Ragtime: Featured artist Scott Joplin.

Scott Joplin's rag "the Entertainer" was made famous in the film by the same name. He composed a lot of other rags, many more of which are more interesting than that one.

The birthplace of the new art of ragtime was St. Louis, a cosmopolitan port on the Misssissippi river. Its brash, exuberant style evolved from the minstrel songs and dances which were mildly syncopated.

Syncopation is the style where the main accent does not fall on the first beat of the bar.


He was born in in 1868 in Texas, a member of a poor black family. This was only 3 years after the abolition of slavery. He taught himself to play the piano and at 10 years he was finally noticed. A local teacher taught him the rudiments of music. The "Maple Leaf Rag" is almost as famous now. it was a nationwide hit in 1899 and it still is one of the most famous. He was able to retire from public performances and concentrate on composing. Here it is.

Maple Leaf Rag

Most rags are played far too quickly by pianists keen to show off their pianistic abilities. Scott Joplin did not intend them to be played too fast.

Scott Joplin left to St. Louis as a teenager, where he worked as a saloon pianist. He also played the cornet in a brass band while studying harmony and composition. Scott was the first with the ability to notate onto paper the new melodies and rhythms. After the success of the Maple Leaf Rag Scott was accepted as the leading ragtime composer.

Elite Syncopations

The ragtime techniques of Joplin contain strongly rhythmic strains constructed from "reiterated syncopations". Other sources of inspiration were from the "cakewalk" all the way through to "negro" folklore. Later on his personal technique came to the fore with a more melancholy style. These were interwoven with the ragtime rhythms which overall gave the complexity of many of Chopin's Mazukas, with the offbeats and liberal use of diminished chords.


Magnetic Rag

More mature compositions include the "Rose leaf rag", "Euphonic sounds" and "Solace".

Rose Leaf Rag




There are other ragtime composers. Here is "Pegasus" by J.Scott:


...and "Bohemia" by Joseph Lamb:


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