How to Sound like the Grateful Dead on Guitar

A Deadhead’s dream

Everyone who has ever listened to Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour has dreamed of playing like the Dead and knowing how to sound like them musically. However, doing that is not so easy. When Jerry Garcia, the band’s leader and visionary musician died in the 90s it seemed like the Dead would not be around anymore. However that all changed when John Mayer entered the picture with Dead & Co. Despite his younger age, many agree that he is better than Jerry ever was and continues to play exhilarating improvised solos that bring smiles and awe to all of the fans there. But how can you achieve these Jerry Garcia or John Mayer style of tones?


Getting a good guitar is the first step to learning guitar. We recommend something nice and sturdy with a great look. How about this Martin guitar? For just under $4,000 it’s a great moderately priced guitar for a beginner who wants to learn how to play like the Grateful Dead or John Mayer.

Because Grateful Dead did the weird country kind of sound, an acoustic instrument would be perfect for achieving that sound well. And for a good price for a good instrument who can give up an offer like this?

After no time you will be sounding just like Jerry (and John) playing songs like Scarlet Begonias and Althea.


The Grateful Dead were known for using huge amps. In the 70s they had a Wall of Sound amplified tower that was very very large and took many men to build it up everyday before the show. Now that John Mayer is there, they don’t do this part anymore, but it’s a proof that the Grateful Dead love big big amps.

So why not go for something big as well?

This is a big heavy amp called the Fender Custom Vibro-King 20th Anniversary Addition. It has a great sound to it. It will be heavy to carry around, but for just under $4000 who can resist that price? Once you get it, you can practice and sound just like the “American Beauty” album by the Grateful Dead in no time. Bob Weir might use this amp too.


The Grateful Dead are known to plug there guitars into pedals to achieve some of the sounds they use. Jerry would use an envelope filter to make his guitar sound weird and different than how it sounded before. So why not get one to sound like him (and John Mayer)? Maybe buy this Strymon Moebius pedal. For $600 its a great deal, which would probabyl make you sound like Jerry, Bob Weir and John Mayer too! It feature the phaser, flanger and other sounds in the box.

Long Strange Trip

It will be a long strange trip to figure out how to sound like the Dead or Dead & Co. featuring John MAyer, however with this guide it just got a whole lot easier than it was before.


8 thoughts on “How to Sound like the Grateful Dead on Guitar”

  1. Um…. Jerry and John mainly play ELECTRIC guitar with the band. Acoustic was only on occasion. You dont play a Martin through a fender anp either! So you’re kind of wrong all over. Also, 4000 is not exactly affordable.
    How about some lessons on technique? Good luck on that btw…
    This is more about just buying 4 random items related to guitar playing. You could apply this article to how not to play guitar 101.

  2. Europe ’72 + Twin Reverbs slaving MacIntosh 2300 power amps into JBL speakers. Strat for Jerry, ES-335 for Bob. Alembic Bass for Phil. Phil Had four Dual Showman heads, MacIntosh amps Alembic cabs with 15″ JBL’s. Start there and you might have a chance. Oh, and practice until your fingers fall off.

  3. Better than Jerry ever was? Really! I don’t know ANY that agree with that particular comment…John Mayer is great but come on, there is only one Jerry Garcia…

  4. All these reply’s previous to mine are on the mark while the article is way off. You can get the basic sound by having a Strat with pickups generally in the middle position played through a Fender Twin with the bass rolled almost all the way off and the mid and treble rolled almost all the way up. This is the basics or the 72’ sound. If you get that far, you can expand from there into Macintosh amp (maintaining the Fender twin pre amp) and built in (to the guitar) effects loop. Do some research and find the right pedals … not the one listed above.

  5. I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for years just to get that classic Garcia/Mayer sound. The Martin seemed a bit pedestrian so I splurged and got an Ibanez Artwood acoustic. Most all of his classic licks I’ve learned from the GD and Jerry Garcia Soundbooks ( A must have for any John Mayer fan.

  6. The person who wrote this article is a piece of human garbage. Not only is all the information way off (like seriously they did zero research on ANYTHING), but the corrupt intent is sooooo obvious. This entire article was very clearly written as a way persuade people to buy ridiculously expensive guitar gear so they can get a commission from the referral links. This honestly just disgusts me.

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