During the backward 1800s, a new appearance of music—ragtime, some say called for its ragged rhythms—emerged in saloons in St. Louis. Composer-pianists like Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime” with his “Maple Leaf Rag,” wrote compositions that accumulated all-encompassing syncopations with boot band–inspired themes.
Ragtime achromatic in acceptance in the aboriginal 1900s, but dejection musicians like Blind Blake and the Reverend Gary Davis would accomplish their versions of piano rags on guitar. In 1971, the steel-string guitarist Eric Schoenberg and his accessory David Laibman recorded The New Ragtime Guitar, an anthology of arrange that are arresting in that they are about note-for-note transcriptions of aboriginal piano rags transferred to the guitar, rather than adapted to clothing the six-string.
Among the duets on The New Ragtime Guitar is the archetypal “Dill Pickle Rag,” originally composed by Charles L. Johnson. On that recording, Schoenberg flatpicks the melody, while Laibman fingerpicks it in harmony, abacus a bass band and abutting voices. For the 1973 accumulation Contemporary Ragtime Guitar, Schoenberg recorded the tune as a abandoned arrangement, transcribed actuality in its entirety. Be warned that it’s not an accessible piece. Schoenberg, who for abounding years has endemic his namesake guitar boutique in Tiburon, California, and who is accepted for the prewar-inspired guitars additionally address his name, said via email, “I can’t accept I played it that fast. Ah, youth.”
This archetype captures the way Schoenberg played “Dill Pickle Rag” on the aboriginal recording, additionally demography into annual how his estimation has acquired over the aftermost 40-something years. The acrimonious hand’s role is appealing straightforward. You can comedy the adjustment fingerstyle, with a thumbpick and fingers, or with a thumbpick and fingerpicks. Pick the up-stemmed addendum with your index, middle, and arena fingers, and the down-stemmed addendum with your thumb.
If you’d like, access aphasiac the bass notes—remember, blow your acrimonious duke agilely on the strings, so that the complete is hardly deadened but the bend is still clear. This will accommodate a nice textural adverse with the melody and will advice highlight the arrangement’s contrapuntal attributes (having absolute lines, in this case a bass allotment and melody).
The annoyed hand’s role in “Dill Pickle Rag” is beneath straightforward. On the aboriginal recording, Schoenberg plays the allotment with credible affluence and joyfulness, at the knuckle-busting animation of about 190 division addendum per minute. This is absolutely a beggarly accomplishment aback you accede the beatnik fingerings he was application to imitate the piano.
To alike activate to access Schoenberg’s tempo, it’s analytical to use advised fingerings. Confined 1–4 are aboveboard enough: Stop the low G (string 6, affront 3) with your additional feel and the F (string 4, affront 3) with your third finger. Accumulate this appearance captivated throughout these four measures, hammer-on the second-fret A with your aboriginal finger, etc.
Things get catchy in confined 5 and 6, area Schoenberg plays the melody on after adjoining strings for a pianistic effect. It’s best to apprentice this byword at a microscopically apathetic pace, advantageous abutting absorption to the detached moves that accomplish an able whole. Actuality are some picking-hand suggestions: throughout the measures, accumulate your additional feel anchored on the 10th-fret C, your fourth-finger on the 12th-fret G, and your third feel on the 10th-fret A.
On beats 1–2 of admeasurement 5, barre the eighth affront beyond all six strings with your aboriginal finger. Then, on exhausted 3, bound grab the seventh-fret B with your aboriginal finger, afore sliding that feel aback into the eighth-fret barre. On exhausted 1 of admeasurement 6, bend your aboriginal feel upward, such that it’s still endlessly the eighth-fret C but not blocking the accessible A string. End the byword with your aboriginal feel on affront 7, again 8 and 9 of cord 6.
It’s aloof as important to accede fingering nuances during transitions amid phrases. On exhausted 4 of admeasurement 6, for instance, end a byword in ninth position, with your fourth feel on cord 3 and your aboriginal on 6. Accumulate feel 4 on that cord as you bound accelerate bottomward into a D7 shape—your third feel on cord 5, additional on 4, fourth on 3, and aboriginal on 2—on the exhausted of admeasurement 7. Accomplish abiding not to lag abaft the exhausted as you change positions amid confined 6 and 7; use a metronome for affirmation if needed.
Work out the added fingerings in “Dill Pickle Rag” in the aforementioned way—look for means to move amid addendum and ambit grips with as little movement as possible. Tackle the allotment byword by phrase, again area by section, spending the best time with the genitalia that crave alien fretting-hand moves, like those agrarian confined 5–6.
Once you’ve got it all together, comedy forth with the aboriginal recording and try to archetype Schoenberg’s bland adroit animation and active phrasing. I’d acclaim arena the aboriginal recording through software that allows you to apathetic the audio bottomward after affecting its pitch. Accumulate the animation adequate and access it gradually until you can bout Schoenberg’s speed—and acceptable luck with that!
In any case, a key assignment to booty abroad from Schoenberg’s adjustment of “Dill Pickle Rag”—one that applies to any blazon of music—is that it pays to advance your annoyed fingers into new formations, shapes that ability feel awkward at aboriginal but which will augment your ambit of announcement and your repertoire.
For his performance, Eric Schoenberg plays an Epiphone Recording Model B. The Recording guitars were the aboriginal guitars fabricated by Epiphone and were congenital amid 1928 and 1931 in Models A, B, C, D, and E (in accretion fanciness). Schoenberg has endemic this Model B aback the mid-’60s and it appearance a flat, accustomed accomplished top with laminated maple abandon and an angled maple back.
Lesson: How to Comedy the Guitar Rag ‘Jitters’
This commodity originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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