Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #81047  by javalina
 Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:32 pm
There sure is a lot of information on this site, all gathered together in one place. Looking over the songs that make up the Dead's body of work, that's a lot of songs. It seems a little overwhelming, even putting aside the fact that it was never the same any two nights.

I saw the band a bunch of time in the 70s and 80s, but at the time I was very much in the moment, you could say. This is the first time I have tried to step back and get a perspective on the whole thing, and it's a lot to comprehend.

So, you guys that have been into this deeply and for a long time: what are some ways that you would break it down? What kind of natural groups would the songs fall into? By type of jam, by who wrote it, by time period?
 #81053  by JonnyBoy
 Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:05 pm
its easier for me to devour the elephant by eating a time period at a time since the sounds, tones, members and songs can all be organized that way. Of coarse, some songs made it through the whole shebang, but there are favorites that are played over and over every year only to disappear next year or tour. Plus, gear is all time period based as with all technology. From there you can say the 60's, 70's , 80's and 90's which all have their components. Time seems easiest for me.
 #81064  by javalina
 Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:32 am
My music player organizes the shows by date, and the songs alphabetically. So looking through the songs, I've got groups of versions of the same song by date across three decades, often.

I guess the nicest way to practice them would be by set, but I'm not there yet. I'm just going through the set lists, cherry picking the ones I think I can learn, and working up versions on my 4-track. It might make sense to work on the earliest stuff first, although the recordings are much better on a lot of the later stuff.

Do you think there are songs that ought to be learned first, songs that give the best foundation for further study? There are certainly songs that seem hard enough that they would have to be left for last...
 #81114  by mttourpro
 Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:58 pm
javalina wrote: Do you think there are songs that ought to be learned first, songs that give the best foundation for further study? There are certainly songs that seem hard enough that they would have to be left for last...
Your questions are obviously vast but here are a couple quick thoughts. I wrote this a while ago for totally different reasons but I think it applies to your question.

Sunshine DayDream, Throwing Stones, Althea, Deal, etc. are NOT huge jam songs. They aren't "little tunes", but aren't HUGE jams either. Like, say Stella Blue or Eyes Of The World, they are longer songs with a structured jam in them that generally stays withing the confines of the chord changes.

I will say there are some songs that kinda fit in between because they tend to jam over a single chord but, they generally stay pretty tied in to the groove of the song and generally do not reach psychedelic heights of any serious magnitude. Shakedown Street is an example as is Crazy Fingers, Here Comes Sunshine, and others. I can even give you the benifit of the doubt and say these are Quasi-Huge Jam songs.

There are only a dozen or so "HUGE JAMS". These are when they opened the "Tripping Doors".
These include Bird Song, Cassidy, Estimated Prophet, Dark Star, Slipknot!, Supplication, the F Part of Terrapin Station, Jam after Terrapin Station ('90), Music Never Stopped, Playing In The Band, occasionally Not Fade Away (only the sickest versions apply), and sick, long segues between songs like Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain or Lost Sailor >Saint Of Circumstance.

My overly simplified view is that the GD have small tunes, big tunes and Huge-Jam tunes.

Some small tunes to learn first IMHO would be ones like Friend of the Devil, Bertha, Franklin's Tower, Cold Rain and Snow, as well as all the blues-based tunes as they're a bit easier to deal with.

Big tunes to look at next might be ones like Shakedown Street, Eyes, The Other One and Wharf Rat to name a few. Tunes that I'm calling "Huge-Jams" are also worth getting into right away as the biggest "part" about playing them is improvisation over the changes/chord structure.

Also, I think it's most common to "break-down" the various periods based on the members of the band. So, you have (basically) the Pig era, Keith and Donna era, Brent era, post-Brent and post Jerry incarnations. Hope that helps a little and welcome to RUKind.
 #81132  by javalina
 Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:48 pm
Thanks a lot for this reply. I seem to be going in the right direction already, so far I've got Franklin's Tower, Bertha and Fire on the Mountain. I did learn Althea and Loser but I haven't tried recording them. I'm pretty excited about this site; I used up half a box of printer paper already printing up chord charts.

Another week and a half and I go back to the boat for three weeks of unplugged six string and trying to learn tunes off my blackberry; so my mission for now is to try to get as much as I can recorded on my 4-track practice tape so it's waiting for me when I get back.

This is one of the best uses for the internet anybody's come up with yet, this and the live music archive. Thank you all so much.