How Did The Grateful Dead Influence Music? [Guide]

The Grateful Dead are considered one of the most successful touring bands of all time. Dead Heads came in the thousands to watch a Mozart like performance, often travelling from show to show with the band. So, how did the Grateful Dead influence music?

The Grateful Dead influenced music by pioneering a rotating live set list where each concert is different, allowing the audience to tape the shows, and creating the wall of sound. A technological step forward for live performing. Grateful Dead created their own genre of jam band, greatly impacting future bands alike.

Continue reading to learn more about the impact the Grateful Dead had on music as well as how Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing shaped generations of guitar players.

how did the Grateful Dead influence music?

What Was Unique About The Grateful Dead Style of Music?

The Grateful Dead created their own genre of music encompassing a variety of genres. Genres like the blues, rock, folk, and bluegrass. They combined these genres in a set to create one of the first and most recognizable jam bands of all time.

Jerry Garcia was especially unique when it came to his style. He is regarded as one of the best improvisational guitarists of all time. Jerry combines his bluegrass upbringing with blues and even some hints of jazz to create his own unique style on guitar.

Mickey Hart was known for an especially unique take on the drums. He took beats from around the world and started having a ten-to-fifteen-minute individual set of drums only. No one was doing this at the time and barely do today.

How Did The Grateful Dead Influence Music?

The Grateful Dead influenced music by having each concert be a different show than the previous one. Heavy improvisation and a rotating set list set the precedent for rock and blues musician when they performed. Notable acts like John Mayer, Phish, and Nirvana have used this method of live performing.

One of the biggest facets that the Grateful Dead influenced was live music. Let’s dive into this now.

How Did The Grateful Dead Change Live Music?

Grateful Dead is one of the few bands that have perfected the live music experience. The band toured relentlessly and built up one of the most dedicated fan bases of all time. The show was less about just the music and more about the experience concert goers had at Grateful Dead shows.

Audience Allowed to Tape Performances

A large way that the Grateful Dead changed live music was by allowing people to tape the live performances. They had two options, one was to not allow people to tape shows on the grounds of copyright infringement, the second was to allow them. They went with the second option, and it ended up being one of the best accidental marketing success in all of music. Fans would bring thousand-dollar rigs and record the entire show. Live set tapes became trading cards. Each show for the Grateful Dead was different so each tape had its own unique value. Tickets for concerts became increasingly in higher demand because of this.

Find Out How The Grateful Dead Got Their Name

Speaker and Microphone Arrangement

Another way the Grateful Dead changed live music was their speaker and microphone arrangement. Back then, most bands outputted their sound via a PA system that was in front of them. On screen monitor technology was poor so bands often had a very difficult time hearing what they were playing. The Grateful Dead came up with a solution to this. Specifically Bear Stanley who made it a mission to get the Dead’s live sound right.

This change was putting the PA system behind the band so the band could hear what they were playing. To remove the feedback of this arrangement, they put a pair of microphones next to each other. One for the singer and one for the ambient noise on stage. The ambient noise was fed through an amplifier that subtracted it from the vocal microphone. With this upgrade, only the vocals came through and the feedback was removed. The result was cleaner vocals and better playing (because the band could now hear what they were playing better).

Wall of Sound

Finally, there was the wall of sound. A goliath of 600 speakers that weighed over 70 tons. In this massive wall of speakers, each instrument had their own section of multiple amplifiers. In doing so, it gave unprecedented control over every instrument to ensure crystal clear sound for every facet of the song. Furthermore, instead of using a mixing board, each microphone had it’s own volume control.

What Bands Did The Grateful Dead Influence?

Bands that were influenced by the Grateful Dead include Phish, Nirvana, John Mayer, Pearl Jam, Billy Strings, Bob Dylan and even Maggie Rogers have all been quoted talking about the influence Grateful Dead had on their music.

“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great – much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know.”

Bob Dylan on Jerry Garcia’s Death

John Mayer is a special case because he plays with Dead and Company. Although, he is arguably one of the largest guitar figures currently around and his style had an extremely notable change once he started actively listening and playing the dead. His solo tours now all have a varying set list and certain solos have a Garcia feel to them. John mentions how Jerry influenced him to get out of the solo box and explore more of a jazz-like approach.

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