I'm itching to start working on a rag.

Any suggestions for one that would be fairly easy for a beginner to tackle?

I've been browsing the Music Library, but haven't come up with just the right one yet.

Thanks!

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Calliope Rag ;:the bass string is tuned to D

Thank you! I will give that one a try later on today.

Hi Cynthia,

Two questions:  How long have you been playing now? Do you play from musical notation?

The reason I ask is that most of the music available for Classic Banjo is is standard notation, not Tablature. I was taught to play using notation (the dots) but I tend to memorise pieces after working through from the score initially. By memorise I mean playing the piece ad nauseam :-)

The first "Rag" I learned to play was Joe Morley's Keynotes Rag which is classed as an "A" grade solo, suitable for beginners.  This is quite appropriate at the moment as we have just has a post about The London Banjo Club and the original name of the club was The Keynotes Club and Morley was once their President.

The score is in the MUSIC LIBRARY along with an audio file or you can listen to it and read the score at the same time in THE WORKS OF JOE MORLEY page.

You can also hear a mediocre performance, by me here:    KEYNOTES RAG

Hi!

I've been playing clawhammer banjo for about 5 years and I've done a little bit of two-finger banjo, but classic banjo is new. I recently acquired a banjeaurine (played it at a music store and couldn't stop thinking about it even though it seems to have been broken and repaired) and it begs to be played in a classic style. So, as time permits, I'm diving in.

I believe it's important to be able to read notation and so I'm learning. I'm not fluent but I've reached the not-baffled-anymore stage. :) I'm making some progress reading simple things in various keys written in A and C. (Is that the way to phrase it?)

If I play something enough, it just sort of sticks and having things in my head makes it easier to practice, so I would memorize a tune I really wanted to play well. But, sometimes I like to just read through bits and pieces of things for fun.

I'll go looking for the Keynotes Rag. I appreciate the advice. And the link to the demo!

Well, I see Keynotes Rag is written with three flats! That will take some serious thought! :)

Okay Cynthia, let's dial it back a bit.

The only "Calliope Rag" for banjo that I know of was arranged by Walter Kaye Bauer in the 1970s.  It is in manuscript form (never officially published) and in the key of F (one flat).  My copy has no indication of bass elevated, and WKB would not have done that anyway (I've been told he played everything out of standard).  While I would not call this particularly difficult, it is not easy either.  Reading manuscript can be a challenge for anyone.

Keynotes Rag is NOT what I would call easy either.  I've been playing for over 10 years and this was one I have attempted several times and it did not "stick."

Much more friendly pieces were composed by A. J. Weidt.  His work is musical and easy on the hands, usually in the "natural keys" of the banjo.

A great (and not difficult) march that is raggy in the trio is "Pink Lemonade." This one is bass elevated but is playable in standard (how I play it).

While it is my understanding that this next one is a cake walk and not technically "rag time,"  "Whistling Rufus" is a good piece to know (as most of the Classic Banjo players I know can play it). The CE publication is not compete.  You can get a copy from the American Banjo Fraternity website with all parts, clearly arranged.  It is a little bit of a commitment (being four parts) but this one sticks easily so you really only need to learn it once.

Another rag by Weidt that creeps up into the more challenging area (while still perfectly playable) is "Sweet Corn."  This is one Clarke Buehling plays regular and has recorded so there is "ear" reference available.

A quick note about Walter Jacobs publications (published the Weidt stuff).  They don't double flag the fifth.  Most of the time it is pretty evident when to play it (especially if you have worked through some of the later tutors like Grimshaw and Weidt's books).  I tend to take a pencil and mark them in when I find where they go.  You will also notice smaller notes mixed in with the regular sized notes.  These are optional accompaniment notes.  You don't have to play them (but they sound great when you do).

And finally, "Kaloola" also Weidt and bass elevated (but plays fine in standard with a little effort).

That should get you started.  Ask plenty of questions, nothing is to trivial (no "dumb questions," just ask if you get stuck).

Hi Joel.

I appreciate the guidance. I took a look at Keynotes Rag and it's clear that I would need to print out one of the tutor's pictures of the notes on the neck in order to learn where, for example, "first-string" notes fall on the other strings. I managed to work out a few phrases. :)

I'll take a look at the suggestions you've made, too. Pink Lemonade is on my radar, for example, because I stumbled into a video that someone posted here and it took my fancy.

I think the main challenges I have now--outside of being a beginner--is becoming comfortable alternating fingers (and figuring out which to start with so the progression is smooth) and knowing when to fret notes out of first position.

I'm sure I'll have questions that I can't puzzle out answers to by myself and I appreciate the invitation to ask them here.

Thanks!

Cyndy

Random thoughts; maybe helpful? :

Sometimes banjo solos in the flat keys are no harder to play than natural keys. And ragtime always is shifting keys and chords anyway so you are bound to encounter a bunch of different frets no matter what the key signature may be.  Another thought: three flats is sometimes indicative of the key E flat major but sometimes it just means C minor and that is often easier on the banjo the C major.  Keynotes Rag starts out in C minor and the first part is almost entirely played from chord positions so there is very little work for the left hand. But then it gets tricky in the next part!

I agree with Joel that Kaloola is very nice and not too scary.  And I agree with Marc about Calliope Rag being lovely music and not too hard to play. It's also easy to remember. It's a James Scott composition and there are several videos on this website of it being played.  Don't let the 1 flat in the key signature scare you.  "B flat" takes twice as long to say as "B natural" but it no harder to play the third string at the third fret than to play it at the fourth. And "B natural" takes even longer to say but it's not harder than B flat either.

Definitely helpful!

The comment about playing out of chord positions provides useful context and you're right. There's really no difference between playing off a B or a B-flat or whatever -- once it's learned. Reading it is another story. :)

I spent some time working on Kaloola this afternoon and it felt just right. Not too hard to read with a nice balance of phrases that aren't too hard (so immediately satisfying) and phrases that will take some time (which are satisfying in a different way).

Thanks!

Hi Cynthia, I began working on an arrangement for an early cake walk called Rag-Knots a time back. I put it on the back burner as other tunes took the top of the list. It's an early example of cakewalk, not a full rag, but does have plenty of syncopation and isn't too much of a challenge to play. You can listen to it on YouTube on the Dorian Henry site. Let me know if it's of interest and I'll work out a not too hard arrangement for you....Steve. 

Cynthia Richardson said:

Definitely helpful!

The comment about playing out of chord positions provides useful context and you're right. There's really no difference between playing off a B or a B-flat or whatever -- once it's learned. Reading it is another story. :)

I spent some time working on Kaloola this afternoon and it felt just right. Not too hard to read with a nice balance of phrases that aren't too hard (so immediately satisfying) and phrases that will take some time (which are satisfying in a different way).

Thanks!

Hi Steve.

I've had such supportive replies here and I really appreciate it.

I just listened to Rag Knots and it's a cool tune. I'd be interested in playing it but before I take you up on that offer, I'd better focus on Kaloola--at least until it's solidly in my head. I'm making progress and working on it is proving to be kind of addictive.

Cyndy 

Hi Cyndy, No problem, best of luck with Kaloola..Steve.

Cynthia Richardson said:

Hi Steve.

I've had such supportive replies here and I really appreciate it.

I just listened to Rag Knots and it's a cool tune. I'd be interested in playing it but before I take you up on that offer, I'd better focus on Kaloola--at least until it's solidly in my head. I'm making progress and working on it is proving to be kind of addictive.

Cyndy 

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