My Standards

My banjo playing cannot be called professional nor amateur, it is more like hobbyist.  Since my sight reading skills are not overly developed, I have to memorize each measure of music as quickly as possible.  Over the years Iíve learned a number of pieces, but if I donít keep playing them, I tend to forget them.  Unfortunately, a lot of the pieces were arrangements from either piano music or modifications of pieces published for the banjo.  When I go back to relearn a piece I find myself saying ďI donít remember playing this piece this way!Ē  Over the past few years Iíve used music notation software for documenting most of my endeavors.  As a result, Iíve got quite a few files of first banjo arrangements that are anywhere from just started to complete, very few of the files have seconds.  In the summer of Ď98 I started to clean-up my files and thought it would be nice to convert them to MIDI's and post them on the web for others to hear.  Along the way, I decided to post the standards for the ABF first and, except for the Scott and Morley pieces (which may still be covered by copyright laws), that task is about finished.   So now I am back to my original task.  These are pieces that I enjoy playing over and over and as such I call them "My Standards."  Please let me know how you like them!

Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin (1899).  Iíve always enjoyed listening to this piece.  I remember back in the 70ís hearing an old 78 of Vess Ossman playing this piece so effortlessly and wishing I could play like that.  It wasnít until the early 80ís that a friend of mine played a version of it on a banjo and I said to myself,  ďIf Kevin can do it, I can do it!Ē  So after about four weeks of struggling with piano music, I finally had figured out how to play Maple Leaf in the key of G (Joplin wrote it in Ab, but a half step lower placed it in a key I was comfortable with.  I later learned that, except for Fred Van Eps, most banjoists play it in the key of C.)  So I had taught myself my first piece in the classic banjo style, and it has been a hobby that has stayed with me since then.  The MIDI file presented here is how I play it today.  I hope you enjoy listening to it!

Mississippi Rag by William H. Krell (1897).  Although the publisher claims this piece is "the first rag-time two-step ever written," it is clearly a traditional cakewalk.  This piece is quite easy to play on the banjo and is suitable for the advanced beginner on up. For those interested, an A-notation copy of this piece is available for viewing in the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music (search for Misssissippi Rag within "Title"). 

Peaceful Henry by E. Harry Kelly (1901).  Kelly composed this piece as an employee of Carl Hoffman's publishing house and named the piece after Hoffman's janitor. In 1903 Charles N. Daniels purchased the rag and had it recorded by Vess L. Ossman, after which it became nationally known, a first for a rag from Kansas City, MO. Ossman's recording still has an impact upon people, it inspired me to learn the piece. The arrangement is my own, it is not a transcription of Ossman's playing.

Popularity by George M. Cohan (1906). George M. Cohan is best known for his Broadway musicals.  A few of his best known pieces are Yankee Doodle Boy, Over There, and Give My Regards to BroadwayPopularity is the only rag he composed and it was the first popular rag to be published in New York City.  Both Vess Ossman and Fred Van Eps have recorded this piece.  It wasn't until hearing it played by Bo Grumpus that I was inspired to learn this piece.  As a banjo solo the piece lacks the depth obtainable on the piano, hopefully, the guitar accompaniment restores the fullness to this piece.

St. Louis Tickle by Barney & Seymour (1904).  This piece can also be heard on the More ABF page.  This arrangement has a guitar second.  The first banjo part is the way I currently play the piece.

Temptation Rag by Henry Lodge (1909).  This is a million seller rag from that Golden Age of ragtime (1904-1910) and it is a very impressive banjo piece when played well.  Unfortunately, it is also a difficult piece to master.  Iíve taken liberties with the melody line to make the piece more playable from standard chord positions.  However, I have tried to maintain the original syncopation.  Although, for me, this arrangement is easier than taking the melody line directly from the piano score, it is still a major exercise in 2nd and 3rd inversions of seventh chords.

Très Moutarde (Too Much Mustard) by Cecil Macklin (1911).  I first heard this two-step played by Jack Werner at an ABF Rally and just about left my skin behind as I rushed over to him to ask for a copy of the music.  Jack gave me a copy of his arrangement and I have since modified it somewhat, but not much.  I originally made a second banjo part for it, but I think it sounds better with a guitar.

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Copyright W. Talley.  All rights reserved.
Created July 8, 1999. Last updated May, 2002.