May 20

Mountain Jam Guitar Lesson



Epic Jam

I'm always getting requests for The Allman Brother’s “Mountain Jam”, and this makes sense as there is no other one song that wholly represents the Allmans as much as this. Clocking in between 30-45 minutes, the song truly is a musical journey and gives everyone in the band a chance to really shine. The first recorded version of Mountain Jam dates back to May 4, 1969 and the was last played on the very last performance by the ABB on October 29th, 2014.


There is a Mountain

Mountain jam is based on the 1967 Donovan song “There is a Mountain”. However, whereas “There is a Mountain” is in the Key of A,  “Mountain Jam” has been transposed to the Key of E. As the title suggests, "Mountain Jam" is an epic jam, and you’ll hear a myriad of musical quotes throughout different live versions, including The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”, and the popular hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken”.

I'll Take a Melody

Because Mountain Jam is the perfect vehicle for extended improvisation, it can prove to be a difficult song to teach. I decided to use the version from “Eat a Peach” as the basis for this lesson as it is one of the quintessential versions of this tune. That being said, I also used a version from Lockn’ music festival featuring Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes as a basis for the first theme. 

The “head” of Mountain Jam is made up of 3 themes. The first theme is improvised on for a bit and is the loosest of all 3 themes on the “Eat a Peach” version, the first guitar plays the theme, while the second guitar weaves melodies around it. The 2nd and 3rd themes are harmonized and repeat before launching into the solo sections. 

The “head” of the song is the focus of this lesson.

The version of "Mountain Jam" heard on "Eat a Peach" was originally recorded at the famous Fillmore East concerts in the spring of 1971, but clocking in at 33 minutes, was too lengthy to be included on the "Live at Fillmore East" record. The opening notes played by Duane come from the cadenza at the end of "Whipping Post" (You can hear the first few notes of "Mountain Jam" as "Whipping Post" fades out on the Fillmore East recording).

Over a I-chord vamp (E), Duane utilizes the E major pentatonic scale as the basis for his improvisations. For 48 measures, Duane and Dickey weave melodies around each other, while also keeping rooted around the original Donovan vocal melody.

In more recent versions of "Mountain Jam" (i.e. Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks versions), the first melody (Donovan melody) is more established than the versions Duane played on. Therefore, in this demo, I played the first melody as would be found in these more recent versions.

Download the tabs for both guitar parts and add "Mountain Jam" to your next jam session!

Download the transcription

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  • Keep The Allman Bros tabs and lessons coming! Your lessons and tab are the most accurate and easy to understand I’ve seen. You nail the Betts stuff. Any plans for a Fillmore East “Whipping Post” lesson and tab? Thanks!

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