Grateful Dead – Uncle John’s Band

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Grateful Dead – Uncle John’s BandOne of the world’s truly classic groups, the Grateful Dead have become an institution in rock. From their early 60s beginnings, they evolved into a colorful and unique band, and the object of affection for millions of “Deadheads” globally, due in large part to immortal songs like Truckin, Sugar Magnolia, and Uncle John’s Band. Facile as both acoustic and electric players, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir relied on a folk-inspired, all-acoustic approach in Uncle John’s Band – which lent an earthy, down-home, and very inviting mood to this all-time favorite Grateful Dead track.

Uncle John’s Band. The Rhythm

Uncle John’s Band is propelled by Bob Weir’s solid acoustic-driven rhythm groove. Played by Gtr. 1, it is a valuable study in how to keep a simple song moving with a handful of ingredients and feel. In the intro, notice the way Weir breaks up common chords – like G and C – rhythmically, with different strum patterns, and adds colorful voicings to the progression like the D6 and the uncommon second position D major [Fig. 1]. The rhythm part in Rhy. Fig. 1 (verses) is made even more interesting with the very deliberate 3/4 bars in the fourth and eighth measures of the section. These 3/4 bars allow the phrases to fall into irregular lengths, but in this setting they don’t feel odd, rather they add an attractive eccentric bounce to the basic groove. The figures in Bob’s rhythm part are constantly varied, but can be seen as variations of the basic groupings in eighth-note strum patterns. Let’s look at a few of the possibilities. Here are seven variations of the basic eighth-note strum found in the song [Fig. 2], The first four are rhythmi­cally straight, while variations 5-7 employ syn­copation (marked by accents). Learning these individually is a good starting place for master­ing the type of rhythm playing found throughout Uncle John’s Band.

Uncle John’s Band. The Fills

Behind the grooving rhythm section and the vocals, Jerry Garcia (Gtr. 2) plays light, ad lib melodic fills. They are primarily diatonic G major scale lines, and serve as an excellent introduction to melody playing with a major scale. The melodies are clear, played at a mod­erate tempo, and utilize simple fingering pat­terns – making them ideal for the beginning-to-intermediate players just learning their way around the fretboard, or for advanced players who are looking to improve the melodic side of their style. The descending sequence melody in the last two measures of the first interlude is particularly noteworthy. Here, the diatonic line is played as broken 3rds, almost in the manner of an exercise pattern, but sounds very melodi­ous and organic to the song.

The Interlude Riff

The second interlude functions as an instru­mental bridge in the song. Here, Jerry plays an open-position, two-measure riff in D minor which alternates between 4/4 and 3/4 time. This figure is perfect for getting acquainted with mixed meters, especially within a single phrase. Practice it slowly at first, concentrating on even rhythm, and try to feel the changing pulse of the two time signatures.

Grateful Dead – Uncle John’s Band Guitar Tabs

It’s a part of Grateful Dead Uncle John’s Band guitar lesson.

Below you can download PDF guitar tabs and sheet music of

Uncle John’s Band with backing track


19 April 2013 0 comments
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