Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

Musical Theory Abound!!!
 #14777  by AugustWest
 Wed Apr 04, 2007 6:31 pm
I've come to realize that I am not very good at guitar. I love playing guitar and I'd like to get better. I've played bass for years and consider myself pretty good. I have a good understanding of music theory that I need for bass playing. ( I know circle of 5th's, chord shapes, modes and scales)

However when I play on acoustic guitar with friends I can't seem to bring it all together. I would consider myself a capable camp fire guitar player. I can strum through most dead and dylan songs with ease and sing along, but when I hear other people in coffee shops play these same songs , the guitar playing sounds so much better than my strumming. They add fills and even the chords they play sound more full. I needs some tips. practice tips, tips on filling by yourself on acoustic guitar, strumming patterns, or anything. I can tell from the video's I've seen on this site you guys are really good rhythm guitar players. Any advice would help thanks.

 #14784  by Billbbill
 Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:48 pm
First things first. I'm curious to see if anyone else feels as I do but it's important to have a clear view of how you actually sound. I know that how I think I sound when I'm playing and how I sound when I listen to a recording of me playing are not always the same.

I'm not sure why but maybe playing and listening are different to the point that your perception of how you sound is somewhat different while you're playing than when you're just listening. You're in a somewhat different head space.

Don't get me wrong, a clunker is a clunker, you can pretty much tell that as soon as you hit it.

Anyway I usually sound better to myself on playback than during the actual playing.

Maybe it's just me.

If you haven't examined yourself from this perspective yet it's definitely worth a look.

Get use to plopping in licks to bridge chords, or just picking out some notes of a chord to break up a strum pattern and add some color.

Try strumming different strings in a pattern and strategically hit a bass note to give the bottom some flow.

Take the B/E/B/A chords for say Scarlet Begonias intro


Varying the strings you hit within a strum pattern can give a nice flow and a fuller sound as you're spanning a decent spectrum of notes in cohesive succesion.

 #14786  by Chief5959
 Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:53 pm
Get an introduction to bluegrass guitar book (the one I have is by Traum). It will teach you about alternating bass, bass runs and different types of strum patterns. You then can adapt that to the music you like to play. Do not get down on yourself being a bass player you are way ahead of the game all you need is a little help in connecting the dots.

 #14791  by fatcat
 Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:59 pm
jerry always said he practiced arpeggios most. he practiced accenting different notes and keeping his right hand strong. that should help with your strumming and rythmn too.

 #14793  by CumberlandMinds
 Thu Apr 05, 2007 12:19 am
I found a book by Joe Pass about 6 years ago which really opened my eyes and ears. He talks about the C A G E D method. It would take too much time to go into it here in detail but I could give a more detailed synopsis off line if you like.

Its perfect for finding different inversions of chords and finding the right place on the guitar to get the sound that matches the song.

Find this book, I spent four years on the first 15 pages and loved it.

 #14794  by AugustWest
 Thu Apr 05, 2007 4:40 am
Thanks for the suggestions and I'll be sure to go ahead and buy a tape player and try to give myself a listen. The whole flat picking bluegrass techniques are something I have been wanting to learn. I guess I just need to dish out some dough and get a book or something. I've never taken lessons before for guitar or bass so maybe some actual lessons might help. What do you guys think, are lessons worth the money and time? I'd love to find a copy of the joe pass back, I'll give it a look on amazon later.

 #14796  by lostsailor8782
 Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:29 am
hey any info on the Joe Pass book would be awesokme and I would be forever Grateful

 #14798  by Billbbill
 Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:58 am
Try the basic pattern I show in the Stagger Lee vid part 1, especially the portion over the Bb.

Alternating bass lines w/other picking is something that takes practice. There are no short cuts. Start just playing the three note "top" portion of the Bb:


After thats thoroughly ingrained in your brain you can try adding the other notes


Give it a shot. It can be maddening. It took me a while to wrap my brain around it and get my fingers to follow.

Move it to the open A chord if it's easier until you get it down.

 #14892  by ronster
 Sun Apr 08, 2007 8:45 am
I fingerpicked Jorma tunes and played Jerry leads for 20 years before I started to work on my rythm playing so I can relate. My friend is starting to play and this is what I've been telling him:
1. Keep your strumming wrist and forearm loose. Practice a strumming pattern while listening to a tune first by dampening the strings (no chords) so you are just keeping a beat going with no chord changes.
2. Next add the chords and maintain the strumming pattern or beat. That is key, a lot of people break up their strum when making the chord change, mainly becaused they are focused on changing the chord.
3. Change chord shapes by moving chords positions like F, D, or A (or minors etc of those) up the neck to form the chord you want. Ths will add color and variation to your tune. Sometimes it is difficult to play all the notes of a chord up the neck without buzzing, it's OK to play a partial chord to get rid of the buzz and to speed up your chord changes.
4. If your playing a bluesy tune try changing it by alternating between a chord and moving that chord down one step (flaten) or by taking a chord an alternating between it and its 5th ie.. instead of playing an E chord for 4 beats play an E A E A or by adding a high G to a D chord.
5. Add ascending or decending bass runs into your chords. Jerry does this all the time so look at the tabs for examples. Just hit notes in the scale between the notes of the chord you are changing to and it will sound good.
6. Listen carefully to the song your trying to play and listen to yourself play. Use your ears.