What is Ragtime ?


Ragtime developed toward the end of the 19th century in African American communities in the Southern Midwest, particularly St. Louis, Missouri. This music form became prominent through the sale of sheet music and piano rolls. Ragtime was a part of a song, dance, and instrumental music production used with cake walk (a dance where black slaves acted out parodies of upper-class whites and whoever performed the best received cake as a prize) and coon songs ( songs that stereotyped African Americans).

Ragtime is characterized by its ragged rhythm and use of the piano. The term “rag” in ragtime emphasizes the performance aspect of ragtime, in which it means to syncopate a tune. The defining characteristic of ragtime music is a particular type of modification in which melodic accents fall between metrical beats. Which is achieved by the Right Hand playing a modified melody while the Left-Hand plays a simple regular line of alternating bass notes and simple chords.

Ragtime music began to become the interest of European American classical composers. They then began to adopt ragtime into their own compositions. Which were published and used for ballets and Broadway shows to their benefit with no credit to the ragtime influence.

Ragtime emerged before music recordings were an option. Which is why sheet music and piano rolls were the most prominent form of sale or transmission between composers. This led to actual audio recordings. Ragtime also strongly influenced Blues and Jazz pianist, who incorporated ragtime piano structures in their works.

Important Ragtime Composers Include:

Scott Joplin

Jelly Roll Morton

Eubie Blake

James P. Johnson

Joseph Lamb

James Scott

Here are some Ragtime songs


by Jiana Barnes

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