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Ragtime Guitar Tabs

The Basics

Ragtime guitar is undoubtedly one of the most impressive sounding guitar styles. While it might sound incredibly complicated to play, don't let that put you off. Some basic fingerpicking patterns that can be easily mastered is all you need to get started. Some simple ragtime tunes can be learned with just a little bit of practice, yet can still sound very impressive.

Ragtime is essentially a syncopated rhythm and melody. To play ragtime guitar, the first thing you will need to learn is the chunky alternating bass line. On it's own, this is very simple. The chunky sound comes from muting the bass strings with the palm of the right hand lightly resting over the bridge of the guitar.

Typical ragtime alternating bass in C.
Simply hold down a standard C chord and pick the bass notes.

E||--------------------------|--------------------------||
B||--------------------------|--------------------------||
G||--------------------------|--------------------------||
D||-----2-----2-----2-----2--|-----2-----2-----2-----2--||
A||--3-----3-----3-----3-----|--3-----------3-----------||
E||--------------------------|--------3-----------3-----||

Note, in the first bar we are simply picking out the notes on the fourth and fifth strings of an open C chord so the left hand isn't doing anything. In the second bar, the bass line is more typical of ragtime where the bass swaps between root/third and root/fifth. To play this we will normally keep the left hand holding down the C chord and just move the ring finger to change between the fifth and sixth string.

Once you are used to playing the bass part, you can add a very simple melody over the top. For now let's keep it simple by playing a simple melody line on the beat and keeping the bass part restricted to the fourth and fifth strings. This is a good way to practice at the beginning. We'll add some syncopation in the next exercise.

Simple melody over a bass line. Keep the bass strings muted but let the melody notes on the thin three strings ring out. The bass notes are played with the thumb. Pick the melody notes with your fingers.

E||--0-----------------------|--------------------------||
B||--------------3-----------|--1-----------------------||
G||--------------------------|--------------0-----------||
D||-----2-----2-----2-----2--|-----2-----2-----2-----2--||
A||--3-----3-----3-----3-----|--3-----3-----3-----3-----||
E||--------------------------|--------------------------||

And now the same thing again but alternate the bass between fifth and sixth strings. This is slightly harder but with a little bit of practice you should soon get used to it. After a while it becomes second nature.

E||--0-----------------------|--------------------------||
B||--------------3-----------|--1-----------------------||
G||--------------------------|--------------0-----------||
D||-----2-----2-----2-----2--|-----2-----2-----2-----2--||
A||--3-----------3-----------|--3-----------3-----------||
E||--------3-----------3-----|--------3-----------3-----||

The TAB below shows an example of a reasonably simple ragtime piece. Look out for the chord changes, they will give you an indication of what your left hand should be doing. If you find this one a bit challenging at first then simplify the bass line to just two strings, as in the examples above. Stick with it, it may seem hard at first but you'll be surprised how your fingers soon get used to it with a bit of practice.

  C
E||--0---------------------0----------|--------------------------|
B||-----------1----3p-1---------1h-3--|--1-----------------------|
G||-----------------------------------|--------------0-----------|
D||-----2-------2-------2----------2--|-----2-----2-----2-----2--|
A||--3-------------3------------------|--3-----------3-----------|
E||--------3-----------------3--------|--------3-----------3-----|


                                     G
--0---------------------0---------|--3-----------3p-0---------0----|
-----------1----3p-1---------1----|----------------------3---------|
----------------------------------|--------------------------------|
-----2-------2-------2---------2--|-----0-----0-------2---------2--|
--3-------------3-----------------|--------2-----------------------|
--------3-----------------3-------|--3-----------3---------3-------|


  C                                  F
------------------------0---------|-----1--------------1--------|
--1--------1----3p-1---------1----|---------------1--------1----|
----------------------------------|--2-------2------------------|
-----2-------2-------2---------2--|-----3------3-----3-------3--|
--3-------------3-----------------|-----------------------------|
--------3-----------------3-------|--1-----1------1------1------|


  C             G7                 C
-----0----------1---------------|-----0----------0---------||
-----------1----------3----0----|--1-------------1h--------||
--0-----------------------------|-----------0----0---------||
-----2-------2-----0---------2--|-----2-------2--2---------||
--3-----------------------------|--3-------------3---------||
--------3-------3-------3-------|--------3-----------------||

Although Tablature is a very useful method for learning ragtime guitar, it's unfortunately limited to basic note information. There's no easy way to show what the fretting hand, or the picking hand should be doing. Video lessons really are the best and easiest way to learn ragtime guitar. If you really want to learn ragtime and blues fingerstyle guitar then you should check out the Jim Bruce's Ragtime Blues Guitar Course.

The course consists of 23 classic Ragtime and Blues songs from artists like Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and more. Each song comes with a complete tablature for printing out but best of all, each song is slowed down into manageable sections on high quality video using split screens to show left and right hands separately. You aren't going to find anything better than this for the price. The course is available on instant download and comes with a full money back guarantee, no questions asked.

Click here to find out more.

 

Here's a little taste of Jim Bruce showing what you can expect to learn.

 

To learn how to play Ragtime guitar like Jim, click here to go to his website for more information.