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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: (Basic) Improvisation: Ragtime Annie - Rhythm

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is gonna be Ragtime Annie here in the
Improv Workshop.
We're gonna look at playing rhythm behind
the fiddle tune that
Ragtime Annie's one of the most popular
fiddle tunes in America.
There's a, a way to play it you hear it a
lot in the Southeast and
at bluegrass festivals.
That's a little different then you might
hear in Texas.
In Texas they play a three part version
we're gonna stick to the two part
version here which is what you see most of
the time.
And what we're gonna start with I'll show
you basically we're working out of the key
of D I've got our capo on the second fret.
So that means but basically,
basically be looking at the set of C
position type chords.
There's three chords in this version.
We're going to start with a basic kinda
look here at a.
That's our basic D chord there.
And it's got a five chord,
which is the the fifth of the scale.
Which is the G shape to A chord.
And, then the.
The F, or the G in this case.
So, so speak, specifically D.
G and A.
One, four, five.
Kinda makes it a lot simpler just to think
about the intervals
in relationships versus you know, speaking
in capo, whatever that might be.
One, four, five is what we're looking at.
So what we have here is our friend Darol
Anger from the School of Fiddle.
Has graciously provided us with some some
fiddle to, to work along with.
He's played this we've got this song twice
through here.
Yeah, I'm just gonna show you this song
you know,
much in the way you would learn this in a
jam session.
Basically ask the fiddle player to play it
and, and you follow my hands.
Basically, I'm gonna play these, these
same chords.
This is kinda a basic introductory way to
play this.
No embellishments or anything like this at
this point.
Just want to start at the, at the
And then we'll work into some variations
and how to think about
constructing rhythm parts and kind of
improvising rhythm parts.
We'll do that, we'll do that down the
So here's here's Darol gonna lead us in
with the,
with the basic version of Ragtime Annie.
So there was a basic version of Ragtime
Annie twice through.
Thank you Darol.
And what I was doing there showing you the
basic chord progression.
Very popular tune there with the
One, four, and five.
And adding an alternating bass.
You know, when you play behind a fiddle
It's just guitar and fiddle here.
If you're doing doing this in a jam
session with a bass player you can still,
still do this.
Cuz it's basically mimicking what the bass
would do.
With the, with the alternating bass, which
is the root of the chord.
And then the fifth of the chord.
And in this case looking at the major
scale one, two, three,
four, five is this
The A note which we have here.
Conveniently to give us that rocking bass
kinda thing.
All right.
The same thing when you go to the the, the
four chord is F-shaped.
The way I choose to voice that is.
[SOUND] By playing the, still keeping my
D-note here with my ring finger and
playing the F-shape under here starting
with the pinky.
You could choose to do it like this
just like the C chord where the F I'm
sorry where the four and
the G is playing is played.
With the, with the ring finger and still
do the alternating the same way.
You kinda have options there.
That's one of the important lessons about
playing rhythm in this style of music is,
it's always important to have options.
You know, playing rhythm behind fiddle
tunes, behind bluegrass songs and singers.
You make choices, you improvise,
essentially, based on your situation.
You know, dependent on who's playing, what
your role is.
If there's not a bass player, your role is
to cover some of that low end.
If there is a bass player, you don't have
to do that so much, but, but
it does help support things to have that
That basic alternating bass style.
But essentially, at this point, our, our
goal is to, is to outline the chords.
Be able to get through it all the way.
Play the chords in time.
Play all the changes smoothly.
Make all the, all the alternating bass
as they should be to kinda help keep that
And it's very you know, it's stylistically
And you know, that, that's essentially
just kinda step one here of playing,
playing this song here, playing a basic
rhythm with this song.
As you would play, you know, any number of
The same, the approach is what we're
looking for.
That's what we're going to work here, work
on here at the Improv Workshop.
Is how to approach songs,
how to feel like you have options,
understanding what those options are.
And we're gonna move from here into into
another way to think about playing rhythm
behind Ragtown Annie.
And we're gonna add one more element in
Kinda a tool build a tool box of, of
rhythm guitar here for,
for bluegrass and, and fiddle music.
And so, stay tuned for that.
gonna look next, with Ragtime Annie at
walking bass.
Walking bass runs specifically.
And if you look at the lessons in the
basic curriculum, you'll learn that
walking bass runs are based out of major
scale theory, you know.
