Yes nice replies I agree and thanks! Just a bunch of thoughts that got me thinking and looking for likeminded questions or answers re: the art of Garcia's sound. Main point really is to get ideas on whats the most important thing to all of you here. Is it the playing or is it the the tone or other factors that made it most intriguing. I believe its more tone than most people think and that the culmination of his different sounds can be attributed to so many people but Jerry was the main architect of his sounds. In all his tone revealing interviews he seems to reveal, in pretty good detail, his stage setups but I have never seen him get into the philosophy behind it. Doug Irwin was the first to open my eyes to the guitar part of this equation back in '92. He said Jerry was all about stability in the guitar with as little chance of neck movement and all that. The brass was used because it creates a good firm anchor to screw the pickups into and could easily be opened up to change pickups out. Yes ,Jerry felt like they wore out magnetically and opted for replacement perhaps once a year. Nice sounding older hardwoods were also a requirement but this is common sense. Jerry loved strats the most because of the wiring and middle pickup but they were a bit weak and just cheap in some ways especially in the bridge area. He was also very into Les Pauls. I got to see and check out a few of them at Doug's shop one day and man were they gorgeous! All flamed late 50's and early 60's gems. I know also that he hated tremolo's and loved the wide Schaller bridge the most. preferably uncut so it could be cut the way he liked them. Jerry was more knowledgeable in all these areas than most any player I have ever seen. With that in mind you have to look at the whole equation and learn about what did what in his rig and what parts made what sounds. We have all shared and learned a lot about this in the past few years and its helped us all a lot
cheers! this stuff is fun and we have had a great run thus far! So If you are new to this and want to know what order of importance the difft parts in the equation are to get "Jerry tone" then thats a very valid question and Its basically what most want to know. Some want to know a lot more and about Phil and Bobby, keys and vocals and thats always awesome stuff as well. If you listen to enough GD you should know a lot of these answers just by virtue of knowing the lineage of the difft gear through the years and how it sounded. Tons of homework there and tons of reward! The rest you can come here and ask but like Brad and others have stated...No matter how much they get into this, Its Jerry that remains an elusive and humbling talent and sound as well. So heres some of Jerry's equation with playing aside. The guitar is stable in every aspect possible w/ glued together hardwoods for added strength and complexity to the sound w/ deep set or neck thru design and was a single coil in the middle position w/ Gibson style wide bridge. a Unity Gain Buffer adds some highs (a good buffer will sound a bit nicer) and allows him to hit the Mutron at the same consistent gain level. The Super ditortion and Super 2 are both Alnico 2 magnets '77 on. They are known for good power yet tight spongy bass and round, warm notes that can genderate nice distortion yet clean up nice when backed off a bit. A bit difft than a PAF and stock strat pickup due to the magnet type alone. The Dimarzio's are a big part of his sound as Brad stated ...he was onto something there. Thrown into a stock twin w/JBL's as most of you know is great but not part of the deal. The output section was stiff and clean and could deliver low volume or extremely loud withought much change in the tone. Again, stability, predictability and clean reference. The Twin really is the part we are most intrigued about since we know it was tweaked in several ways. Some ways it was tweaked, might remain a mystery forever. A good twin I must say, is a hell of lot more inspiring than a bad one.
Knowing what we know from all of this together is really the most important lesson. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Often times, changing a variable to become better or more versatile will then create a downside as well. The key is to try to change the varibles that will lead you personally into more of what you are looking for to create YOUR sound and then hopefully , you will be happy and inspired. I am a huge believer that one of the most amazing things that Garcia had that set him apart was his own sound. This ,for many years, went overlooked but know we understand so much about it. As guitarists, we can choose to create from all of the great tools and gear that were given to us years ago or innovate new sounds based from them or entirely new. The real art is in how we play and what we do with them but there really are some rare innovators out there in creating sounds. To me, Garcia was one of the best since he captured the Fender sounds of the late 50's and sent them to the moon! Hi Fi and dirty just a bit and hit with any pedal and they sounded great. The clean power amp and the brilliant fx loop together gave him a very 'pedal friendly' sound. If you love fender blackface tones then you have to love Garcia's tone. If not, you might want to just tweaking some variables that make the most sense. Try difft speakers and cabinets. Different pickups will also steer you in a difft direction that you may prefer. Guitar woods and so on! This is the fun part folks..tweaking. It will leave you with the knowledge of what things do what and where you might want to go.
So I found this clip of Jerry playing a stock les Paul into what looks like a 68/69 Twin Reverb ...the tone is typical of such a combo yet the playing is not . You can see and hear in this video how much this tone is affecting his playing and ideas. Its almost like a haunting from the past 68/69 tone where you want to see him rip into one of his old bluesy favorites and yet he's kinda missing his usual guitar etc. So its funny, he has one of his key ingredients there and the rest are not. To me, in this clip he kinda sounds average without his rig but its also obvious he wasn't given much room or didnt so much care. If you listen to the solo alone you can't really even tell its Jerry. The big rig as a whole was a huge part of the later 'personality'.