Blue Goose Rag for Classic Fingerstyle Banjo

This is an arrangement by Steve Harrison and myself of this superb ragtime piece composed in 1916 by Charles L. Johnson.

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Comment by thereallyniceman on May 30, 2013 at 17:23

I spotted this great ragtime piece a few weeks ago and asked Steve Harrison if we could work together on an arrangement for classic banjo.


Steve produced a first draft and I have added my “twiddley bits” and “variations’ to it. It is fun to play, but a dog to play quickly  ;-)


I have added both Steve’s original and my fully notated version to the MUSIC LIBRARY.  It uses a lot of finger lifts off chord shapes and I think that most of it flows quite well. I have never seen another banjo arrangement of the piece, so improvement and alterations are down to you.


I have added fingers numbers and fret positions for virtually EVERY note so it should be reasonably easy to follow.


I hope you enjoy it... but be warned it is another of those ear-worm tunes!

Comment by Trapdoor2 on May 31, 2013 at 3:29

Very cool, Ian! Well done, the both of you!

My all-time favorite rag by Mr. Johnson is the "Cum-Bac Rag". I doubt I could actually play it...would be fun to try though!

Comment by Mike Moss on May 31, 2013 at 8:06

Wow, that rag is incredibly effective on the banjo. This is brilliant stuff, it just takes you back in time to listen to "what could have been"! Great music, very nostalgic, it just encapsulates the spirit of the times.

Comment by Alan Sims on May 31, 2013 at 10:46

Wow , now now that tune  sparkles and really comes to life on the special . well done all three of you.

Comment by thereallyniceman on May 31, 2013 at 18:12

Thanks for the kind comments. I really enjoyed learning this rag as it just sounds good and catchy.

You are right Alan, the CE wood hoop sounds very nice when recorded using my Zoom H2 mic.

The CE Special was my least expensive banjo, was purchased of Ebay unseen and with a new Renaissance head and new strings it has become my favourite banjo to practise on....  Well, it is my favourite for practice upstairs in my office, and you just have to have another one for downstairs practice and that is the Weaver, and a couple for best of course ;-)

I have been told to sell some of my others ( yes, by you know who) as they are cluttering up the house... Oh dear, how do I get out of this??

Comment by German David Patarroyo on June 1, 2013 at 16:18

It is an astonishing performance Ian, as usual. Congrats!

Comment by marc dalmasso on June 2, 2013 at 11:16

beautiful tune superbly played by our landlord

Comment by Charles Pool on October 8, 2013 at 4:38

Ian thank you taking the time with Mr. Harrison to arrange the Blue Goose Rag for classic banjo and for posting this excellent performance.  I think you hit the tempo spot-on! 

I am brand new to this site and just beginning to attempt playing the classical banjo style.  I recently acquired a modestly priced a 'no name' vintage instrument.  It dates from the 1880's and was intended for minstrel banjo 'stroke style' performance (thus only has 17 frets).  But I love the sound of this instrument.  It is the gut/nylon string Sound that has reinvigorated my interest in 5-string banjo, after years of exposure to bluegrass players.  On this instrument I can play both classic and frailing/stroke style pieces and play a wide repertoire of tunes.

I already play violin, mandolin, banjo-mandolin, tenor banjo.  I also dabbled a bit with chording on the plectrum banjo, so I have many of the chord shapes down already.  My challenge is to learn how to comfortably play melody in the C-G-b-d tuning, and this is what I hope to learn on visits to your excellent website.

That said, I live in St. Louis Missouri, and every month we have a Friends of Scott Joplin evening of local pro and amateur piano players performing Joplin and other ragtime composures.  My goal is to learn to play Joplin rags and other rags like those of Charles Johnson, Joseph Lamb, James Scott.

 At this time I have the piano score for all of Joplin's rags, and know the tunes by ear.  Eventually, I will be able to pick them out, once I learn the ins and outs of getting around the neck the classic banjo style way.  But some guidance and help would be appreciated.

I see no classic banjo versions Joplin rags posted at this time.  Is there anyone who could post some Scott Joplin examples for classic banjo?

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