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Jul 7, 2020 - 7:16:35 PM
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111 posts since 2/5/2011

Does anyone else play ragtime tunes on the tenor banjo, banjolin or mandolin? I recently dusted off a couple old CDs by The Etcetera String Band: Fun on the Levee and Harvest Hop. These feature ragtime music exclusively: old rags, cakewalks and marches from the Kansas/Missouri region, written late 1800's/early 1900's. No Joplin - focusing on more obscure(?) composers like Charles L. Johnson, Arthur Pryor and E. Harry Kelly. With the unparalleled Dennis Pash on mandolin as the lead instrument. Pash would later go on to form the Ragtime Skedaddlers about a decade ago. Best I can tell, these Etcetera String Band recordings date back to the mid 1970's. I obtained "home made" copies of Harvest Hop and Fun on the Levee 6 or 7 years ago from original band member Kevin Sanders but never really gave them much of a listen 'til now.

Most of the vintage sheet music for these tracks is findable online. Starting with Fun on the Levee I've been comparing the sheet music to the audio and writing out the music in mandolin tab (AKA tenor banjo tab) to make it more legible and playable. I don't know much about ragtime and all the "do's and don't's". I just like the sound of these tunes!

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:37:35 AM

782 posts since 6/25/2006

Hi thanks for posting the two albums on youtube. I have the Rhythmia albums and Leroy Larson and The Ragtime Banjo Commission on vinyl plus a lot of classic-style banjo stuff. There is a huge resource for ragtime for the 5string banjo on:https://classic-banjo.ning.com/  A guy called Steve Harrison has transcribed over 500 pieces for banjo (mostly ragtime) and they are in the music library section.  On the tenor banjo, '12th street Rag' and 'Tiger Rag' get played a lot but also I've seen youtube renditions of 'Russian Rag', 'Temptation Rag' and 'Calliope Rag'.  Here is the amazing Caroline Aubert doing Russian Rag: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijwYILoUV-c

AJ Weidt composed some lovely raggy pieces for tenor banjo (check out 'My Lady Jazz' on youtube).  There are also two books for tenor banjo by Bill Somerville (published by Clifford Essex, UK) for tenor banjo in CGDA.  I have the latter so there is really no excuse - I am going to aim to learn Reindeer Rag by Xmas.  (The challenge with ragtime is learning the 3 + sections plus repeats!)

Edited by - hobogal on 07/08/2020 00:42:39

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:11:03 AM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013

The real problem with ragtime on tenor banjo is getting that oompah bass line as well as the melody line. That contrast between the steady bass and the syncopated melody is what really makes it go. The best renditions I've heard are usually ensemble groups, or at least banjo with piano or guitar.

If you can ever find it (it's been out of print for a few decades), James Tyler and the New Excelsior Talking Machine is a great album with tunes by George Lansing, Eubie Blake, Scott Joplin, Ralph Colicchio, and others.

Jul 8, 2020 - 10:05:45 AM

782 posts since 6/25/2006

quote:Yes, it is hard to translate the two hand piano to banjo.   Thanks for the James Tyler tip - have just found a copy on Ebay and look forward to hearing it!
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

The real problem with ragtime on tenor banjo is getting that oompah bass line as well as the melody line. That contrast between the steady bass and the syncopated melody is what really makes it go. The best renditions I've heard are usually ensemble groups, or at least banjo with piano or guitar.

If you can ever find it (it's been out of print for a few decades), James Tyler and the New Excelsior Talking Machine is a great album with tunes by George Lansing, Eubie Blake, Scott Joplin, Ralph Colicchio, and others.


Jul 8, 2020 - 11:30:13 AM
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7414 posts since 8/28/2013

I sometimes find it ironic that the vast majority of tunes in ragtime style were composed before tenor banjos became the norm. By the advent of the plectrum banjo, the genre was nearly extinct.

