The ragtime and early jazz music pioneers during the first decades of the last century didn’t know that the sounds they created would echo in the music that people loved for years to come. They started an American music tradition that is alive to this day. I was born and raised in Sweden and I have always enjoyed the music from that era but being a Guitarist, I never thought that playing back-up in a jazz band was for me. I’d rather do something with these songs so that they would fit my approach playing fingerstyle Guitar.
Many of the early jazz songs and of course classical ragtime often is played as Piano music, with a steady left hand playing bass notes and chords together with the right hand playing a syncopated melody on top. This style of playing is very similar to the alternating bass style on the Guitar. So these tunes easily lend themselves to a fingerstyle arrangement.
With classical ragtime I approach arranging by transcribing the original Piano sheet-music. The important thing is to find keys that suit the Guitar and then decide what notes not to play since it is not technically possible to play all the notes in a Piano score on the Guitar. I like to play in keys that will give me the opportunity to use open strings in the bass while the melody moves up and down the neck. This is especially important since my aim is to make my arrangements not too difficult to play, so that the player can concentrate on the music instead of being too concerned with the technical aspects of his/her playing. The most important challenge though, is to make the tune sound like Guitar music, not Piano music played on the Guitar.