soloing question

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soloing question

Postby wtractor » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:07 pm

i have a question. i've been playing guitar for only little over a year. i've learned some jerry intro's, licks, etc. i can play a few dead songs. but my question comes to the solo of those songs. should i learn them note for note, or just learn which scales he is using and work with that? i don't want to just memorize for example: " 8th fret B string, then hammer on 9th fret" and not know why jer does that.
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Re: soloing question

Postby Staemius » Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:06 pm

Do both. I learned a lot by listening to tapes and trying to copy licks and I didn't learn proper scales for ages. Developed a bit of my own style that way - but I wish I had learned scales earlier. A healthy understanding of the pentatonic and mixylodian scales will really help you start piecing those solos together.
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Re: soloing question

Postby Grateful Dad » Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:55 pm

For beginning soloing my advice is to play the song's melody first as a base for the lead. Get used to where the melody begins and ends. This will ground you in melodic soloing like Garcia. Eventually you'll discover different notes can color the melody in different ways and it is a great way to train your ear.
Learn and practice scales and their modes in all keys.
Also it is important to remember what you don't play is just as essential as what you do play. Let the solo breathe. Too many lead guitarists clutter their solos with notes to the point of saturation. Stick to the melody. Play sparingly and let the notes express themselves.
Finally, get a good book on bluegrass guitar and study some standard intros and endings to solos, play them until you can incorporate them into your melodic based solos. Find your own sound, Garcia is a great influence, but be your own player.
Good luck!

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Re: soloing question

Postby Crazy 9.5 Fingers » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:41 am

Jerry had a lot of gifts in his bag that made him such a great guitarist. For me it's all about his story telling when he soloed. That being said, Jerry is a great person to study wen you want to improve your soloing. He never really felt the need to display an array of chops and licks just for the sake of filling space. He took an idea and developed it, engaging the listener to see where he was going next. Storytelling. Most of his solos were ones that mirrored the vocal melody of the song. With that in mind, I would find a nice version of Loser and cop Jerry's solo note for note. It's one of those tunes where he plays pretty much the same Jerry patented solo through the years, with slight variations each time.

Other tunes that would be good building block tunes for developing solos.

Bertha - nice combo of major pentatonic scale and Ionian (1st degree of the Major scale) The major pentatonic is a 5 note abridged version of this scale.

Dark Star - The two schools of thought in jazz music are modal and rhythm changes. Modal songs are songs in which one mode is played for an extended period of time before (if ever) changing to a different mode. Rhythm Changes are songs in which the chord changes come very quickly and the soloist solos through and over those changes. Dark Star is the premier Dead tune for modal playing. Fire on the Mtn. and the Eyes jam would be close seconds in my book.

What is nice about modal playing is that you can stick to one scale, for Dark Star it is A mixolydian (there are numerous threads here that explain the modes). Find a great version that you enjoy and play over it every day. Pretty soon not only will you decipher the tonality of A mixolydian, you will start to see the shapes and scale patterns all over the neck. In Dark Star, the only chord change is when the tone shifts from A mixo to E Dorian which works out well for you because they are the same set of notes. Again, I would poke around this site for threads that explain the modes, or pick up a theory book and get cracking on it as it is essential for any guitar player IMHO.

I guess to answer your question, as someone said above it is great to do both. Transcribing solos note for note is a great exercise. Usually, you end up never forgetting the solo if you transcribe it yourself. If you read someone else's chart or tab it never seems to burn an impression in the mind.
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Re: soloing question

Postby wtractor » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:32 pm

thank you guys for your help. i guess my question was about : how do i learn to play like jerry. I love jerry's playing, and that is how i want to sound. so i should learn learn the major scale (all 5 positions) and the mixo?
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Re: soloing question

Postby Pete B. » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:47 am

I wouldn't waste another minute hunting and pecking.
Arm yourself with the knowledge of basic music theory and "The CAGED Method for Guitar", and then you will know why melody lines make sence and it will be almost impossible to play a wrong note.
I would recommend this site, and go to the Lessons and Modes Workshop sections.
http://www.highcountryguitar.com/
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Re: soloing question

Postby strumminsix » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:02 am

Pete B. wrote:I wouldn't waste another minute hunting and pecking.
Arm yourself with the knowledge of basic music theory and "The CAGED Method for Guitar", and then you will know why melody lines make sence and it will be almost impossible to play a wrong note.


Pete, if you lived closer I'm sure you'd be my BFF! LOL!

Seriously as somebody who is learning to play lead I agree with this 100%.

Step 1 learn the fingerboard (CAGED)
Step 2 learn the scales and notes
Step 3 play!

You may not hit all the right notes but you won't be hitting wrong notes and that is a helluva start!

From there hear which notes to hit to compliment the chords
Then start hearing relationships between notes, notes in teh chords and notes in the next chord, etc.

