Some forty five years ago I got caught up in the ragtime music revival of the early 70s. A combination of the success of Joshua Rifkin’s Nonesuch recordings of Scott Joplin’s works, the soundtrack of the movie The Sting – which turned The Entertainer in a major hit record, and probably the fact that Joplin’s music was moving into the Public Domain making it cheap to publish, all came together to contribute to resurrect the popularity of this musical style.
This revival generated a lot interest amongst fingerstyle guitarists in arranging the piano rags for guitar – or as Stefan Grossman liked to say, “playing them on the six string piano”.
As a young guitarist I jumped whole heartedly on this bandwagon and transcribed copious numbers of the piano rags for the guitar. Maple Leaf Rag was amongst these. I originally arranged the first two of the piece’s four themes back around 1973.
It took some forty years for me to get around to finally arranging the last two themes and then another four years to get around to recording it. Well, you know what they say about a fine wine.
A video lesson for my arrangment of Blackbird is now available in the Acoustic Tonic Music store.
The lesson includes a transcription of the arrangement, a 30 minute video lesson and a reference performance video.
Find details about the arrangement here.
The Slippery Slope is an original composition that celebrates a slippin’ and a slidin’ on the strings. It first appeared on the album The Voice in the Grain and has since been featured in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine, as one of the selections in the Fingerstyle Repertoire Requirement for the Wilson Centre Guitar Competition (2017), and on the Mel Bay DVD Masters of Fingerstyle Guitar (now out of print).
A transcription/video lesson bundle is now available through the Acoustic Tonic Music Store.
This is one of my favourite songs for the Christmas season. The title says it all, although the original lyrics were a bit more ambiguous.
Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas was written for the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. Garland balked at singing the original lyrics because she felt they were too sad for the scene the song appears in. Hugh Martin, the lyricist, reluctantly rewrote some of the lines to make it more hopeful sounding. In subsequent years a couple of more tweeks were made as the song evolved into the version we’re familiar with today.
Here’s an interesting article that traces the evolution of the lyrics. Its interesting to see in recent years a number of artists rediscovering and recording the original lyrics. Perhaps this a sign of today’s pervading cynicism.
Regardless of the version of the lyrics you prefer, the melody always wraps me in a warm, cozy blanket of nostalgia when I hear it. So I chose to arrange it beginning with a slow, meditative tone. The change up to a jazz waltz feel at the bridge felt like a nice contrast and leads into a upbeat final verse before finally returning to a reflective mood for the ending.
If you find my arrangement a bit too laid back and need more of a kick in your eggnog, you might want to check out Twisted Sister’s version.
For the guitarists, a half hour video lesson and transcription of this arrangement is available.