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Rag for Ry
from Acoustic Guitar Workshop’s Fingerstyle Fusion
This tune is dedicated to Ry Cooder due to its use of one of his famous turnarounds as the backbone of the piece. Although primarily known as a slide player, Ry is also a phenomenal country blues picker, making it a shame that more of his material in this vein isn’t readily available.
To get a handle on the feel of the tune, pay close attention to the note values and keep the tune to a medium to slow pace until it feels comfortable. The song is deceptive – it looks simple, but nailing the feel requires practice.
The theme is sketched out in the first four bars – a bluesy, melodic motif against a classic boogie bassline providing movement underneath. The melody relies on hammer-ons and pull-offs, and proper fingering helps things flow smoothly. Try using your pinky for the 4th fret pull-off on the high E while using your first and ring finger to cope with the bassline. Also, even though this is a bluesy tune in E, keeping the left hand centered around the second fret will help sort out fingering issues.
Measure 9 starts off like the two previous cycles, but adds in an abbreviated, heavily syncopated bassline, accentuating the tune’s country-blues roots. Again, proper fingering is integral to not only keep the tune’s rhythm intact but to set up for the famous turnaround coming up in measure 14. Bar 14 starts the turnaround and the 3rd and 6th string harmonies lend the turnaround a deep richness. To really get it together, play around with syncopation to give it the proper feel.
After the turnaround, measure 18 moves to the IV chord and features a double-stop walk up before repeating the main theme at the move back to the I at measure 22. The move to the B in measure 30 underscores the mobility of the passage – it helps to visualize the A and B phrases as mini-barre chords to understand their relationship to their respective chords as well as to each other. After a series of repeats, “Rag for Ry” ends on the turnaround established earlier in the piece.
Once you are comfortable with this tune, pick up the tempo and try muting the bass lines to lend it an air of authenticity. We hope you’ve had fun with this month’s “Fingerstyle Fusion” and our look into Ry Cooder’s famous turnaround.
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