And, that's again it's important to,
to be aware of all these open position
major scales.
And this is where they really get put to
Especially, some of the lower notes that
you might not use all the time in
flat picking, but certainly employed quite
a bit here in rhythm playing.
Keeping in the key of D.
The one, four, five.
You know, our song is in the key of D, so
the D major scale.
In this case, you know, give we're sort of
using a capo, so
we're going to use all the C major scale
And again, when we teach and work on
scales around here, that's why,
that's why I say time and time again, it's
important to be aware
of the shape of these scales because a lot
of times what we call, you know, an open,
because we're using open scales, open G
shape scale may actually refer to A.
And, it just keeps things a little
If we can really just pay attention to
more how the,
how the scale form feels under your
And again, the more you can, the quicker
you can memorize these things and
get them under your fingers the better.
But, just to review a little bit.
Their basic C shape here.
this is another reason why we start with
the lowest note possible,
which would be an open sixth string, which
is going to be the third of the scale.
So, it starts on the third.
So, there's the third, fourth, then the
fifth, and then the sixth, seventh degree,
and then back to the
And, that gets us back up here to.
We're going to stop there.
Because again, we're working with,
with walking bass runs and that's
obviously lower notes.
And, we don't need necessarily to go much
higher than that.
As far as just what we're gonna learn out
of these walking bass runs in
Ragtime Annie.
Once again, just using the same C-major
open position scale form.
Starting with the low open E.
First fret, third fret, open.
Second fret.
which gets us back to this form.
And then, the basic,
the rest of the scale,
So, that, that's our basic, you know,
theory behind this.
And so, what I'm gonna do gonna look at
different ways to, I'll,
I'll play it and then I'll kind of break
it down what I've done,.
And, and then discuss the tools that are
involved, and how you can kind of again,
we've talked about having options, look at
these things as options.
There's different ways,
there's not just one way to get from a
chord to another chord all the time.
Sometimes, there's multiple ways, and it's
good to know that you've got these options
and again that kind of comes back to why
this is in the improve workshop here.
Because you're essentially improvising
your rhythm part, you know.
And, just, just, just as any other
just feeling confident with what kinda
options you have when you're playing
helps you kind of realize your situation.
How to maximize that situation, you know,
understanding your role as a rhythm guitar
player and a support, but also you know,
using your support to also embellish,
you know, the scene where you are and make
the most of it.
So, here it is, one more time.
Darryl Anger's gonna play Ragtime Annie
twice for us and
I'm gonna use some walking bass runs and
then we'll discuss what happened.
So, that
was two
with some
And I started with a walking base run,
which is always a good thing to do,
especially when the fiddle player has
played the, and what called potatoes.
Right, so.
And, we,
we establish the down beat because of our,
our, the strong walk in to it.
And, there's your down beat,
the new chord.
And, you're off to the races, and
it kind of right off the bat, kinda talks
about or bring the point up about
the strength of these walking base runs
and what they kind of do to your rhythm.
You can hear how it's a lot, you know,
it's more interesting than just the
alternating bass,
it had some of that in there too.
But, it's a ways to kind of, again,
we're sort of digging deeper into how to
embellish rhythm.
How to just take basic boom chuck
alternating base,
sort of country style and make a little
more of a statement with it.
And, from here, we just, you know, from
the, again from the get go,
walking straight into, into the downbeat.
again we've got our our major scale theory
at work here.
we wanna get down to the 5th.
We got one, four, and five.
That gets us down to there.
What's important again,
just as we established the downbeat from
the very first run,
it's really important to,
to understand where those chords change
that's why I put the basic version up
there first.
Having awareness of where all those chords
are, kind of internalizing and, and
really, really deeply understanding where
the downbeats need to fall.
You know, you sort of, as you learn the
melody of a tune,
you also learn the chord progression.
And, from there, you learn the
possibilities of what to do with that
chord progression and these are, you know
the first level of,
of embellishments here with the walking
base run.
That basically is a reverse.
You know, from, from this, the D down to
the A, the one to the five.
And, the other one I did was walking up to
the four.
Just basically walking, you know,
simple sort of two-note walks, three-note
You can hear all that was working there.
You can go check that, check that out
again if you, if you choose.
You can hear it all sort of come together.
From here, I want to talk to you about
understanding your options, you know,
based, again, based on the sort of measure
scale theory.
