Page 1 of 3

JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:22 pm
by trking8
tastes great less filling - - not sure why it took me 37 years to figure it out.

help youself, 20-some years olds!

peace out,


p.s. these are building blocks, more to come

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:10 pm
by charliehornsby
great stuff.

as a piano player, can i engage you in a discussion about scales and soloing?

i find that sometimes/a lot of Dead tunes don't lend themselves to blues scales. so i find myself using pentatonic major scales.

for example a tune like Scarlet Begonias which is if i remember correctly soloing over E A and B, not piano friendly chords... what kind of scales is Jerry using when he solos? is it pentatonic major?

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:28 pm
by trking8
thank you. depends on the tune, but jerry used the mixolydian scale a lot. check the scarlet begonias extended solos at the end, mostly off B and A. a lot of stuff might not be piano friendy, maybe transpose it and play in a more comfortable key just to get the hang of the scales, etc.

a lot of fun, bud. peace out.


p.s. go stillers!

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:35 pm
by High Peaks
Hornsby said that Jerry had a better sense of the chromatic scale than any player he ever heard.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:15 pm
by charliehornsby
could you talk about the mixolydian scale and how it would apply to such tunes as scarlet and other tunes?

again, because sometimes the blues scale doesn't always work in their tunes.

so i find myself doing some pentatonic stuff that sounds a little too diatonic. does that make sense?

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:03 pm
by ronster
My experience is that he often played a combination mixo/blues/penatonic scale that revolved primarly around chord shapes for the tune. The chromatic riffs that were kindly posted were often used as noted more in the garcia band and in the dead during his noodling phase ('79-'87). There appears to be a correlation between herion use and noodling but I have no scientific proof to back that up with as Jerry is the only noodle player that I know off and may have noodled irregardless of his drug usage.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:29 pm
by charliehornsby
So how do u work and practice on this?

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:52 pm
by ronster
This has been discussed in other threads quite abit. Some would tell you to learn all of the different scales all over the neck. I'd tell you to learn all of the chord positions all over the neck. Figure out what runs, pull offs, hammer ons, licks are associated with the chord positions (they repeat a you move the chord position around). This is refered to as the CAGED method and a most useful tool for playing jerry stuff. Learn the basic meody of the song, use your ear and keep using it. Basically the 3 primary notes of the chord being played along with the scale are fair game. Start off by using a simple picking pattern using every differnent chord position you can think up and down the neck for the tune. Then when you get that down add in the melody, and then add in fill in notes and rifs etc. etc..
I just read that you are a piano player, so change neck to keyboard and hopefully it works on a piano as well.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Sat Jan 24, 2009 3:10 pm
by charliehornsby
thank you! I will apply that to my piano playing :)

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:56 am
by wisedyes
How you apply say, the mixolydian mode to a particular chord is to pay attention and be aware of chord construction.There is no other way to do it other than by lots of trial and error - period. Knowing at least some music theory saves you tons of time and frustration.

Take "Fire on the Mountain" - seems simple enough, just two chords, B and A. So why use B mixolydian and not B minor pentatonic or straight B Major? Because, even though the chord is played as a B, the next chord is an A, which is a flatted seventh to B. This means it can't be B Major, because there IS NO FLATTED SEVENTH IN A MAJOR SCALE. Play a B7 chord, and then play Bb against it; sounds like shit, no? The only context this note can work in is as a passing note ( which is what chromatic scales are all about - actual scale/chord tones and passing notes in between them ).

So, therefore, you need a B Major tonality scale that contains an A in it; which again, is the flatted seventh. Therefore, your choice has to be the B mixolydian mode, which is the fifth mode of the E Major scale. So, really, FOTM is actually "in" E major, but built off the V and IV chords ( B & A ) of E Major, so it is what's known as a "modal" song.

