How to Play Guitar Like Jerry Garcia – Jerry’s Soloing Techniques

how to play guitar like jerry garcia - jerry garcia guitar soloing techniques lesson

Jerry Garcia was the legendary lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, and played throughout the band’s entire career. He is also one of the most unique lead guitarists in all of rock music history, combining elements of country, bluegrass, jazz, and more to form a completely individual, unmistakable sound.

Today we’ll be exploring a few of the guitar soloing techniques that Jerry used in his lead guitar playing to create his unique guitar sound and style.

Some of Jerry’s most used guitar soling techniques include:

  • Chromatics
  • Arpeggios
  • Ascending triplet sequences

Read on to learn exactly how Jerry used these techniques in his lead guitar playing for the Grateful Dead.

Jerry Garcia Chromatics

One definitive technique when it comes to Jerry’s guitar playing style is his use of chromatics. This is rather unique for a rock guitarist, as chromatics are most heavily used in jazz music. Jerry’s use of them is thus one of the most unique things about his playing and certainly separates him from other guitarists.

Chromatic are basically notes that are traditionally “outside” of the primary chord or scale you are playing over. On guitar, they can be thought of as the notes “in-between” the notes of any given scale or arpeggio.

The key with chromatics is to use them in small doses so that you don’t simply sound off key. They add spice, flare, and intrigue to your runs, but you still want to be rooted in the correct scales and chords.

Jerry Garcia Arpeggios

Another textbook Jerry Garcia soloing technique is his use of arpeggios. Arpeggios are when you target the notes of a chord (rather than a scale) in your soloing.

Jerry was a master of this, and was always able to highlight the notes of the chords he was playing over. Again, this another unique technique for a rock guitarist, as arpeggios are more commonly found in genres like jazz or bluegrass.

A good case study for Jerry’s use of arpeggios is Help on the Way/ Slipknot:

Jerry Garcia Triplet Sequences

Finally, Jerry also employed what I call “triplet sequences.” This is where he ascends or descends using chromatics and arpeggios but in a triplet sequence where he will occasionally retrace his steps.

This is very difficult to describe in writing, but I’ve found an excellent lesson that does a good job capturing a few of Jerry’s most “triplet-y” concepts:

If you combine chromatics, arpeggios, and play them in ascending/descending triplet sequences, you will be well on your way to honoring the classic Jerry Garcia sound that inspired so many legions of fans over the course of multiple decades.

Good luck and stay Grateful.

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Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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