So you may hit the tonic on one chord but the mediant note on the next, etc, etc.
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Re: soloing question

Postby NashvilleMike » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:03 am

IIRC Jer said the first thing he did with a new song was how to play the melody in 3 different positions on the neck - this was a big help to me.
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Re: soloing question

Postby jahozer » Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:33 am

Pete B. and Strummin have it nailed. Learn those scales!!! Learn the major scale and the pentatonic scale to start. Go ahead and get good in one position till your fingers dont have to think. Then you can move to the other positions and explore the modes. Learn your scales on one and two strings. Use the CAGED method to see where scales lie around the chords.
It wont take long. There really isnt a short cut to sounding like Jerry. Its not like there are a set of licks to nail. He was a very scalar player who knew his theory inside and out.
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Re: soloing question

Postby tcsned » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:36 pm

One thing I always liked about Jerry's playing was that he typically didn't get hung up in a "box" - he played all over the neck effortlessly (well, nothing is effortless - a lot of practice to get to that point). I recommend not only practicing scales across the neck but also going up and down single strings as well. It's easy to get stuck in a position, I do it all the time usually out of laziness or lack of focus. Also, don't think that scales are the end all be all - think about intervals too without varying intervals you tend to go step by step through scales and melodies don't fully develop.

One trick I used was practicing scales and intervals while watching TV - your brain is distracted enough that you start doing it without a lot of active thinking and it helps develop muscle memory so your fingers know where to go without having to tell them. It also helps with boredom from doing something tedious. I'm sure it really pissed off my roommates but it really helped. I used to do it while watching baseball games since they seem to have a good balance of action and inaction allowing me to partially focus to make sure I'm doing it right (practicing something wrong is sometimes worse that not practicing at all). Of course, now with a 2 and 3-year old in the house those days are gone I'm lucky to get an hour in every other day and it shows in my playing.

There's one corner that you can't cut and that is time. When I was working on my PhD I worked on a project on "expert thinking" for teaching and learning. A lot of the articles I read talked about taking about 10,000 hours to really get to the "expert thinking" level (about 5 years of 40 hours a week). Of course, we'd be lucky to get in 40 hours a week. So figure on 10 years to get to that level. Of course it takes more than hours, the CEO of my company jokes about only needing to put 10,000 hrs in on the golf course and he'll be ready for the PGA. It takes more than that, intelligence and dexterity & strength (if it is a physical activity).
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Re: soloing question

Postby wtractor » Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:37 pm

great post tcsned. thank you. i guess my passion is way bigger than my guitar playing. you get frustrated sometimes though... i bean bobby got is first guitar around 15, 16, and in 2 years he was playing in the jug band with jerry.
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Re: soloing question

Postby Chuckles » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:59 pm

I often think that the way Weir plays is exclusively and precisely because he learned to play in the context of playing in the band (so to speak). It's the same with learning to solo... you can learn all the scales and modes in the world, but you're going to have to learn to use them in the context of the specific piece you are playing, so I'd recommend learning the melodies to the tunes first and foremost... there are enough variations from tune to tune to actually cover most of the relevant scales you will need to learn. Short of a lot of lessons or music school, that - to me - is the easiest way to learn how to play like Jerry... or anyone else for that matter (save the tap/shredders and jazz icons).
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Re: soloing question

Postby Liberty » Sat May 15, 2010 7:46 pm

Crazy 9.5 Fingers wrote:Jerry had a lot of gifts in his bag that made him such a great guitarist. For me it's all about his story telling when he soloed. That being said, Jerry is a great person to study wen you want to improve your soloing. He never really felt the need to display an array of chops and licks just for the sake of filling space. He took an idea and developed it, engaging the listener to see where he was going next. Storytelling. Most of his solos were ones that mirrored the vocal melody of the song. With that in mind, I would find a nice version of Loser and cop Jerry's solo note for note. It's one of those tunes where he plays pretty much the same Jerry patented solo through the years, with slight variations each time.

Other tunes that would be good building block tunes for developing solos.

Bertha - nice combo of major pentatonic scale and Ionian (1st degree of the Major scale) The major pentatonic is a 5 note abridged version of this scale.

Dark Star - The two schools of thought in jazz music are modal and rhythm changes. Modal songs are songs in which one mode is played for an extended period of time before (if ever) changing to a different mode. Rhythm Changes are songs in which the chord changes come very quickly and the soloist solos through and over those changes. Dark Star is the premier Dead tune for modal playing. Fire on the Mtn. and the Eyes jam would be close seconds in my book.

What is nice about modal playing is that you can stick to one scale, for Dark Star it is A mixolydian (there are numerous threads here that explain the modes). Find a great version that you enjoy and play over it every day. Pretty soon not only will you decipher the tonality of A mixolydian, you will start to see the shapes and scale patterns all over the neck. In Dark Star, the only chord change is when the tone shifts from A mixo to E Dorian which works out well for you because they are the same set of notes. Again, I would poke around this site for threads that explain the modes, or pick up a theory book and get cracking on it as it is essential for any guitar player IMHO.

I guess to answer your question, as someone said above it is great to do both. Transcribing solos note for note is a great exercise. Usually, you end up never forgetting the solo if you transcribe it yourself. If you read someone else's chart or tab it never seems to burn an impression in the mind.


Another way to learn soloing is to play along with good versions of these songs, once you know the different scales and intervals, play along with say the Dark Star from Live Dead....The Eyes from Without A Net, and the Scarlet>Fire from Dick's Picks 6......Don't try to play note for note what Garcia's playin, but play like your sitting in with the band, if that makes sense............
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