Hey guys I've been really getting closer and closer to the "Jerry sound" but to be honest when I solo for a dead song it's like every once and a while you will hear a Jerry lick then it's back to my style, which in my honest opinion doesn't sound good if I'm playing a dead song unless we rearrange the song a tad bit.
So far I've really been working on the Caged method for quite some time and pretty much have it, I know all my notes on the neck and all the chords and the notes in the chords etc.. It really did spice up my solo's they really flow now and have a melody. Before learning Caged I would just find the key of the song and just solo over that back and forth over the same scale.. it got old fast, i noticed it. I'm sure the people listening noticed it. but that's in the past. My solo's have more depth to them now.
But about Jerry's style.. How do you pick up on it? I listen to the Dead everyday for about 4 hours plus+ I'm always on archive listening to shows my dad tells me about and how jerry was on fire that night. I pick licks up here and there, but about as far as I get.
For all you Jerry players I have a question: How did you learn his style? I hope Vic sees this thread
This is not to discourage you, as there ARE some things that you or anyone else can do that I will give an opinion on at the end of this, but the following needs to be said:
There is just no possible way to totally internalize Jerry's approach. He simply put so much time in from a young age in such unique circumstances that he pretty much created his own category of guitar playing. Jerry was afforded the opportunity to do NOTHING but play guitar for 18 hours a day from adolescence to the the end of his life. From what I understand he pretty much took full advantage of the time afforded him. He ALWAYS had a guitar around his neck. If he wasn't gigging or rehearsing, he had his nose in the latest Chord and scale books absorbing everything he could. By all accounts, when he lived at 710 Ashbury, he woke up and went to bed with a guitar around his neck. even into the early mid 70's when living with Mountain girl in Marin county, he simply ALWAYS played. And if wasnt chop practicing, he was rehearsing jazz standards with Merle Saunders or Bluegrass with OAITW (and Jerry's banjo chops TOTALLY inform his guitar approach in many ways), or real "outside" avant garde stuff with Howard Wales. Jerry also got a luxury that no one else ever had at his level (which he created for himself) and that is that Jerry created a situation for himself where he was able to play live music on stage with various bands (GD included) that he used as a testing ground for his new ideas and latest learning's. I mean who gets afforded the luxury of developing their style in front of a crowd and getting paid for it?!
NOBODY (not even the best of the best, the John K's , the Jeff mattsons, the Stu Allen's) can grasp even 25% of Jerry's total bag of tricks.
Let me give you an example of something I have heard NO jerry emulator knock off yet.. There is a standard jerry trick that he used in most every mid 80's playing in the band and mid 80's sugaree (usually during the 3rd solo in Sugaree). It was what me and my friends called "the flutter".
If you want an example of 'the flutter" go to archive.org and find the Playing in the Band from 10/15/83. Fast forward and listen from between the 7-10 minute mark. That is the "flutter"
OK with that caveat out of the way here is an approach that I think works, and was reiterated in John K's recent interview with Blair Jackson.
The key is the phrase just mentioned above: "Bag of tricks" . Every guitarist, even one as unique as Jerry, has an old reliable "bag of tricks" they rely on when playing. Even the best improvisers have to rely on these standby's from time to time. Things simply happen way too fast when playing improv music to be 100% originally creative on the spot 100% of the time. Jerry had a bag of tricks that is much larger than most, and obviously was very talented at using them, but they are certainly there.
I've always maintained that the difference between a great, interesting improv based guitarist and a pedestrian one is how well the guitarist hides his use of that "bag of tricks". Because it is not that the great guitarist isn't using the bag of tricks, he is, believe me, he just is able to pull it out and use it in a manner that is fluid with where the song is going.
So the logic dictates that if you want to be able to have a Jerry approach to soloing/jamming, then it would behoove you to have the same tricks in your bag that Jerry had in his.
You need to keep listening and listen real hard, and listen to multiple era's and what you need to do while listening is listen for licks that you have heard before. There are signature licks he uses in different jams, that appear time and time again. When you hear a lick or phrase more than once, it is because that lick or phrase lives in his "bag of tricks"
Now what make Jerry harder to copy than most guitar players is the aforementioned insatiable appetite for learning. He would put some new things he learned into his bag of tricks, use them, internalize them, flip them upside down and then after a few tours discard them, or put them down deep in the bag to be replaced by his latest learning's. The thing is, his latest learning's would always build on what he had previously learned. You don't get to 1989 Jer without going through, 1969, 1973,77,83,89.
So go back and pick out the common licks and phrases from 69-70, then from 72-74. Learn them, use them, practice them. Once mastered do the same for 76-77, 80-83 etc...
Also another great way of doing this, is that on this site, and some other sites (jdarks for example) there is some pretty damn accurate tabs of classic versions of some songs. I gurantee that some of those songs contain, classic Jerry phrases or licks.
Go to the version of the song the tab was taken from (jdarks is especially good at labeling the version of the song he is tabbing from) and listen to the song to pick pick out the "trick licks".....then find the trick licks in the corresponding tab and learn them.
I also actually keep pen and paper in my car and if I am listening to a show and I hear a familiar classic phrase come up that I just have to know, I write down the show, song and time of the riff, and when I get home I load the song into a piece of software called "Transcribe" which enables me to zero in on the portion of the song that contains the lick and slow it down without changing the pitch.
Here is John K's take on the subject:
For me, listening to Garcia, I hear certain licks show up. There’s this lick in “King’s Solomon’s Marbles,” for instance, that Jerry was working into a lot of his solos in ’76. It became another way to move through the scale and which had an inside chromaticism in there that would sort of ripple thought the band and create this cool little thing.
And somewhere in the ’80s you can hear this finger-exercise lick that’s just a single-position, diagonal fretboard thing that has this synaptic cascade effect when you listen to it.
So you can see that John K, has a similar approach. He hears signature riffs come up in different era's and learns them.
also, his take on soloiing improv is on the money as well, and he doesnt TRY to be Jerry there meaning he didnt actively "learn" solos, he simply lets his ears and taste for the music dictate:
As far as my approach playing in Jerry's lead solo style... it really comes more from passive absorption while listening to live recordings for pleasure. The study I have put in is much more around how he constructed and arranged song parts—riffs, fills, comping styles, and so on, and how those parts evolved over time
I cant give better advice than that!
.......................................................have you heard the one about the yellow dog?