I bumped into this Harmony Central post on a Google search. While we can quibble with some of the details, this seemed like a very knowledeable "Jer 101" used to try and explain Garcia to a newbie. Plus he mentioned rukind. Poster was Purple Trails- anyone here?
"I’ll try to break it down for you. Theory: Jerry actually didn’t play much in Pentatonic, other than on the obvious blues tunes. His solos and fills tended to be single note runs in modal scales alternating with arpeggios, with a fast chromatic run thrown in here and there. Of the modes, he tended to use Mixolydian most often, with Lydian and Dorian thrown in at times. He improvised probably 80-90% of the time, so to some extent you don’t really need to learn the songs note for note. He used the whole fretboard, playing the same arpeggio or run of notes in multiple positions, and favored doing stuff like doing high note runs up the neck on the bass strings. Left-hand technique: Jerry rarely did bends, and when he did they were mostly half-step ones. He did use a lot of slurs; I’ve seen articles where he claimed to use 7 or 8 different vibratos. He also was influenced by bluegrass, and did a lot of hammering on and pulling off. He also would throw in trills; a good example of that is the opening run of Playing in the Band. Right-hand technique: Jerry would switch back and forth using a pick and fingerpicking, sometimes doing so several times in a bar. He would flick the pick under his stub finger and flick it out again. I’ve never been able to do that trick, so unless the song is one of the ones that are fingerpicked only, like Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, I just flatpick the bass strings and fingerpick the others when it seems like that makes sense. He used a really thick Adamas carbon pick (either 2 mm or 3 mm, I forget which), and always used the point. He had really good control of pick attack and pressure, and would at times really dig in, and at others barely grazed the strings. The thick pick does make a difference in the tone you get when you try to play like Jerry. Tones: the classic Jerry tone starts with running a silver face Fender twin reverb at around 5 on the volume, with the treble dial at 9, midrange at 2 or 3, and bass at 1 or 2. After the early seventies he used a modified twin head as a preamp to power a McIntosh MC 2500 power amps which drove 2x12 cabs loaded with JBL k120 speakers. For a brief time in the 80s he used a Mesa Boogie amp. So, you’re best off using a clean channel amp, preferably one of the Fender ones. He played custom superstrats for the bulk of his career, using a split DiMarzio superdistortion pickup in the middle position probably 70% of the time or more, so the closest you can come with a commercially available guitar is to use the middle pickup on a strat. For what it’s worth he tended to have his guitars set with a really high action to help him get a deeper tone. He would play with the volume and tone rolled down, sometimes to under 3 on the tone knob to get a horn-like sound. He constantly was tweaking the knobs. I’ve found that if you’re not that adept at this you can get pretty good results running your volume around 7 or 8 and your tone knob in about the same range. He played with a clean signal path most of the time. There are some songs like Estimated Prophet and Shakedown Street that require the use of an autowah to sound good. Autowahs are a PITA to play with, really need to be tweaked depending on guitar and amp used as well as the room you’re playing in and other stuff, and are pretty expensive to boot, so I’d avoid them unless you are a glutton for punishment. Other than that the most often used effects are clean overdrive, fairly clean distortion, octave down and analog delay. Where to start: most of the stuff on Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are pretty easy to learn and fun to play, so I’d start there. If you want to learn some solos from live stuff (the arrangements, tempo and approach can be quite different) I would try to focus on shows recorded in the 60s and early 70s, because the Jerry parts are much simpler. As he aged Jerry did stuff that gets really hard to pull off. Good songs to start with are Not Fade Away (probably the easiest Dead cover to play), Uncle John’s Band, Bertha, How Sweet It Is (JGB cover), Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain, Friend of the Devil. Avoid the stuff in weird time signatures (Estimated, The Eleven), stuff that requires two guitars to sound good like China Cat and most of the later Bobby songs. Things like Truckin’ and the Other One pretty much require a full band to sound good, though they are fairly easy to play. Resources on the web: http://www.rukind.com
has tabs for virtually the whole catalog which are reasonably accurate, some with links to videos for the licks. Check out the jdarks channel on youtube. He has really good instructional videos on there. ...."
"Do not write so that you can be understood, write so that you cannot be misunderstood." -Epictetus
First show: 8/16/69 (Woodstock)
Last show: 3/19/95 (Unbroken Chain breakout)
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