This is also why the tried and true minor pentatonic won't work most of the time in a Major context - Major tonality contains a Major third, minor contains a minor third. The two do not sound good played over each other unless you are playing blues. It's all about the chord tones.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:16 am
by charliehornsby
wisedeyes, such a great post.

very informative. thank you so much. this is great stuff and exactly what i'm dealing with. thank you so much for taking the time to write that out and to help create in my eyes a very stimulating and informative discussion.

this is all very helpful to me, because as a piano player, sometimes feel boxed in in some/many of the dead tunes as they do not allow that Flat 7, flat 3rd bluesy feel. i was never one to want to hide behind an organ and comp chords. i really love playing piano on these tunes.

And don't get me wrong a lot of tunes do lend themselves to that flat 7, flat 3rd feel, but yes, FOTM is a perfect example. as well as Scarlett. Just 2 or 3 chords right? But that they lend themselves to a more modal/diatonic chord scale. these are not friendly songs on piano. ever try soloing in B (mostly black keys) or E using a diatonic vocabulary on the piano? it's not so much fun. especially when you can't rely on a bluesy flat seven, flat 3rd feel. going to a blues scale has always been my crutch and when you can't go there, i feel limited.

if you're a guitar player you can really milk and bleed just one or 2 notes and make them sing in a solo. as a piano player you have limited sustain on a note, obviously, so to come up with a fun, articulate, dynamic solo, it's harder in my mind, and it helps to be able to cover the breath of the keyboard in a modal context, since there is only so much you can get from playing 2 notes on the piano. does that make sense?

take songs like Big River, Me and My Uncle, etc, these are songs that live and breathe in a bluesy pentatonic feel. you can play for years in variations of blues scales on these tunes. But again, when you can't use that bluesy, pentatonic flat 7, flat 3rd scale or vocabulary, it becomes hard as a piano player to come up with some tried and true licks, forcing one to really know their modes and scales.

does this make sense? i'm really enjoying this conversation as this is what i'm working on now, trying to come up with dynamic, soulful, deep, thoughtful solos as a piano player in these tunes.

thank you guys so much for your time and thoughts. i hope the posts and discussions will continue.

gratefully yours... :)

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:39 pm
by wisedyes
Here's a trick for getting much more out of the minor pentatonic scale, if you don't already know it. The same scale form can be a Major scale too, it all depends on what the root is - this is because the minor pentatonic is based on the Aeolian mode ( the minor mode built of the 6th scale degree ) of a Major scale. Therefore, the same scale can be Major or minor depending on your "home" tone.

Using FOTM again as an example, you need a B Major tonality if you are using pentatonic ( the seventh is omitted, so it's not an issue - but the 3rd is! ) So, play G# minor pentatonic against the B major - sounds great!

Basically, treating the minor 3rd note of any minor pentatonic scale as the home tone turns it into the Major pentatonic for the key based on that particular note. A minor becomes C major, B minor becomes D Major, E minor becomes G major, and so on. This is a simple trick to get more country style sounds in your playing. Try playing a song like "Big River" using this method instead of standard minor "blues" pentatonics and I think you'll agree that it sounds way more "correct" - and much more like what the Dead were actually doing.

And yes, everything you said in your last post makes sense - but at least you piano players only need to learn ONE fingering for each scale. We need to learn AT LEAST five.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:16 pm
by charliehornsby
this is great! thank you. i'm going to shed on this tonight. i have a jam tomorrow. i'm sure i'll come back with more questions. thank you so much. it would be kind of nice to have an open discussion here about approaches to different songs. i'm going to sit down with some songs tonight and make some notes.

again, i can't thank you for your time. this has been hugely helpful. thank you!

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:08 pm
by mttourpro
these are not friendly songs on piano. ever try soloing in B (mostly black keys) or E using a diatonic vocabulary on the piano? it's not so much fun.

Here. here, the key of B should be outlawed.

Re: JGB riffs and scales

PostPosted:Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:18 pm
by wisedyes
Sure, but keyboard players seem to looooo-ve playing in keys like Eb, Bb, and F - all of which absolutely suck ass on guitar. Of course, if you want to play jazz at all, you need to be comfy in these three big- time.