Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

Musical Theory Abound!!!
 #110604  by Tony6Strings
 Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:53 am
I'm big on running scale patterns. The place to start with this is to take a scale, and run it up and down in threes (CDE, DEF, EFG, FGA, GAB, ABC) and fours (CDEF, DEFG, EFGA etc...). I encourage the people I'm teaching to focus on accuracy and timing, then develop speed. Alternate pick everything, work on syncing up your hands to where there is a seamless pocket of fretting and picking. The most important thing is that it's clean (every note rings clear and at the intended volume/attack) and in time (the metronome is your friend!). When practicing these types of things, keep your amp loud and clean, it will expose the areas in which you need work. When you get to where you can play it perfect, start speeding it up. The more you practice this, the faster you will be able to play while still retaining the accuracy and timing. Another good one to throw in your routine is going up and down in thirds (CE, DF, EG, FA, GB, AC, etc...). This is trickier cause there's more transition back and forth between strings, but keep at it, again focusing on accuracy and timing. A cool trick to this one is to do it in a triplet feel (CED, FEG, etc...). This is just a scratch into the surface of possibilities. Here's a great resource: Try em out till you find your favorites. One of my faves is the (wish I could copy and paste a staff on here) CAB, DBC, ECD type ascending line, very Jerry if that's what your going for. Also worth mention is arpeggios. Start with your scale tonic and play all the arpeggios in the scale position your in (CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, etc...) ascending and descending, again, focusing on, you guessed it, accuracy and timing. These are really cool to throw into your lines, when you mix the arpeggios with the linear stepwise movement it makes it more interesting. All of the above mentioned patterns and exercises can be applied to any mode or scale, and I suggest learning all of the shapes (you've only got to learn one set, as every mode is enharmonic to a major scale, they're all the same shapes, the only thing that changes is where you place the root). Of course, all this stuff is just one aspect of "Jerry" style playing, mainly what I'm thinking of is the really fast single note flurries, a la "Fire on the Mountain (esp. 5 8 77)" and "The Other One" and others. As far as practice routines go though, a regimen like this will whip your chops into shape without fail. Still, keep in mind that all the impressive psychedelic shredding is for naught without some soulful phrasing to back it up. BB King is a great resource to learn from in this department. Also, I recommend learning some basic theory as pertains to guitar, the Mel Bay Fingerboard Theory book is a great place to start, as is the CAGED method (invaluable for learning your way around the fretboard). Oh, and transcribe something every day, even if it's just a few measures. It's good to keep your ears sharp. Last but not least, have fun with it, and apply what you're learning to actual music, these exercises are a means to an end. Happy shredding!
 #111343  by glennw
 Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:29 pm

I'm a guitar teacher with 30 years full-time teaching experience who loves the Dead and roots music in general. I first saw the Dead at Woodstock 69 (Jimi blew Jerry away, sorry to say) I'm now offering lessons on Skype and could give you a lot of insights into how lead guitar works and Jerry's style in particular (the CAGED system is part of the puzzle there is more to it than that). Email me if you want at:

This is acoustic fingerpicking rather than lead guitar, but listen to my version of "Ripple." Then you'll know I love this music. ... ature=plcp