Road Tested Method Book Review- “The New Art of Ragtime Guitar” by Richard S. Saslow

I first noticed Richard S. Saslow’s book entitled “The Art if Ragtime Guitar” in 1975 in an advertisement in the back section of the November issue of Guitar Player Magazine.

The advertisement read:

“ Green Note’s latest.  Complex finger picking moves you beyond traditional two and three chord songs and into the sounds and chord progressions of early jazz. The demonstration record, together with transcriptions, musical analysis, and nearly 100 instructional photos, make clear numerous finger picking techniques, some never before discussed in print. The finest book on finger picking guitar yet produced. Tab included”

Yahoo….and all for the whopping price of $4.95! I was sold. After all, I had been listening carefully to Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller and other rag guitar icons after being introduced to them by Boston ragtime guitarist Pete Kairo and Yazoo Records. I eagerly ordered my copy.  The book came a few weeks later complete with the little flimsy plastic record and I began to dig in.

"The New Art of Ragtime Guitar" by Richard S. Saslow

 

The book was just as advertised. Richard had composed seven original ragtime pieces and he included extremely detailed instructions for each piece as well as the scores in musical notation and guitar tablature. The book contained three sections. The first section is a general review of finger style technique for the ragtime style. Richard covered both the right and left hand essentials in great detail using pictures, chord grids, musical notation and tablature to great effect.

The second section included a very detailed analysis of segments of measures for each composition. This section is so complete that any student determined to play the ragtime  style can learn how to do so with some concentrated practice.

The last section includes the complete scores of each composition and Richard’s songs are extremely musical, well constructed and fun to learn. The tunes are written in C and few other sharp keys friendly to the guitar. The chords used in the compositions include a combination of open, barred and broken string chords and the songs are graded from the least challenging to the most challenging as the book progresses.  Any student who digests Richard’s book will have a great foundation for ragging the blues in an ad hoc improvisational manner.

Unfortunately some where along the line of the many moves from upstate NY to Atlanta I lost the book. It may still be buried in some unopened box from one of the family moves. Who knows?

Any way, I was ecstatic when I learned the book had been republished by Richard Saslow in 2011 under the title “The New Art of Ragtime Guitar” for $24.95 and was readily available on the net. I quickly ordered my copy again but this time there was no little flimsy plastic record but MP-s files downloaded from the Internet.  The songs and format are identical to the original book except Richard has added one additional composition entitled, the “Absquatulation Rag”

After playing through the compositions in the book, I felt like I had found a long lost friend.  I have already begun to use “The New Art of Ragtime Guitar”  with some of my students. I highly recommend this book to any player who wants a solid introduction to ragtime fingerstyle.

Well done Richard and thank you!

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