It’s About That (Rag)time!


Ragtime was developed at the end of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century between 1890-1917. Originally, ragtime was uniformly defined as having African American roots. It was first seen in African American communities in the United States, most likely in the midwest and southern areas. Ragtime was played by African American musicians in clubs and bars, and became popular across the U.S. once sheet music for pianos came about.


Ragtime was variously conceived as song, dance, and syncopated instrumental music. Coon songs, typically performed by Whites in blackface, and African Americans in minstrel shows, portray stereotypical lyrics sung in “negro” dialect. Cakewalk, was a dance that parodies White upper-class behavior, was performed by African American slaves. The best performance was awarded a prize of a cake. Ragtime’s primary sound is piano, so its springy style made it well known.

Popular Performers:

One popular performer is Scott Joplin. He formulated concrete guidelines for playing ragtime, particularly his own music. Ernest Hogan’s 1896 piece called “All Coons Look Like Me” was one of the most successful but also infamous coon songs, documents the practice of highlighting melody. The first major African American composer of rags, Tom Turpin was especially known for being an excellent performer. He fostered the careers of other African American piano players by enabling them to play and compose ragtime for him.


The performers of ragtime did not receive a lot of income from being the originators of the genre. This was most likely due to the lack of publishing music because of the problems faced with publishing companies. While African American composers and musicians weren’t getting the money they deserved, white audience members wrote and published sheet music from the performer and received money that was originally not published by them.

Musical Influence:

Ragtime had a huge influence on jazz music. The tempo used in ragtime music followed its way in the basis of the tempo in jazz.


I believe that ragtime was the first start of music being upbeat and unique. It doesn’t surprise me that the whites used ragtime as a way to make money off it. I think what the African Americans produced with ragtime made for something that influenced future generations of music.



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