Chuckles wrote:So much of JG's playing is based around the melody, and the Loser solo is just steeped in the melody. Of course there are numerous tunes where there's almost no relationship between the melody and what he played, especially when he went off on a diminished run, but it sure isn't a bad place to start to pick the melody out and then embellish at your leisure. Getting the feel for the phrasing - if that's what you want to cop - from something like Loser will give you a lot of insight into where he put his little nuances... and it's not altogether too difficult a thing to tackle. .
This is the secret - Chuckles hit it exactly. You totally need to learn all about scales and modes, but you need to understand music theory in depth to get that, and that takes some time. If you don't yet have, you need to get a cheap used casio keyboard to have because a piano is the best way to learn, understand and apply music theory. It will make it much easier all around.
With respect to the solos - break out that Grateful Dead anthology book that we all have laying around, you know, the one with the basic open chord diagrams and three bars of music, written in general for piano, but the top line of single notes is the melody. Take a pencil, pen won't work because you will be erasing, and figure out what each note is for each word of the melody, a sinlge verse and a chorus. If you can't read music, thats cool, you are going to learn real quick by doing this - and I don't mean being able to sight read on the fly, but enough to decode each single note that corresponds to each word of the melody "If I had a gun for every ace I've drawn, I could hold a town the size of abiline"...or whatever - its way early and I'm running from memory here. Now take that and play those notes on the guitar. That's it. Simple. Learn it in at least 2, if not 3 different positions along the neck - usually start low, work up to middle of neck, and nice thing is the neck repeats at fret 12, so same pattern you played low play high on other side of 12th fret.
This will give you the solo to play over the chord changes. And yes, you should have a multitrack - or at least something for you to record yourself playing the chord changes alone so you can practice and play the solo phrasing of the melody over top of. You want your guitar to be the voice of the song, and play the melody as if your guitar were speaking the words of the song - so you and your friends will instanty be like - oh - dude - thats loser or whatever. From this you can get into sliding and bending the notes to make it like your guitar is speaking - kinda like the riff at the end of feel like a stranger - with the wah and bends - imaginge the guitar saying "whhaaaa feel like a strangeeeeeerrrrrr"
Other hint - the bottom line of those 3 rows of music is the bass line - decode those notes too into individual notes, and use them for transitioning between chords and lines - the music is usually pretty spot on as a staring point - although sometimes they are in a different key than what the dead played live - but you can deal w that as you learn more theory.
Read an interview w Jerry once and he said he does- or did - the exact same thing sans the anthology book - that is, learn the melody in at least 3 different positions, become proficient at playing it in your sleep in all three - and then rock out.
At this point you can add on all the extra goodies of scales, modes, feeling, improvisiation, licks - but you need to start w the foundation of the melody of the song - and they are all available in the music books. Don't worry, reading music is not rocket science.