November 5

Ringin’ That Bell – Part 2 – Jerry Garcia’s 1st Guitar Solo on Franklin’s Tower



In this second post dedicated to Jerry's playing on "Franklin's Tower" we are going to study the first guitar solo from the album version of this "Grateful Dead" classic. The main reason I chose to look at these 3 solos from the "Blues for Allah" version is because they are short, melodic, and very well crafted examples of Jerry's approach when it comes to soloing over "Franklin's Tower". In 8 short measures, you can see the development of an idea from start to finish.


The main focus of this blog post will be the A major pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is a 5 note scale that is ubiquitous in almost all styles of music. For us guitarists, the minor pentatonic scale was probably the first (or at least one of the first) scales we ever learned. If you know your fingerings of the minor pentatonic scale, then you know the fingerings to the major pentatonic scale (whether you knew it or not). Since F# minor is the relative minor of A major, F# minor pentatonic and A major pentatonic share the same notes (although their function is different).  

The major pentatonic scale is used extensively in Country and Folk music, and these styles crop up often in Garcia's playing. This scale can be derived by eliminating the fourth and seventh degrees from the major scale, resulting in the intervallic spelling 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 (which yields the notes A B C# E F# in the key of A). Let's take a look at the five shapes for A major pentatonic, and then we'll see how Jerry used this scale as the basis for much of these solos.

A Major Pentatonic - C Form
A Major Pentatonic - A Form
A Major Pentatonic - G Form
A Major Pentatonic - E Form
A Major Pentatonic - D Form
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As most Folk and Country guitarists do, Jerry would link together several of these shapes into a longer, more horizontal pattern that you could slide in and out of. Below is a pattern that consists of notes from the E, D, C, and A forms. Memorize this shape and really be able to visualize it on the fretboard. Once you have these shapes under your fingers, take a look at the transcription of this first guitar solo. You can see that the A major pentatonic scale is the the basis of many of these licks, and that Jerry superimposed this scale over all 3 chords at times.

A Major Pentatonic Scale - Sliding Shape


Once you have Jerry's licks down, try coming up with your own solos using the A major pentatonic scale. You get bonus points if you include chromatic notes and triads from the previous post! 


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