Origin of the Genre

Preceded by its close relative the “cakewalk”, Ragtime developed from secularized Folk music in the mid to late 19th century. The genre peaked in its popularity in 1895-1918. Ragtime music originated in southern Black communities like St. Louis, Missouri but was widely listened to and enjoyed all throughout the United States.

Characteristics of the Genre

Ragtime was primarily instrumental music known for its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm, which became a play off the beat and style of a particular marching style of music popularized by John Philip Sousa. Ragtime music was a kind of swing music that has the left hand playing bass notes on beats 1 & 3 and chords on beats 2 & 4 while an accompanying melody is played in the right hand. The piano often mimicked sounds made from banjo or fiddle.

Important Performers

  • Scott Joplin
  • Ted Turpin
  • James Scott
  • Eubie Blake


An example of the commodification of ragtime can be seen with the publication of Scott Joplin’s ” Maple Leaf Rag.” The publisher John Stark received a penny per copy in royalties and by 1909 half a million copies were sold.

Influences of Future Genres

Ragtime, along with the blues, can be attributed to the early development of jazz. Elements of rag have been revived in modern day jazz.

Conclusory Opinions

In conclusion,ragtime music was essential in the progression of Black musical style. The swing style that rag music trademarked is now seen in a majority of Black classical music, pop music, and modern day jazz.

Tyler Jennings

Tyler Jennings

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