In Honor of Jerry Garcia, Learn These Fingerstyle Blues Licks

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In Honor of Jerry Garcia, Learn These Fingerstyle Blues Licks

On August 9th, 2015, the world lost a musical genius. Jerry Garcia was an American musician who was best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the band The Grateful Dead. His impact on the world of music and the lives of millions is immeasurable. If you love music, chances are good you’ve been impacted by his work in some way. To honor his life and celebrate his music, here are two fingerstyle blues lessons that feature licks inspired by Jerry Garcia

The first lesson is an easy-to-play arrangement of a blues classic that’s been done by everyone from Howlin Wolf to Garth Brooks.

The second lesson is a more advanced version of same song that includes a guitar solo inspired by Jerry Garcia’s playing style. This one will take some work to get down but it’s worth it!

Jerry Garcia was a huge inspiration to many people. Not just for his music and the Grateful Dead, but what he represented. Garcia was one of the most expressive guitar players around. His lead lines were some of the most lyrical guitar lines ever played. In honor of Jerry, I wanted to put together two fingerstyle blues licks for you to learn. These two licks are in different keys and will hopefully open up your mind to playing in other keys as well.

I hope you enjoy this lesson and please feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comment section below.

Jerry Garcia was born on August 1, 1942. I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post in honor of him and his beautiful playing.

For this lesson, we will use two different fingerstyle blues patterns. I learned both of these from Jerry Garcia plays Dylan (Live at the Warfield). This is a must have for any fan of fingerstyle blues music.

The first lick uses thumb rolls for bass notes. In the second lick, you will use your thumb for bass notes and index and middle fingers for alternating melody notes.

Both patterns feature double stops that are simply two notes played at the same time. The first pattern has two double stops in the bass part, with three fingers playing them (thumb and index and middle fingers). The second pattern has one double stop in the bass part, with four fingers playing it (thumb and index, middle, ring fingers).

Both patterns also feature triple stops that are three notes played at the same time. The first pattern features three triple stops in the melody part (index, middle, ring finger). The second pattern features two triple stops in the melody part (index, middle, ring finger).

This is a guest post by my friend, and fellow fingerstyle blues player, Chris Liepe. Chris is a guitarist and instructor here at

He wrote this piece in honor of the legendary Jerry Garcia, who would have turned 70 this August 1st. Let’s go back in time for a minute. The year was 1971 and our story begins on a mountain top in the band’s home state of Colorado; Winterland Arena to be exact. At a time when the country was still recovering from Vietnam, racial tensions were high and the “hippie” movement was at one of its peaks, an unlikely band known as the Grateful Dead was chosen by Bill Graham to perform at his annual New Year’s Eve event. This was no small task considering the band had been kicked off stage at the Fillmore just two years earlier for being too loud, too long and making him look bad (according to them). Standing on this stage that night, they had something to prove.

How did they do? Well let’s just say that their performance has since become one of the most sought after recordings by Deadheads all over the world. It is commonly referred to as The Holy Grail for Deadheads.

Garcia wasn’t always so sure about himself

Fingerstyle Blues is a style of guitar playing that uses the guitar’s strings, the fingernails, and / or picks on the fingertips to pluck the strings. Each string is plucked individually to create a melody and an accompanying bass line. The thumb plays the bass notes on strings 6 and 5, while the fingers pluck the treble strings, 2, 3, and 4. Using this technique, songs can be performed solo as opposed to playing with a band.

Fingerstyle blues are often played in open tunings. Open tunings allow you play chords by strumming all of the open strings at once rather than fretting individual notes to form chords. You can also perform fingerstyle blues in standard tuning where all six strings are tuned to EADGBE.

Learning how to play fingerstyle blues takes time and practice but there are some simple techniques that you can learn easily if you’re new to fingerstyle guitar techniques. In this post we’ll look at exercises for your thumb and exercises for your fingers that will help you build up strength in both hands so that you can begin learning songs using fingerstyle blues techniques.

There’s a certain musical quality Jerry Garcia had that wasn’t always apparent when he played with the Grateful Dead. It was only when he played acoustic guitar, especially fingerstyle, that you could really hear his deep love and appreciation for the blues. He may have been known as “Captain Trips”, but his true roots were firmly planted in American fingerstyle blues.

I’ve always been fascinated by the blues, and when I started playing the acoustic guitar I gravitated towards fingerpicking and ragtime music. At some point I started to learn about Jorma Kaukonen, who played with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Jorma was one of my big influences as an acoustic player, so I started to check out his earlier bandmate from Jefferson Airplane – Jerry Garcia.

As acoustic guitarists we can be inspired by many different players – Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, or Al DiMeola. For me though, it’s always been about the blues. As much as I love Duane Allman or BB King on electric guitar, it’s when they play fingerstyle that their music moves me the most.

Jerry Garcia is best known as the lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the Grateful Dead. He was also an accomplished fingerstyle blues guitar player.

I just saw that today would have been his 75th birthday. So here are three of his most well-known riffs in fingerstyle form.

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