A classic ragtime piano tune arranged for six-string guitar
This article features an arrangement of a classic ragtime piano tune by George Botsford (February 24, 1874 – February 11, 1949). It was first published in 1908 and, as well as being one of Botsford’s most important compositions, it also made its way onto television as the theme tune for the BBC2 snooker tournament Pot Black!
This version for solo guitar is in Drop D tuning and it opens with a slightly reduced version of the piano octave introduction. The triplet contains a hammer-on and it is plucked with fingers i and a. This figure is followed by a group of octaves with the thumb plucking the lower notes while the upper notes are played with alternating m and i strokes. In bar three, fretting-hand fingers one, three and four are used, after which digits one and three can shift up a fret to form the D chord with the addition of finger two.
From bar five, all stems pointing downward are plucked with the thumb. Try playing through the bass line from bars five to 10 and you will hear an alternating feel coupled with some walking bass line ideas. Next, play through the upper, melodic part using fingers only – i.e. no thumb – to get a feel for the syncopated tune. Following on, combine the two parts ultimately ensuring that the swing is completely stable.
This technique is interrupted at bar 11 by an arpeggio run. All fingerings are marked in the score and the final note in bar 12 is a harmonic on string three at the fifth fret. Remember, the closer your picking hand is to the bridge when plucking this note, the crisper the sound.
We are in familiar territory once again from bar 13 and the chord sequence throughout bars 17 and 18 dictates some slightly tricky fretwork. The fourth note in bar 17 is an open first string and this will give you time to fret the G sharp on string sixth with finger four. Once again, an open string – this time the B – at the end of the same bar allows time for you to shift your fretting hand back down for the A on string three.
The full version of ‘Black And White Rag’ contains three more sections of fun albeit challenging arpeggios and scale figures. The piano score is readily available so why not have a go at arranging these for solo guitar!
Download the tablature here: Black and White Rag w fingerings