ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ragtime Blues Guitar Lessons - Rag in C - Turn That Thing Around!

Updated on August 7, 2014

What's A Turnaround?

For this short (but sweet) acoustic blues guitar lesson, I take a look at the chord progression often found between verses in a typical ragtime song.

In the early 1900s, a style of guitar playing made popular by traveling medicine shows became as 'ragtime blues', or often it was named 'Piedmont Blues'. The bouncy, happy sound contrasted significantly with the slower, darker sounds of the delta blues, which was often played in E, A or open tuning.

(The Photo is called 'Prison Dancer' and it is in the Public Domain for Copyright purposes.)

By Urthogie at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Urthogie at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Introduction To The Idea and Construction Of The Turnaround.

The bouncy ragtime piano ragtime style was quickly adapted to the guitar, and was a complex style. Ragtime blues guitar songs, whose lyrics were often barely disguised sexual innuendo, were performed very successfully by some artists, notably Blind Blake (more about him in a later Lens), Reverend Gary Davis (who could play any style), Pink Anderson, Sam Chatmon, Blind Willie McTell, Hacksaw Harney and Blind Boy Fuller. Other artists, such as Big Bill Broonzy, touched on the ragtime feel, but had a much broader repertoire.

Often these songs were played in the keys of C, G and D, which lend themselves to the alternating bass picking pattern prevalent in this music. As you listen to a ragtime song, a couple of things might strike you. First of all, they tend to move at a good pace, which is often testimony to the skill and accuracy of the players. Secondly, there are common structural elements between songs in the same key, which is not too surprising.

One of these elements I call the 'turnaround' - that short progression of chords that is played between two verses. It provides breathing space between separate sets of lyrics, giving space, building tension and also providing an opportunity for the guitarist to showcase his skills.

Video Instruction - Learning Ragtime Blues Guitar

Before we look at the turnaround, here's a few tips about fingerpicking ragtime blues style ...

Copyright Jim Bruce 2009
Copyright Jim Bruce 2009

Turnaround For A Ragtime Song In The Key Of C


A video replaces a thousand words of explanation, but I'll quickly go through the chord sequence here (the video below will put the icing on the cake.) You might just strum these chords before trying the picking pattern I show you later on.

After finishing a verse, we start the turnaround with a basic C chord. As you can see, I don't hold down the bass E string - the philosophy is (almost) always 'if you don't play the string with your right hand, don't fret it with your left!) This will become clearer in the video.

Copyright Jim Bruce 2009
Copyright Jim Bruce 2009


We then move on to F. The diagram opposite shows half of the F chord. Remember - if I'm only plucking the last four strings, then I won't bother fretting the others. This allow for a lot of speed and flexibility, but we need to make sure that our right hand palm keeps contact with those unfretted strings. If not, they may vibrate and make horrible dischordant sounds.

It's quite rare for me to play a full F chord. Often I'll play this shape and also hold down the bass E with my thumb. This configuration frees up the little finger of my left hand to play around on the treble strings.

Copyright Jim Bruce 2009
Copyright Jim Bruce 2009

Next we have a cheeky little chord which often figures in ragtime progressions - Ab7. Here again, the full chord includes the bass E fretted on the second fret with the thumb. As I'm not plucking that string with my right hand, guess what? That's right - you've got it now ...

Play this one with your index finger across the first four strings, and you ring (or little) finger, to fret the high E on the second fret.

Nearly there - not hard at all is it? One more chord to go.

Copyright Jim Bruce 2009
Copyright Jim Bruce 2009

After the Ab7 chord we move back to the basic C chord and then to G to finish off the sequence. The full chord sequence is C-C7-F-Ab7-C-G , moving back to C when we start singing the next verse.

This simple progression holds many possibilities, and we look at some of these in the video below. This short study uses Blind Boy Fuller's classic song 'Truckin' Little Baby' to illustrate just one way of picking this turnaround progression.

There are many variations of this song performed by other artists, who use similar picking patterns. When learning blues guitar, it's good to be aware of the wonderful subtleties these artists left us, and pay homage to their genius and way of life. Play around with the progression, add it to your own personal bag of tricks and incorporate it into your music - enjoy!

You'll find a link to two complete free lessons below the video - enjoy!

Blind Boy Fuller - A Carolina Ragtime Giant

Review of the 4CD album 'Blind Boy Fuller Remastered' - also includes Reverend Gary davis and Sonny Terry.

Volume 1: 1935-1938
Volume 1: 1935-1938

Blind Boy was one of the most successful ragtime guitarists and at various times played with Reverend Gary Davis (who was also his teacher), Floyd Council and the legendary harmonica player Sonny Terry - all of which are featured on this album.