I don't disagree with using tenor banjos for ragtime at all, though. After all, Bach's music wasn't written for the piano, either. Music is music; the instrumentation is usually secondary.

Jul 8, 2020 - 11:44:47 AM
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111 posts since 2/5/2011

"Music is music; the instrumentation is usually secondary."

I agree with that for sure! I didn't start playing a musical instrument until I was in my 30's and my first instrument was in fact the tenor banjo believe it or not. I decided to give it a shot after seeing it played in Ireland almost 15 years ago now and am still an amateur plucker to this day. Tenor banjo, mandolin, and a little bit of xylophone and marimba for good measure.

That Irish influence has rubbed off on me. I understand scales and modes but I've never in my life heard a chord change or paid attention to chords or chord structure. No matter what I'm playing I just play the melody - a single note melody for the most part except for the rare double stop or stacked notes like at the end of a section where it makes the most sense to resolve there. So for these "ragtime" sounding tunes it's all about that ragtime rhythm but all I'm doing is a dumbed down bare bones version of the right hand piano melody trying to find one note at a time that best represents the sound of the melody. Usually it's the highest note of the sheet music. None of the left hand chording harmony stuff is present in what I'm doing so maybe that means what I'm playing is not ragtime but a different genre or style!

Jul 8, 2020 - 11:54:06 AM

5417 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I sometimes find it ironic that the vast majority of tunes in ragtime style were composed before tenor banjos became the norm. By the advent of the plectrum banjo, the genre was nearly extinct.

I don't disagree with using tenor banjos for ragtime at all, though. After all, Bach's music wasn't written for the piano, either. Music is music; the instrumentation is usually secondary.


Yes, this is interesting.  I have been chipping away at the Crescendo and Cadenza magazines and, as expected, there is some resistance early on for ragtime but it did not take long for them to fully embrace it.  Pick playing shows up quite early, so plectrum would be contemporary for ragtime. 

AFA composers and new music publications (as well as record and piano rolls), ragtime was still going strong as a popular music form into the late teens and early twenties, esp. the foxtrot. So, tenor makes the cut.

BUT, fretted instruments start to tank in general by the 1920s and are promoted as a vehicle for getting work in theater (movie and vaudeville) orchestras. 

What is really weird is the Shakey's Pizza/ Mustache club thing.  Tenor and plectrums in Dixieland jazz style bands playing 1890s tin pan alley music while dressed in Styrofoam hats with lace sleeve garters and red and white striped vests (things you would not have seen in the 1890s). 

Where the heck did that come from?

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:11:08 PM

111 posts since 2/5/2011

That costumey stuff is weird and is one of the biggest turnoffs about this music. Jerry Garcia in his black t-shirt and jeans or corduroys was the best dressed musician of all time in my option.

I guess after a while you can chop off parts you don't like and just play 2 of the 3 or 2 of the 4 parts of the piece. For example, as a whole rags make up a small portion of the old-time or fiddle tune player's repertoire, but taken together there are probably dozens in that fold alone - Dill Pickles, Red Wing, Plowboy Hop, Hawkins Rag, Stone's Rag, Walking Up Town, Eli Greene's, Saturday Night Breakdown, and so on. Most of these in that style have been whittled down to just a two part AA/BB tune so you don't have to fool with remembering 3 or 4 parts in some kind of specific order.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:24:57 PM

1651 posts since 2/12/2009
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Apropos of nothing really, I just acquired a book published in 1928 and written by a man who ran a pierrot troupe (he refers to it as a minstrel troupe ) in the latter part of the 19th century the book is called "Minstrel Memories"and the author is Harry Reynolds, I have not had a chance to give it anything but a cursory glance thus far, it certainly makes mention of the Bohee Brothers among others and looks like being a pretty OK read . Ought to be a bit of banjo somewhere in it !

Jul 8, 2020 - 1:05:15 PM
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5417 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by sixwatergrog

That costumey stuff is weird and is one of the biggest turnoffs about this music. Jerry Garcia in his black t-shirt and jeans or corduroys was the best dressed musician of all time in my option.

