Why is J Garcia stuff so difficult to play?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Blue Bill, Jul 14, 2019.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I agree with Disco Biscuits. It's not that inaccessible. If you want to copy him EXACTLY, well that's a pain in the tuckus to do for any artist. But if you want to play in the same vein and overall feel, this is the way there. That micro bend stuff is semi-relevant, but that's more icing on the cake, IMO.

    There are lots of other guitarists out there whose sheer speed and dexterity makes them almost impossible to emulate. J Garcia is not one of them. And I'm not downgrading Jerry when I say that-- super fast playing can sound good when done well, but it can also be incredibly annoying and non-musical, too. One of my favorite guitar solo players of all time has to be David Gilmour: his lyrical, melodic approach to solos made them memorable-- much more so than fast wheedly-wheedly-wheedly. Of the super fast players, Joe Satriani and EVH paid attention to melody (most of the time), and so their music gives me less ear fatigue than other shredders' material.
     
  2. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow, DB, thanks! I'll get started jamming on FOTM; great song. Jerry Town,here I come. I saw Dark Star Orchestra last Friday, Jeff Mattson does nice job, very inspiring.

    Hi Chris, I want to believe I can get there, it just seems far away right now. I like Gilmore too, I find his style has much more in common to the things I learned. Thanks for checking in.
     
  3. Bob L

    Bob L Tele-Meister

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    Blue Bill - I began studying Jerry Garcia's playing a few years ago in detail. Prior to that I had spent time studying many of the big names that you have mentioned - Clapton, Allman, Hendrix, Santana, Beck, Harrison, etc. I too found Garcia's playing to be very different, but intriguing. I like to learn solos and fills note for note, not necessarily that I would ever play them for an audience, but to understand what makes them tick and add to my vocabulary.

    Here are some tunes that I would suggest you try - Me And My Uncle from Skull and Roses, Scarlet Begonias, Alabama Getaway, Jack Straw, China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider - Europe 72, Touch Of Grey, Hell In A Bucket.

    I'll add that the slowdown feature in YouTube is very useful.

    Happy Day After Jerry's Birthday! RIP!
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  4. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I'm not gonna compare myself to Jerry, but after playing guitar for 35 years I think I have a reasonable ear for playing melodies/improvs on meat and potatoes kinds of chord progressions. I'm pretty sure I have internalized the CAGED approach, favoring some of the patterns over others. I studied music theory for 1 quarter in college and it informs absolutely zero in my playing or composition. This is not to denigrate theory, but there's a reason that you can't generally get hundreds of people to pay to watch other people solve math equations, even though you might be astounded at their theoretical prowess.

    I watched a '72 video of the Dead and Jerry's face was interesting to watch because when he played a few of what I would have considered "clams" he didn't wince or pause, he just kept going. Who knows, maybe that's just a practical approach to being a performing musician, but I'd also guess that over time, whether he seriously MEANT every note he played or not, it all became more fluid and then started to really sound intentional if not conventional.

    The other aspect of the Dead which I sometimes like and sometimes don't, is the loping, give and take rhythms. I guess that might be down to Phil generally not playing riffs and avoidance of "one".
     
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  5. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    Theory shouldn't advise creativity or help create. Theory should just explain what is what and make it easier to communicate facts and ideas with a standardized system all musicians can understand if they learn the "language".

    There's a guy in Houston, (won't identify him), went to maybe Berklee? Has great chops and plays the heck out of scales and forms, but ... sounds like the same fast scales and forms in every tune. If that is what you were alluding to, yeah it's hard to listen to. It's like, "Look what I can do! Whee!." Nice young guy, though.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  6. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I think more of what I was getting at is that I'm not convinced that Garcia was a technical music theory genius. I am pretty convinced he had a natural feel for many styles of music and nevertheless managed to create a VERY personal and idiosyncratic guitar style that somehow managed to weave through all those things. Compare that to Frank Zappa, who actually was more of a technical music theory genius and also managed to create a VERY personal and idiosyncratic style. And then compare that to any of the Berklee/GIT grads who probably have theory up the wazoo and mostly sound quite similar to each other.

    It's possible that conventional Western music theory may be inadequate to really get to the bottom of Jerry's style because a lot of it goes outside of equal tempered scales, but not in some random way.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  7. maggieo

    maggieo Tele-Holic

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    If you're trying to copy Jerry's solo's note-for-note, I think you're kind of missing the point. His playing was extemporaneous and improvised. Not quite Free Jazz levels, but in the same spirit.

    Julian Lage explores the concepts behind this sort of playing and how it can become part of yours in this vid:

     
  8. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    Bob, thanks. That's a nice list; it'll keep me busy for a year.

    Larry, yeah, that's the thing I'm just lost about. He can drop a flat fifth or a minor second and make it sound really cool. It's hard for me to believe he could do that by accident, without knowing it's the flat fifth, etc. I'm still just learning to switch from playing in a scale to adding chord tones or switching scales with each chord change, I'm still wicked clumsy at it. I'm not interested in sounding Berklee or Al Dimeola, or whatever, I just want to be able to play something people (and I) will recognize as Jerry-ish.

    Maggs, nice video. I tried out his free exploration exercise. It didn't sound as bad as I thought it would, but it certainly didn't sound as musical as what he was doing!

    I did find a FOTM backing track on utube and have been trying to pound a B mixolydian scale into it. My poor neighbors! :D
     
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  9. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    In a GP interview, B.B. King gave this advice......if you hit a bad note, move it a half step either way. Maybe Jerry Garcia operated on that time honored basis????....that there is no bad note...just bad recoveries from an ‘unsuspected’ note. .
     
