95wojb0ei3ctlfhugqxm How I learned to play ragtime guitar

WHAT IS RAGTIME?

2nd Edition Cover of Scott Joplins Maple Leaf RagA musical genre characterised by is its syncopated or "ragged," rhythm.

Ragtime Guitarists

Only surviving photograph of Blind BlakeBlind Blake, one of the most famous Rag Time guitarists of the early 20th century

 

Blind Willie mcTellBlind Wilie McTell, an influential Piedmont and ragtime singer & guitarist

 

The Reverend Gary DavisThe Reverend Gary Davis, unique style played with only thumb and index finger

Travis Picking

Tab Example of Travis PickingThumb plays a steady bass pattern & fingers play syncopated rhythms between the bass notes.

How I learned to play ragtime guitar

StoneBridge GuitarA couple of year’s back I was a 5-string banjo player, and for reasons I won't go into now, I stopped playing the banjo for a while. As luck would have it I had a half-sized Yamaha classical guitar kicking around that I had bought for my daughter when she was learning guitar at school. So to fill in the hole that not playing the banjo had left, I started to play around with the guitar.

I found the laziness of the nylon strings a nice change from the harsher sound of the steel banjo strings. I had developed some pretty good Scruggs style finger picking skills over the years so I started to apply what I knew to playing the acoustic guitar. What I really needed was some new songs to learn. Google+

While learning the banjo I had come across a lot of buegrass guitarists and songs from fingerstyle guitarists like Tommy Emmanuel, Stefan Grossman, John James and Ralph McTell. With a little research it became obvious that almost all modern fingerstyle guitarists had been influenced to some extent by the legendary ragtime and blues guitarists like Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Elizabeth Cotton and Reverend Gary Davis. After learning some simple blues guitar pieces I figured that my 3 finger Scruggs style banjo picking was a better fit for playing ragtime guitar. So I started to do some research to find out what free guitar lessons there where on the internet for learning ragtime songs.

I had already become familiar while learning to play the banjo with the free guitar tablature sites and the many, many free YouTube guitar lesson videos. While I found it interesting to watch other people play their own guitar arrangements I found it increasingly frustrating and realised they weren’t helping me learn the art of ragtime guitar or help me down the road to being a complete fingerstyle guitarist. It is enthralling to listen to the many talented blues, jazz and ragtime guitarists out there but to be honest it seems like the majority of people who post free guitar lessons on YouTube are really more interested in showing off their own talents than developing talent in others…which is fine…I can understand that.

I had already become familiar while learning to play the banjo with the free guitar tablature sites and the many, many free YouTube guitar lesson videos. While I found it interesting to watch other people play their own guitar arrangements I found it increasingly frustrating and realised they weren’t helping me learn the art of ragtime guitar or help me down the road to being a complete fingerstyle guitarist.

It is enthralling to listen to the many talented blues, jazz and ragtime guitarists out there but to be honest it seems like the majority of people who post free guitar lessons on YouTube are really more interested in showing off their own talents than developing talent in others…which is fine…I can understand that.

The sad truth is that I am not a natural born musician. Watching all the free guitar lessons on YouTube, reading the guitar books, working through freestyle guitar tutorials or downloading free guitar tabs wasn’t going to help me develop much. I like to think I have some music in me…I am Irish after all…but I don’t have a great ear for what people are playing and I've found that I don’t like learning from books. I am also not one of those lucky people who can watch someone play an acoustic guitar instrumental and be able to figure out what guitar chords they are playing, what tuning they are using or what picking pattern or strumming pattern they are using. In fact I still struggle with tuning the guitar and often cannot tell when my guitar is correctly in tune…something which my older brother…who is one of those lucky ones…just loves to point out. I’m just glad that we have moved on from pitch pipes and tuning forks to those nice electronic guitar tuners that clip onto the guitar head. I may not be very good but at least now I know how to tune a guitar.

If I was to become a more accomplished fingerstyle acoustic guitarist I had to do two things;

  • Figure out what the best way for me to learn was
  • Find someone who played the sort of music I wanted to play and was willing to let me learn from them

My favourite guitar teacher