I guess after a while you can chop off parts you don't like and just play 2 of the 3 or 2 of the 4 parts of the piece. For example, as a whole rags make up a small portion of the old-time or fiddle tune player's repertoire, but taken together there are probably dozens in that fold alone - Dill Pickles, Red Wing, Plowboy Hop, Hawkins Rag, Stone's Rag, Walking Up Town, Eli Greene's, Saturday Night Breakdown, and so on. Most of these in that style have been whittled down to just a two part AA/BB tune so you don't have to fool with remembering 3 or 4 parts in some kind of specific order.


The trio with key change is what gives Ragtime texture and excitement.   One key, AABB repeat ad nauseam is redundant and boring.  Hitting that modulation at the end is magic.

For example "Chicken Reel" is meh as a fiddle tune stripped of all the good stuff.  Complete it is a fantastic piece.  "Eli Green's" is a cakewalk and the trio gives it a strong finish (and is very much in form with other cakewalks).

How is remembering 3 or 4 parts of one piece any different than remembering the two parts of two fiddle tunes? 

The formula of order is very consistent with ragtime marches and cakewalks. A little bit of study and a few pieces under the fingers and that formula is etched in.   If you forget, just look at the music-- they could not have made it any easier.

I'll not mention that a good chunk of popular music of the late 19th century used the same roadmap so by the time ragtime hit that was how music was.

I'm not sure when (or why) popular music got dumed down.  Or where the phobia of key changes came from.

Jul 8, 2020 - 1:24:52 PM

55110 posts since 12/14/2005

Could not find a specific song called "RAGTIME", by them, on Y'alltube, but here's a Scott Joplin sample of their work:

 

Jul 8, 2020 - 7:04:50 PM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I sometimes find it ironic that the vast majority of tunes in ragtime style were composed before tenor banjos became the norm. By the advent of the plectrum banjo, the genre was nearly extinct.

I don't disagree with using tenor banjos for ragtime at all, though. After all, Bach's music wasn't written for the piano, either. Music is music; the instrumentation is usually secondary.


Yes, this is interesting.  I have been chipping away at the Crescendo and Cadenza magazines and, as expected, there is some resistance early on for ragtime but it did not take long for them to fully embrace it.  Pick playing shows up quite early, so plectrum would be contemporary for ragtime. 

AFA composers and new music publications (as well as record and piano rolls), ragtime was still going strong as a popular music form into the late teens and early twenties, esp. the foxtrot. So, tenor makes the cut.

BUT, fretted instruments start to tank in general by the 1920s and are promoted as a vehicle for getting work in theater (movie and vaudeville) orchestras. 

What is really weird is the Shakey's Pizza/ Mustache club thing.  Tenor and plectrums in Dixieland jazz style bands playing 1890s tin pan alley music while dressed in Styrofoam hats with lace sleeve garters and red and white striped vests (things you would not have seen in the 1890s). 

Where the heck did that come from?

 

 

 

 


Although ragtime was popular to some extent into the early twenties, by that time it was no longer in its purest form, being diluted somewhat by various dance crazes like the fox trot and tango, novelty pieces such as Kitten on the Keys (1923) and jazz was stealing some of its audience. While tenor banjo did, in fact begin to be a force in the teens, many dance bands were still using the five string banjo. By plectrum banjo, I did not mean plectrum style, but the actual four string instrument, which from most accounts made its appearance in 1918 or thereabouts.

