Humpty Dumpty Rag (1914) Charles Theodore "Charley" Straight.

This is a peach of a tune and well worth getting your fingers round. I've replaced the triplet grace notes in the original, which were unplayable on banjo, with normal triplets. I've transposed it from F to G to be played in open G tuning.

I've also added plenty of fret numbers and position indicators and my suggested fingering for the opening bars leans towards melodic style but it could be played using descending E minor chords at 8P, 4B and 1P.

The Trio is my favourite part, it's classic ragtime with the melody being carried by the chords.

I've attached an mp3 of a recording made by the New York Military Band in 1914  which will help to put the tune in context when played.

The score and midi are in the library...Steve.

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For anyone who's had a look at this, bars 22 and 23 have been amended as has the midi and the amended versions are now in the library. For those that haven't yet had a look/listen, it's well worth doing so, in my opinion, this is one of the best novelty rags I've come across in a long time...Steve.

I've had a look and listen  and I agree this is a good tune and a good one for banjo. It took me a while to figure out what you meant by "F".   The linked recording is in F minor.  But the sheet music and piano versions are in D minor and F major.  It's true that Van Eps played lots of banjo solos in A flat etc but I think that moving the whole thing down a half step from F minor o Eminor, G major and C major is sensible and banjoistic and more accessible for all of us who are not Fred Van Eps.  But I'm not yet convinced that E minor/ G major/ C major is easier than D minor, F major, B flat major. The fingering in those keys is in some ways easier.

For instance: 

I don't find the original grace note triplets at the start of the piece unplayable at all. (in the key of one sharp, according to your transcription).  I found 2 viable ways of fingering it. 

1)  B on string 3/fret 4,   C# on string 2/fret 2, D# on string 1/fret 1.  rRght hand is TIM. Then the E minor arpeggio is played  out of a simple triangle chord position on frets 8 and 9.

or

2) B on string 2/open, C# on string 4/fret 11, D# on string 3/fret 8. Right hand is MTI.  The E minor arpeggio is once again played out of the simple closed chord position. 

No matter how the triplet is fingered or at what speed I would certainly play the opening arpeggio using the chord position. 

However if the piece were played according to the piano sheet music and starting in D minor the grace note triplet is even easier. A on the 3rd string at fret 2,, open B string, and then C# at fret 2 of the B string. Right hand is TIT Then the D on the downbeat is played on the open 1st string, (Right hand is M). after which the left hand scoots up to fret 6 and 7 playing the same minor chord it would have done in Eminor but two frets lower.

I think the rest of the tune would equally playable in the original key. Time allowing, I will experiment in both keys and find out if I'm right or wrong.

Thanks for calling attention to this piece!

I have been looking at this piece too and, Jody, I am impressed that you feel that the grace triplets can be played fast enough!  I have been struggling with them, and the first section for a couple of days and am still struggling!  I feel that the piece could be played in C tuning but may well end up in trouble as I progress through it!

For those interested here are the piano score in G and an MP3 of the piano score.

But what a great tune it is !

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I note your comments Jody, all can say is that whenever I write an arrangement, at the back of my mind is a thought to make the tune as playable as possible and if that means rewriting, simplifying or deviating from the original piano score then so be it. I've been playing for over 40 years and with my size 12 hands, I certainly struggle to play the grace note triplets as written in the piano score and I'm sure that many others, less experienced than me would as well which is why I arranged it as I did. I've never been someone to be hidebound by convention and have never been averse to 'tweaking the rules' here and there if I think it's necessary...Steve.

Steve: My point is that by moving it to G you may have made it *harder* to play.  I can't find anything in my comments that complains about tweaking the rules. 

Ian: the triplets are difficult and maybe impossible using the fingering indicated in the transcription. But using either of the two other ways I suggested, it's just the standard "twiddly bits" rhythm (aka diddly bum, aka "the Galax lick" aka "tiddly pom" aka "chick-a-ta-boom".  

If I were to play this in D minor/F major I would use "elevated bass" tuning with the bass up to D. Otherwise, as you say, new problems would be created.

Here's a link to a piano version in D minor with the score:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdePspMxOLg

Steve Harrison said:

I note your comments Jody, all can say is that whenever I write an arrangement, at the back of my mind is a thought to make the tune as playable as possible and if that means rewriting, simplifying or deviating from the original piano score then so be it. I've been playing for over 40 years and with my size 12 hands, I certainly struggle to play the grace note triplets as written in the piano score and I'm sure that many others, less experienced than me would as well which is why I arranged it as I did. I've never been someone to be hidebound by convention and have never been averse to 'tweaking the rules' here and there if I think it's necessary...Steve.

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