Scarlet Begonias / Fire on the Mountain

tldr: Both Scarlet and Fire are in B major, mixolydian mode and begin with the B and A chords back and forth. The difference in the intros is that Scarlet only adds in the A chord for two strums while Fire gives both chords equal time for longer. In Scarlet, the first part of the verses is E to B (IV to I) and then the A E B chords (VII, IV, and I). The little bridge part adds the major V chord, F#, to those chords in a different arrangement. Throughout the song are classic riffs based in B mixolydian, as detailed below. Fire is just B to A, with the main riff tracing those barre chords at the 7th and 5th frets, and then at the end Jerry mixes things up with a little ionian (standard major scale) riff over the B and A chords.

Scarlet

Scarlet Begonias is in B major, Mixolydian mode. The song starts with a mixolydian vamp, B to A back and forth, 7th and 5th frets. The A chord is only added in for a couple strums, which distinguishes it from Fire On The Mountain from the start. You don’t have to play these chords straight; riff off the chords as your abilities allow. The Dead play this part of the song centered around the 7th fret, although that isn’t required.

The verses start with the IV chord, E. One line is sung over the E, and then Bob plays a little B mixolydian riff, adding a chromatic slide from the minor to major third, that ends on the mixolydian flat 7th degree:

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-------------6-7-------------
----5/6--9-9------------------
--7--------------------------

Watching a video of Jerry playing the E to B chords behind this, he actually throws in a very quick F# chord at the 6th fret (x98676) when transitioning between the E and the B, but it’s not strictly necessary. The reason behind it: One risk with borrowing chords or playing in a mode is losing the sense of key and having the ear reset to a different key. The riff above is essentially a B7 arpeggio, and B7 to E is the defining sound of the key of E (the dominant chord resolving to the I). The riff creates a great movement from I to IV in this song, but I think Jerry probably throws in the F#, which is the V chord in the key of B, to reestablish that we’re in B. Notably, B mixolydian has a diatonic minor v chord, but the major V is often substituted for this purpose, to lead back to the I chord. Like a secondary dominant chord, but since it’s within the same key, it might be more properly characterized as a borrowed chord from the ionian (standard major) mode. It just reestablishes the B tonic.

After a couple rounds of this, there is an A E B progression, pretty basic.

The next significant part is a bridge that goes F# B A E twice, with riffs after each time through. The non-mixolydian major V, F#, here serves the same role I mentioned above, adding in that V chord sound and minimizing the E major resolution that this part would otherwise suggest (B A E would be V IV I in E major, a classic progression). The riffs following the chords are based off of the chords and are similar to the B mixolydian riff from earlier, only they start on the tonic of each of these specific chords and end on the octave instead of the flat 7th degree of the scale. The first time you play it off the E twice:

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-------------2---------------
---------2-4-----------------
--0--3/4---------------------

The second time you play one for each of the underlying chords while the second guitar just plays the chords, E F# A B:

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-------------2-------------4-
---------2-4-----------4-6---
--0--3/4--------2--5/6-------
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-----------------------------
-------------2-------------4-
---------2-4-----------4-6---
--0--3/4--------2--5/6-------
-----------------------------

Mostly B mixolydian, except for the major F# chord as mentioned earlier, but it’s really more about the riff than the source scale. After the last riff off the B chord, there’s some additional lead work leading back to the E chord.

After “Heart of Gold Band”, there’s a little break with some riffs in B mixolydian over the B and A chords back and forth. The notes in each riff actually correspond to arpeggios of diatonic chords in B mixolydian (B7 F#m A Emaj7, which is I7 – v – bVII – IVmaj7). This works because of all the shared notes with the alternating B and A underneath.

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-------------------6---------
--------9-7------7---9-------
----6-9--------9-------------
--7--------------------------
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----6-9------8---------------
--7------------9-6-----------
-------------------7---------
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After a bit of this, you continue to jam in B mixolydian over B and A. To make the transition to Fire on the Mountain, you basically just start playing each of the underlying B and A chords twice as long.

Fire

Fire is a pretty simple B mixolydian song over the B and A chords, I and bVII. The opening part is centered around the barre chords at the 7th and 5th frets, tracing the chords on the first four strings:

--------7-7------------------
----------------7------------
----8---------8---8----------
--9---9-----9-------9-8------
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--------5-5------------------
----------------5------------
----8---------6---6----------
--7---7-----7-------7-8------
-----------------------------
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The rest of the song is straightforward, just B and A. The only other notable part is that, at the end, Jerry plays an ionian (standard major) riff around each chord, using B ionian over the B chord and A ionian over the A chord. The most significant note here is the raised 7th degree – the Bb note over the B chord and the G# note over the A chord (bolded):

-7-6-5----------5-4-------4-6
------7-4-----------5-5-7----
----------4-3-2--------------
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