place i would open the solo pandoras box is simple blues songs. It has a repetitive nature, and all types of soloing methods work within its boundaries(ie scales, CAGED method, etc...). Plus the pentatonic scale is easier to remember and execute if you were learning. One hurdle for lots of guys is being/sounding stiff at first too. Bending, pick attack and vibrato is very important to incorporate as you learn.
Not every awesome solo is complicated either, the bending and dynamics really gives it the emotion and character, IMO. That can be learned by playing along with Jerry as we practice too. That is Something I love to do and often teaches me something new about the songs execution. YouTube is a great source too!
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby zambiland » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:22 pm

I'd say forget about scales, just concentrate on the chords. You can arpeggiate the chords and then experiment with the notes in between the chord tones to find the right passing tones. When the chord in the song moves to the next one, try finding the chord shape for the new chord that fits in the same position (i.e., fret number) that the previous one did. Then you can work off the new arpeggio in that position. By linking together arpeggios with passing tones, you can then create the framework of solos that sound very coherent with the chord progression. Pretty soon, you'll notice which notes the chords have in common and you can work around those as the chords change to give yourself a home base and a continuity throughout the solo, and which are different, which are the ones you really want to find so that you can accentuate them make it sound interesting. Just analyzing the song and using the scale that fits over it results in a very static sounding solo. Although arpeggiating the chords seems like a really simple, silly thing to do, it does get the sound of the chord in your ears and under your fingers and you'll discover that by stringing those chord tones together in different ways, you'll be coming up with melodies that can really sound good.

Oh yeah, simple is better. Don't worry about playing a lot of notes. Most guitar players play too many notes! 8)

This is a long explanation that would take about a minute to explain if we could sit down together.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby WildEye » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:31 pm

Check out Seth's Bertha lead lesson on,

http://gratefulguitarlessons.com/

for $10 it's a steal and a great solo to appreciate how Jerry follows chord structure but also adds the right "extra" notes... You can't get around learning theory but I have found that learning the note for note with some explanation seems to make it stick more.

I'm no affiliation with him other that that I have bought some of his lessons.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby rugger » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:23 am

WildEye wrote:Check out Seth's Bertha lead lesson on,

http://gratefulguitarlessons.com/

for $10 it's a steal and a great solo to appreciate how Jerry follows chord structure but also adds the right "extra" notes... You can't get around learning theory but I have found that learning the note for note with some explanation seems to make it stick more.

I'm no affiliation with him other that that I have bought some of his lessons.


I would +1 gratefulguitarlessons.com. Also, no affiliation but I have bought a few lessons. I think he does a very good job with the lessons and he has excellent customer service--he was very quick with his email responses to a couple of my inquiries. One was answered immediately, the other within 24 hours. I wouldn't ask for more from a one man operation. As for the lessons, he is a very competent player and really has the approach down. I'd love to have him one on one for a few months to help solidify my playing.

As many soundly suggested above, learn your chord shapes (CAGED) up and down the neck. In addition, I would learn the major scale in all five positions. The good news is, if you get these "under your fingers" you will be sounding like Jerry before you know it. The bad news, it will probably take you years to do so.

Good luck and stick with it. You will get there.

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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby tcsned » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:38 am

Some good advice here but I'd have to side with Jonnyboy, start with pentatonics especially if the concepts of soloing are new and foreign. No bad sounding notes, easy shaped to remember, and easy to apply.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby Pete B. » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:13 pm

If you are really into the CC Rider, Walkin' Shoes, Little Red Rooster etc..., then Pentatonics would be a good place to start. But this is really not a Jerry-esque style. I would suggest listening to alot of other players than Jerry for Pentatonic solo'ing. To my ear Jer gets alot of Pentatonics from Freddy King.
I'd say go for the Major Scale, and use the EMaj7 intro to Eyes of the World to begin your practice. I like to show how the Intro to Friend of the Devil is the same scale as the Intro to Eyes, just in a different key and fretboard position.
This vid is all done using the Major Scale, also known as the Ionian Mode. It goes thru 5 CAGED positions while trying to keep the phrasing in a very basic Jerry style.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR8f0Do9 ... w&index=17

Maybe if you can name you top 3 songs that you want to be able to play like, that would help narrow down the Instruction.
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Re: Hello, and help with solos.

Postby tcsned » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:30 pm

I hear you Pete, Jerry wasn't a pentatonic-based player himself. But pentatonics are a great building block for learning how to solo. Depending on where Greg is with his theory knowledge but I find that if you start with fundamentals and building blocks that deeper understanding and transfer to new situations is more likely than if you start at a level that you may be able to learn some from but won't necessarily see the forest for the trees. Pentatonics are about as basic as can be. That was my thinking.
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