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Lesson notes

Following up on my own personal Ragtime Revival, I have written a Classic Ragtime piece that is not too difficult to play. It consists of four sections, with each one getting a little more difficult.

I have tried to incorporate many of the important techniques and characteristics typically found in rags without the pyrotechnics required to transcribe ones written for the piano to the guitar.

Section A is in the key of E Major and uses normal chords and shapes that you should already be familiar with. One of the biggest keys to proper Ragtime is the syncopated melody notes, accented before a strong beat in the measure and then carried over onto the beat. This is the main focus of Section A.

Section B continues with ideas from Section A, along with a similar chord progression. The last phrase is similar as well, with a busier, more syncopated melody, adding a bit to the difficulty level. It also brings in a moving bass line rather than the alternating bass used up to that point.

In many classic rags Section C modulates to a different key, typically the sub-dominant, or fourth step of the original key, and takes on a lighter quality. It is frequently referred to as the “trio.” One of my intents with The Good Life was to use common, almost cliché ideas. It starts with sustained thirds, outlining the chords, and finishes with a cascading, or rolling line, like the earlier sections.

As I hope I mentioned as we got started on The Good Life, my main goal was to put together a reasonably easy-to-play ragtime piece. As I worked through successive sections, my definition of reasonable fluctuated a bit and each part added a slightly more difficult element. By the time I was into Section D I let the momentum carry me into a cascading flurry of descending thirds, followed by a couple stretchy pull-offs. I think a couple sections of this tune can make a nice project/performance without all four parts being under control but in the interest of letting the challenge continue and escalate, it would be nice to add Section D.