As far as that Shakey's "costume" thing, most of the music played in those settings was not true ragtime, but more of a corrupted 1920's pop music. I played at a Shakey's in my younger days (I always hated the stupid striped shirt and styrofoam hat) and rest assured, most of what myself and the piano player banged out were things like "Sheik of Araby," and very often we played more modern pieces. I do not recall ever playing "Eli Green's Cakewalk" (a great tune) "Maple Leaf Rag," "Black and White Rag," Buffalo Rag," "American Beauty," or any other classics of the genre. We did, however, play "My Funny Valentine," Raindrops Keep Falling on MY Head," and others, as well as "Honky-Tonk" versions of "Ain't She Sweet," the aforementioned "Sheik," and "Shanty in Old Shanty Town." Hardly Ragtime at all.

Jul 9, 2020 - 3:00:12 AM
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55110 posts since 12/14/2005

RAGtime! SHAMEless music!

That'll GRAB your son, YOUR daughter,

In the ARMS of the jungle,

ANimal instinct.... MASS HYSTERIA!"

-H. Hill-

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:53:53 AM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013

Mike, Harold Hill was merely capitalizing on the notion, at the time, that ragtime was perceived in many circles as being "dangerous music."

The fact that it was widely pklayed in saloons and "houses of ill repute" played a part in the alleged "evil temptations" of ragtime, but I suspect that some of the fear was generated by racism.

The same things have been fairly typical of other new and revolutionary genres, too. Jazz, Rock 'n' Roll, Rap, etc. have all had their moments of being caught in the dark web of piety and paranoia.

Jul 9, 2020 - 12:27:34 PM

5417 posts since 9/21/2007

Right^^

"In the arms of a jungle animal" is an obvious reference to a characterization/racial slur directed at Black people.

Henry Ford spent a lot of money and effort to promote "traditional music and dance" which was specifically to counter "ragtime and jazz" which translates to "Black people's music and Jewish people's music".

If you want to read some funny stuff, read some "period" articles about the dangers of ragtime. I am a constantly fascinated by Moral Panics and the crazy logic that people make up to justify their fears and outrage. There was a generation that was certain ragtime music would send the world towards armageddon and total ruin, now it is used to sell ice cream. It reminds me of the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s and 1990s, looking back on it in retrospect it is unbelievable that people were caught up in that witch hunt and scared of nothing.

RE: Shakey's Pizza, that happened before my birth (for the most part) so I did not get to experience it, but it seems like it was a lot of fun. Super corny and a weird mashup of nostalgia, but fun nonetheless.

Jul 9, 2020 - 1:02:30 PM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013

I don't want to even start when it comes to Ford, but he was certainly not alone in his distaste for ethnic music. The sad part is that people of his ilk don't look into the past and never realize that people like Mendelssohn were Jewish or that some of the traditional music they champion was based upon Negro spirituals and work songs, or that some of it was played on an instrument which was based on African instruments. Instead, should they enjoy a tune, they will simply attempt to discredit the fact that it came from a world they are uncomfortable with. (The saddest part is that there are still these types of people making trouble for all sorts of creative endeavors.)

I got into Shakey's when they were breathing through an oxygen mask with an intravenous feeding tube in their vein. Still, it was, as you have said, fun, corny as all get out (at times, anyway) and a weird mashup of nostalgia. I have to wonder if any real research was done as far as the actual prevalence of pizza during the ragtime era. I doubt if Scott Joplin ever even saw a pizza, let alone ate one!

I also wouldn't at all mind a similar outlet today. I think a little nostalgia, even if it's a half-baked Norman Rockwell idealist version, can be a comforting thing in these troubled times. And at least at Shakey's, I never met anyone who complained about the dangers of ragtime or equated what we were doing with any "jungle instincts."

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 07/09/2020 13:04:29

Jul 10, 2020 - 1:15:30 AM
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CGDA

Italy

2013 posts since 1/4/2009

Here's a video showing a ragtime played on two tenor banjos. I think that's a bit rare combo in this kind of music. A teacher and his pupil.

https://youtu.be/p-EfgdfbC3g

Jul 31, 2020 - 11:37:24 AM

Muskrat

USA

338 posts since 3/29/2012

A big part of Shakey’s populararity was… Beer!

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