The album spotlighted has a few things going for it. Firstly, you get more than just Fuller, but benefit from some of his major collaborations with important artists. Secondly, the tracks are re-mastered digitally and the sound quality is striking. The hisses and clicks associated with old 78 recordings have been removed and it greatly enhances the listening experience.

 

Truckin' Little Baby - Ragtime Turnaround In Key Of C

How To Play Lady Madonna by The Beatles

Some Of Jim's Stuff You Might Like

Some resources that might help in you quest to learn blues guitar.

Guestbook - Go For It - Give It To Me Straight!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • jim bruce guita profile imageAUTHOR

      jim bruce guita 

      5 years ago

      @Harry59: Good question - on old photos I notice that many used plastic thumb picks, but I don't recall finger picks. Gary Davis did, for sure - he said it 'saved the fingers'. Picks are also a natural amplifier, so you don't have to pick so hard.

    • profile image

      Edith54 

      5 years ago

      I prefer the sound of a full bodied guitar, rather than a parlor, but I know they are good for ragtime finger picking.

    • profile image

      Harry59 

      5 years ago

      Did the old ragtime blues pickers use finger picks, or just some of them? What's the difference?

    • profile image

      IrmaCerda138 

      5 years ago

      It's not often you see a lens with so much to give away, like free lessons - thanks.

    • profile image

      FrederickFarr 

      5 years ago

      I didn't even know what a 'turnaround' was - technical term, or did you make it up?

    • profile image

      Amos_Soliz 

      5 years ago

      Cigarette Blues by Bo Carter

    • profile image

      Jeffrey_Mcdowell 

      5 years ago

      Blind Boy Fuller was a really successful ragtime picker, and made over a hundred recors, I think.

    • profile image

      alel1970 

      5 years ago

      Nicely done. I was going to say that I would have liked to see with some more text, but the video explains it well. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Jacquelyn_Moffett 

      5 years ago

      I used to play guitar many moons ago (like a lot of us did!) and this lens is given me a hankerin' to get back into it.

    • profile image

      soetie1973 

      5 years ago

      Nice explanation and nice style - I'll check out your other lenses.

    • profile image

      ErickMull161 

      5 years ago

      Over 200 video on your Youtube Channel - can't be bad.

    • profile image

      Janelle35 

      5 years ago

      Some of those ragtime blues lyrics are downright naughty - listen to Blind Wille McTell's records where he sings with his wife.

    • profile image

      Emmeline76 

      5 years ago

      Great lesson! Ragtime looks tough, but you break it down well - thanks!

    • profile image

      phanthink1967 

      5 years ago

      I've got a long, long way to go before I can pick and sing at the same time.

    • jim bruce guita profile imageAUTHOR

      jim bruce guita 

      5 years ago

      @Lucille_Dinkins: Martin SP lights

    • profile image

      WinnifredPhelan88 

      5 years ago

      Reverend Gary Davis played a Gibson J200 Jumbo, both 6 and 12 string, but I've seen video on Youtube where he plays a Martin dreadnought.

    • profile image

      Lucille_Dinkins 

      5 years ago

      What kind of strings are you using here?

    • profile image

      HelenaZeller149 

      5 years ago

      Some of those guitarists you mentioned I never heard of - I'll check them out.

    • profile image

      JemimaSchroeder192 

      5 years ago

      I love the different sounds of the blues - I know you've got another lens that explains that this music came from Scott Jolin's piano style.

    • profile image

      JacklynFried139 

      5 years ago

      You are a blues man, the blues man of Squidoo

    • profile image

      PhoebeHitt 

      5 years ago

      Picked up my old guitar, blew the dust of and gave it a try, but it doesn't sound like what you are doing! Have you got a special switch on your guitar?

    • profile image

      WalterGregg77 

      5 years ago

      Broonzy does it for me - he didn't alternate his basses, but he sure could swing.

    • profile image

      IsiahHefner139 

      5 years ago

      This style moves me, and I'd like to learn it.

    • profile image

      Elwyn51 

      5 years ago

      There's nothin' cooler than the sound of one man and a guitar - specially if it's the blues!

    • profile image

      EricWeis 

      5 years ago

      I bought Jim's lessons - don't hesitate. You'll learn the real blues and there's enough for a few years learning.

    • profile image

      Jesse47 

      5 years ago

      Great lens, great playing, great blues!

    • profile image

      Darlene92 

      5 years ago

      That Martin 000X1 you are playing is a superb guitar - lovely sound and cheap!

    • Not-Pop profile image

      Not-Pop 

      7 years ago

      What a fantastic little lesson on a style I love. Blessed by the Blues angel!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)