Big River – Jerry Garcia Solo from 8/13/75 – Video Lesson

Join me as we examine this up-tempo solo from the Grateful Dead's live album, "One from the Vault".

The Grateful Dead fused together elements from a myriad of styles - blues, country, bluegrass, jazz, folk, R&B, Rock & Roll - into what can only be described as Grateful Dead music. Sometimes these influences are subtle, while other times they can be quite blatant. This solo falls into the latter category. Jerry Garcia wears his Country (and Bluegrass) hat as he tears through this two chorus solo.


"Big River" was written by Johnny Cash, and first released by Sun Records in 1958. It first appeared in the Dead's repertoire on New Year's Eve, 1971, and went on to be played nearly 400 times over their career. It was last played on July 6, 1995. It was a crowd pleaser, and for good reason - it cooked! The song is a fast country tune, clocking in at 122 bpm. The solo is based largely out of the A minor pentatonic scale, with a heavy dose of chromaticism. In typical Garcia fashion, Jerry "follows the changes"; therefore, there are additional notes (other than those from the A minor pentatonic scale) thrown in to make this happen.

In the video lesson, I've recorded the solo at 3 different tempos to help facilitate the learning process. As you know, it's always better to play something slow and clean, rather than fast and sloppy. So start out slow, and slowly raise the tempo once you've played it from start to finish without any mistakes. Once you have the solo under your fingers, try playing it with me at each of my demo tempos until you have it up to full speed. Playing this solo in its entirety is highly rewarding, so take your time. Download a copy of my transcription below and start learning it as soon as possible.

Download the transcription

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  • Michael says:

    Fantastic playing

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