Friday, November 29, 2013

Building a Ragtime Repertoire

If you get Steve Parker’s book Ragtime for Fiddle and Mandolin and Mel Bay's Favorite American Rags and Blues for Fiddle by Stacy Phillips, then you'll have your bases covered when it comes to sheet music for many of the common stringband rags such as Pig Ankle's Rag, Stone's Rag, Mineola Rag, Plowboy Hop, Whistling Rufus, Stone Mountain Wobble and many more.  However, I've also found some great raggy tunes from other books and sources.  For example...

April Verch’s book/CD The American Fiddle Method - Canadian Fiddle Styles contains the ragtime foxtrot Walking Up Town in the key of C.  I really started to love this tune after transcribing it to the key of G, which is the way it is played by Tom Cussen’s Irish traditional band Shaskeen on their album titled Walking Up Town.  It's a little easier to play in G so you can start with April Verch's sheet music and tweak it based on Shaskeen's version.

The Dix Bruce and Bruce Bollerud tune collection called Mandolin Uff Da! Let's Dance:: Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes and House Party Music is one of my favorite tunebooks, containing many great waltzes, schottiches and polkas.  It also contains two very fun rags – Mabel Rag Two-Step (which I prefer to play in D than the arrangement in F in the book) and Red Rooster Two Step (which is noteworthy because it’s a 3-part tune that changes keys…the first part sounds like a march, the second part sounds ethnic, and the third part is very raggy).  In addition Mandolin Uff Da! also has some tunes called Almondo's Polka and Sally's Hoppwaltz which also have ragtime elements.  You won't find these tunes anywhere else, and they really deserve to be played by more people.

Celestial Mountain Music’s All-In-One Jambook contains a country rag I like a lot called Saturday Night Breakdown.  Click here to listen to me playing this tune.  Janet Davis’ The Ultimate Mandolin Songbook has a transcription of Scott Joplin’s classic rag The Entertainer that almost makes this tune doable!

Paul Rosen of the Charlottesville, VA area contra dance band Floorplay has written many tunes that I’ve started to play, including Clouds Thicken, Critter’s Gone to Texas and Locust Tree.  Just last week I started to learn one he wrote called Elgin’s Rag, which has become my favorite rag.  Paul has posted the sheet music for all of the tunes on Floorplay’s Block Party album, including Elgin's Rag, here.

On a site called Old Time Mandolin there's the mandolin tab for B-flat Rag by the Madisonville String Band.  Paul Tyler transcribed Les Raber's version of Dill Pickle Rag for Oldtown School of Folk Music's Tune of the Week series.

There’s also a site called Dr. Fiddle with many transcriptions of rags, including Cumberland Blues by Doc Roberts and Duck Shoes Rag and Ruth’s Rag by the Grinnell Giggers.  Rags may be somewhat scarce, but with a little poking around you'll have more tunes in that syncopated style at your disposal.

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