Now, we're break things down, and sort of
look at okay,
we're gonna look from the first changes,
To get to this G shape, the A chord,
the five,
In this version we just did
The walk.
So again, looking at this being our
our target note,
our target beat, that's where we want
everything to land.
Other options
Hear how it kind of does the same thing,
but it's different notes.
And again, this is where the improvisation
component comes in.
What you choose to do is whatever you
choose to do,
but know that there are options.
There's also, you know.
There's a fifth there.
It gets a little bit out of, you know,
the idea of you know, our, our bass notes
are the root notes.
And, we're, here, we're just listening to
guitar and fiddle, so
it's very important to kind of keep those
low notes, on those downbeats.
But, you know, just for the sake of
You know,
playing that open third string [SOUND] is
also the fifth.
Just going right up the scale.
[SOUND] I chose to do a long one there.
[SOUND] One, two, three, four, five.
There was a one note shorter.
And, and the idea there is again, being
sure of where that downbeat is.
You have the option as a rhythm player to
make that run as long or
as short as you want to.
Now, it sort of gets into the the realm of
what's tasteful or not.
Some people would, would argue, you know,
one case or the other, [COUGH] about,
you know, maybe your base runs are too
active, there's too many notes.
Usually keeping it simpler is, is a good
place to start.
But, again, the lesson here that I want,
want students,
to, to, to receive here is to know, is
knowing that you have options.
base runs don't always have to be
your next neighboring note one way or the
As long as you get to the not that you're
targeting, that's, that's your goal.
And, and again, like in the b section.
That was one way.
we're kinda mixing it up a little bit.
we went,Still using those same notes in
the, in that major scale form.
Started higher and then back up.
But, it all got there.
And, notice that most of these runs
you know, we want to keep our fretting
hands as quiet as possible.
You don't wanna, at this point, you don't
want a lot of movement.
So, we find runs that not only set up that
note, but
set up that whole chord shape as naturally
as possible.
The more you can get there smoothly, and
again we come back to this
smooth transition, and we're kinda
creating these for ourselves.
And again, this is sorta the
improvisational component here and
of sorta some of the underlying things.
Again, we talked about the target
recognizing the space
from where you're staring to where that
target is.
Now, the next thing is, you know, not only
is that target that note, but
it's that whole chord because a there's
the strum coming up right after,
right after the base note is established.
you know, that, that, laid nicely.
As opposed.
You know, moving too much around.
[COUGH] wouldn't set up that chord shape
as well for me.
So usually, when I choose to do a walking
base run it's going to be something that
feels fairly logical, that feels like it's
supporting the scene that's there.
There's not a, again, there's not a bass
player in our little duet here that
Darrel and I have, or that when you're
playing along with him that you'll have.
But, again, as the bigger lesson here, if
you're in a jam session or
playing with a band with a bass player
with other guitar players, you know,
just recognize that less is more most of
the time.
I think that's again, that, that's a good
sort of clue there but for
this case too for, for just trying and for
students that submit videos here.
You know, explore your options it's all,
you know, there's really no wrong answer
as long as the target is reached and the
chord is solid, you know?
Those, those are your have-tos.
How you get there is your choice and,
you know, we can go from basic major scale
We're sort of moving in to some of the
[COUGH] sort of,
you know, up through the, you know,
maybe the curriculum maybe, as opposed to
working through basic kind of things.
you have chromatic notes.
we're basing everything out of this d,
this uh,major scale But again, because
it's improv,
and because we're looking for, you know,
landing those rhythms, we're, our, our
first and
foremost goal here is to, is to be
supportive rhythm players.
And so, that's, that's what we don't wanna
loose to the sake
of just making an interesting base run.
Our, our job is to be supportive.
But, you know, within that, we have some
freedom to make these runs interesting.
So, I would be curious to see what videos
we get and, and some different options.
Don't necessarily copy what I did.
Use some of these tools.
Recognize these major scale notes.
Try some of your own.
You know, there's just the fact that you,
you can use some chromatics means, you
know, whatever gets there in time.
Maybe, okay.
We can talk about it, you know.
If we see it and it works or if we see
that maybe something can be slightly
tweaked about it we can dive into that as
But, I really do look forward to hearing
some different interpretations.
You know, it's Ragtime annie and it's a
great song to look at and
have fun with it and I'll look forward to
to hearing some great rhythm.