Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #93692  by heavynylon
 Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:39 pm
After several years of classical guitar lessons, I decided last fall to put the classics in a holding pattern so that I could focus on learning to jam. So, my teacher started me working on various scales. And I started joining some of our local open jams. But something was missing. It just didn't click. So, a couple of months a go I enrolled in a 3-day bluegrass jamcamp. It really made a world of difference and I think it sort of got me over the hump.

One thing about the camp that I did not expect is that they made everybody sing. Having been told most of my life that I could not carry a tune, I was really apprehensive. But to my surprise, the guy leading the camp told me that I could carry a tune just fine, as long as I was staying in my vocal range. So, if I was getting off key, he would have me change the key of the song to fit it into my range. It worked! I was absolutely amazed! And there were a number of other folks who had a similar revelation.

I also found that once I could sing a song, picking out the melody was much easier and then working out breaks seemed to fall into place. So, I tried to figure out my vocal range by singing into my guitar tuner. I'd play the melody on the guitar, then sing. It became very clear where I'd start struggling and which notes I could not hit at all.

So then, I turned back to the Grateful Dead tunes that I had tried to play several years ago. This time I started by singing them. Here's what I found out. My vocal range stops well short of many of the tunes of early Jerry songs. However, for the songs on the Grisman/Garcia Shady Grove album, my voice is dead on! So, for example, take Jackaroe. The early Dead versions seem to be in A-minor. I can't do it. But the GG version is in E-minor. No problem.

Now, if I want to play and sing many of my favorite Dead tunes, I guess I have to rearrange them to a key that fits. So I started doing that. With some of the songs, it's straight-forward. Others (terrapin, for example) are pretty difficult.

Has anybody else tried doing this? Thoughts?
 #93698  by tcsned
 Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:12 pm
We have changed keys on a few tunes since we have a girl singing some Bobby and Jerry tunes. Using the Nashville number system and numbering all the chords in a tune - that might make it easier. Using a capo is another option. Some tunes are just funky to change keys on and it takes a while to get used to them especially if your used to playing it in the original key.