The Transition into new music: Ragtime

Origin and Characteristics

Ragtime is a musical style during the period of 1896 and 1920. It is a genre of music for the piano with a highly syncopated treble over a steady bass. It is typically composed in three to four sections. In the style of ragtime it is typically described as a “ragged time”,  where the piano is broken up in syncopated rhythms with a overall beat as well. Syncopation is described as the misplaced beat or the displaced beat from the regular meter of the song. The style of music originates in cities in the Midwest, such as St. Louis. Ernest Hogan was one of the famously known composers of ragtime that had his pieces published as sheet music. One of his famous songs were “La Pas Ma La”. Additionally, Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin was published and sold over a million copies. Ragtime gained popularity and boosted sales in pianos.Along with the piano the banjo and fiddle were instruments also used in ragtime. It originated from the “jig piano” or “piano thumping”. Ragtime was usually written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. This time creates the feel for a short, long, short long sound heard in ragtime.  Ragtime comes in various different styles such as cakewalk, two-step, slow drag, classic rag, folk ragtime, and coon song.

Scott Joplin
James P. Johnson



Scott Joplin – Popular pieces “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag.” He was known as “the King of Ragtime”

Jelly Roll Morton- Popular pieces “King Porter Stomp” and “Black Bottom Stomp.” 

James P. Johnson – popular pieces “Charleston,” one of the signature ragtime songs of the 1920s 

James Scott – popular pieces “Climax Rag,” “Frog Legs Rag,” and “Grace and Beauty

Social Implication, Commodification & Influences of Future Genres

African Americans were gaining credit for their talents and making money to support their families and themselves. This time period of song was uplifting and changing the attitude in the black community. During the ragtime era Coon song was a type of song that had racist lyrics and derogatory statements made about African Americans and was performed by caucasians in blackface. Quartets and ragtime influenced the transition into blues and Jazz.

Coon Ragtime

Conclusory Opinions

Ragtime was a very important transition in African American Music it was one of the first times African Americans were credited for their talent and paid good money to make a living off of. The style of music was different from the style of negro spiritual and folk music. It was the beginning of a new era in music.

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