Ragtime developed in African American communities throughout the southern parts of the Midwest, particularly St. Louis. Ragtime began as popular dance music in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The melodies of Ragtime avoiding some metrical beats often found in march time or waltz time which were popular beats during the time. “Swing” was also used as a way to characterize the sounds of ragtime music. Ragtime was also considered somewhat classical as it was passed on by written sheet music as opposed to other genres passed along only by ear.
Ragtime combines rhythms that were brought to this country by slaves, with musical forms brought over to the United States from Europe. Ragtime uses syncopated rhythms which are accents in the melody that are shifted away from the strong beats in the bass line underneath. The term “ragged time,” refers to its rhythmically broken up melodies. Scott Joplin is one of the most famous ragtime composers. The songs “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer” are some of the genre’s most famous pieces.