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  10. ASATKat

    ASATKat Friend of Leo's

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    There's no doubt that the Dead were into the explorations of Coltrane in his A Love Supreme phase and Miles Davis who was exploring the inclusion of rock.
    I'm always surprised when rock guitarists don't know that these jazzers had a huge impact on the early "long guitar solo" that was expected from the bands of the day. But only a handful saw it as a way to "fake Coltrane", and they were the creative ones, Jimi and Jerry didn't sound the same but they shared a similar imagination to stretch rock like Coltrane stretched jazz.
     
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  11. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I feel you. Yeah, I agree, Garcia was probably the best example of an ear player that could at least navigate some medium level changes and sound musical. Dickie Betts is another character who similarly isn't quite ready to explain what he's doing in theoretical detail, but he sounds good doing it.

    Don't know if I'd call Frank Zappa a genius, but he did hire some great players. He was no Alan Holdsworth.
     
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  12. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    @Texicaster posted a really cool article in his thread in Bad Dog Cafe, and I thought about this thread as I read it.

    A couple things in the introductory part of the article struck me. First, Jerry Garcia was born in 1942, and his musical training began early. By the time anyone heard of the Grateful Dead, he was already a seasoned performer.

    It's always been a goal of mine--I'm still working on it--to be able to "whistle" with my guitar, to play improvised tunes directly from my head as they come to me, the way I whistle stuff randomly. Garcia was able to do that from the beginning of the Dead, and he undoubtedly had all the scales "under his fingers" in any key he chose.

    The other thing that struck me is that, except for the piano, his first instrument was bluegrass banjo, which he taught himself to play, adapting his style to accommodate his missing fingertip. I don't know much about banjo, but I think that banjo-picking style went with him as he transitioned later to guitar; think about the rhythm of those solo runs of his.
     
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  13. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I can hear that Garcia is playing over chords, not "whistling", that's glaringly obvious. It's called playing by ear. The chords are generating suggested simple scales and "Boxes" that sound good for generalized harmonic structures. He was a decent guitar player for Rock music, but he almost certainly didn't know "all the scales". There are a lot of darn scales, besides the Major, minor harmonic, minor melodic ascending and descending, and the Greek Modes, there is a scale for every conceivable Jazz chord with six or seven notes, diminished scales, whole tone, and all those scales named for ethnicities and ethnic music. Plus, the derivative synthetic diatonic scales.There are hundreds of scales.

    Garcia was good. Not taking anything away from his accomplishments.
     
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  14. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    It strikes me as funny; one of the most listened to and studied players, and nobody seems to know whether he actually knew what he was doing, or just had a good ear and only rudimentary academic training in scale/mode/derivative synthetic diatonic, etc. For years, I've been too intimidated to learn his style. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that he knew a lot. Just his use of chromatic runs is unique and complex. His solos are definitely not confined to the "boxes".
     
  15. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    Sez, you, but you'd be half wrong. You seem to think the more theory a player knows, the better he'll play. The reason you're not playing as well as Garcia isn't because you don't know enough theory, it's because he had a better ear, and he probably worked a lot harder at developing his talent. Joe Pass could hardly read music, and had a limited and rudimentary knowledge of some music theory, but he had a great ear and an innate sense of harmony. I know this because a friend of mine ghost-wrote some of the method books with Joe's name on them.
     
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  16. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    It's a metaphor. If my "whistling" were accompanied, I'd be doing it over the chords, I guess. I just think of it that way, forgive me. And the idea is to allow variation and "chromaticism" within the framework of the tonic structure, the key. To me the "boxes" are guides, maps more than tubes or channels. . .maybe that's what he played "over".

    Your list of scales reminds me of the old Garcia story, that he'd forgotten more songs than most people know. :)

    I have very little formal training myself, as anyone might see, and very little skill, too, in comparison to many players here. When I say "all the scales" I'm thinking of the twelve diatonic scales, some of them with more than one name, suggested by the Circle of Fifths. Operating liberally within those, perhaps in different modes and with chromatic variations, is what I mean by "knowing" them. And I'm here to tell you, you don't have to know all the note names to play in any given key. That's where the boxes come in handy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
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  17. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I understand what you mean by whistling ... but it's my opinion that Garcia, for all his talent, wasn't at the level to always have what was in his head come out of his fingers like humming a tune. That's my assessment, others may disagree.
    I only have about a little less than 2k songs memorized, which sounds like a lot, except that I work with some players with a bigger repertoire than that. A lot of those tunes are trivial Pop tunes and standards that aren't notable or remarkable, just learned them over the past 45 years. Real Jazz tunes, or at least well written popular tunes, it's more like 7 or 800. But I have been around a lot of much better players than me, and I know how they play, what they sound like, and what they have in common. That fluency is like an accent you can hear in a speaker's voice. You're welcome to disagree with me, I have nothing against Garcia, he was a good guitar player.

    Actually, a member here enlightened my through posting some interviews that dispelled my supposition that Garcia was well versed in at least enough reading and theory to be an advanced teacher, which he apparently wasn't. Still, he was musical and had a good ear.
     
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  18. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Dang. There goes another of my theories down the drain. . . .
     
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  19. maggieo

    maggieo Tele-Holic

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    No one sounds as good as Julian!!

    I've always been a noodler, but I think I might trying his more structured approach to, uh, unstructured playing.
     
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  20. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Jerry logged umpteen hours, way more than 10k, on jam tunes. That's a lot of quality time on the fretboard. It wouldn't surprise me to hear Jerry experiment with the fret below the fifth, just to be edgy. I know a guy who is self-taught and can improvise well for hours because he has no fear that comes from right/wrong thinking.

    I suspect Jerry was like that.
     
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