November 7

Ringin’ That Bell – Part 3 – Jerry Garcia’s 2nd Guitar Solo on Franklin’s Tower



In this third and final post in the series, we're going to examine Jerry Garcia's playing on the 2nd guitar solo from the studio version of "Franklin's Tower". As I stated before, these solos from the "Blues for Allah" recording are great study pieces for looking into the Jerry Garcia guitar style. Each solo is its own masterclass in developing a beautifully melodic solo over a classic Mixolydian chord progression.


In the last two posts we've discussed chromaticism, triads, and the major pentatonic scale. This solo (the 2nd guitar solo from the studio version of "Franklin's Tower") incorporates all three musical devices into a cohesive solo that develops nicely over eight measures. Let's take a look at each musical device in more detail.

A Major Pentatonic

You can see the A major pentatonic scale is the foundation for the majority of the solo. Check out Part 2 for all 5 shapes of the A major pentatonic scale, as well as an extended shape that spans from the 5th fret to the 14th fret. Jerry begins this solo with a phrase made up entirely of the A major pentatonic scale superimposed over all three chord changes (ex. 1).

Ex. 1


In measure 3, Jerry again makes use of the A major pentatonic scale, but this time adds chromatic passing tones to create musical interest. This descending lick consists of the first four notes of A major pentatonic (A-B-C#-E). Garcia begins the lick on the E note on the first string, 12th fret. He then moves to the C# on the second string, 14th fret, and continues to descend the next three notes of the A major pentatonic scale, but this time with chromatic passing tones in-between (ex. 2).

Ex. 2


In measures 6 and 7, Jerry makes use of the major triad of the chord he is playing over. In measure 6, the underlining chord is a D; therefore, he plays a D major triad. Take special note to how he breaks the triad up to create more interest. He begins by sliding into the root note D on the 12th fret of the fourth string from a half-step below. He then plays the F# on the 11th fret of the third string followed by the D on the 12th fret of the fourth string. Without the leading tone (the C# on the fourth string, 11th fret) we are given a three note pattern. We then have another three note pattern (this time in reverse order) starting on the 10th fret of the second string. After the 10th fret of the second string, Jerry plays the 11th fret of the third string, and then again plays the 10 fret of the second string (ex. 3). Make sure you can visualize the triad on the fretboard as you play this lick.

Ex. 3


One last concept I'd like to mention from this solo is that of syncopation. Syncopation occurs when you stress the weaker beats of a measure. This displacement of the strong and weak beats has a strong musical impact that Jerry would use to great effect at times. Take a look at bar 5 and you will see that Jerry's phrasing makes great use of the weaker beats. This phrase can be difficult to nail down at first, but once you get it under your fingers you can really see the potential of using syncopation in your licks. It's a brilliant way to get a lot of mileage out of the same notes. Note that the phrase consists of the A major pentatonic with the inclusion of the G note (third string, 12th fret).

If you are new to working out highly syncopated 16th note phrases like this one, try breaking it down like I demonstrate in ex. 4. You start by subdividing the entire phrase into 16th notes (count aloud saying: one-ee-and-ah-two-ee-and-ah-three-ee-and-ah-four-ee-and-ah). Then play each circled note as you count aloud. Make sure you start off slowly (It may help to clap the circled beats before you attempt playing it). Once you've gotten the phrase under your fingers, slowly increase the speed until you can play it at full tempo. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you've gotten these types of syncopated ideas programmed into your mind, you will realize just what a powerful device it can be.

Ex. 4

Once you've learned each one of these solos, try playing them along with the recording and see if you can emulate Jerry's feel. Each one of these solos is jam-packed with a ton of great ideas and phrasing that will really elevate your playing. If you've made it through all three of these solos, give yourself a pat on the back. They are a lot harder to nail then they may seem on the surface, but then again, so is Jerry's style. I hope you enjoyed working through these as much as I did, and don't forget to download a copy of the transcription.

I'll see you next time!



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  • My guitar playing has been transformed in a matter of only a few weeks since I’ve been studying these lessons. I’m an old deadhead who picked up the guitar quite late in my life. I’ve been trying to get some kind of handle on Garcia’s style, and I very much appreciate the emphasis on music theory as you explain how you were able to transcribed these solos. I am most grateful and indebted to you for these lessons. Many thanks.

  • I’d like to echo the sentiments of the last comment! These have been a joy to learn and greatly helps me understand the underpinnings of Jerry’s style and approach. I’ve always loved the album version of Franklins Tower because the tone and notes are so precise. Thank You so much!!!

  • So excellent lessons! Thank you so much! I have been searching Jerry’s note almost 40years, I almost give up his mysterious part which I could not find clearly, but you tell me like blow away black clouds to blue are great! I enjoy really much! thank you again from Japan!

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