An early form of jazz music, created just before the turn of the 20th century, ragtime is a popular form of music that you’ve undoubtedly heard many times. Some ragtime music is completely written out (like Classical concert music) and other times it is more of an improvised style of music. You might be familiar with the rags of Scott Joplin who is probably the most famous Ragtime pianist known for The Entertainer as well as other music.
Ragtime is typically associated with a fast and upbeat style of music. However, Scott Joplin himself was quoted as saying, “Ragtime should never be played fast”. Is there a right or wrong speed or tempo of this music? Like most things from different eras, it’s open to interpretation. Some people prefer ragtime slower, while some prefer a faster tempo. The bottom line is enjoying the music and making it your own.
Another common misconception about ragtime is that it should be played with a “swing” feel to the music in which the notes are played with a long-short emphasis on each 2 note group. This style became popular decades later. What does differentiate ragtime music from other genres is the syncopated rhythms which are played off the beat of the music. When you listen to ragtime you’ll find it almost impossible not to move because of the bouncy quality of the syncopation. It makes you want to dance!
What’s fun about ragtime is that you can take nearly any song or piece – old, contemporary, Classical, whatever you can imagine – syncopate the rhythms and play it in a ragtime style. If you have a chance to watch the video provided with this article you’ll see Jonny play some amazing examples of taking popular music from different eras and turning them into ragtime.
The alternating octaves and chords in the left hand in ragtime are one of the biggest technical challenges for most people approaching this style of music. This is a technique rarely used in Classical music with some notable exceptions, such as the end of the 6th Hungarian Rhapsodie of Franz Liszt. So, what advice did Jonny give us? Simplifying the music is a great way to get yourself acclimated to playing ragtime. Jonny recommends using shorter jumps between octaves and chords and possibly leaving out some notes until you get comfortable with the style. Jonny also recommends watching your left hand as opposed to the right hand since the left hand will be jumping from octave to chord back and forth while the right hand stays relatively in the same position.
Another thing that’s so fascinating about ragtime music is that almost every piece contains a melancholy section. No matter how happy the piece is, there always seems to be a section that changes the mood. It’s a great compositional technique that adds depth of emotion to the music.
Ragtime was developed in the late 1800s through the early 20th century and really hit it’s stride around 1898 with the release of Maple Leaf Rag. It was a very popular form of music in it’s day and contemporary composers from that time would sometimes write rags or rag-style music into their pieces – such as Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk and some music of Gershwin.
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We are very happy to welcome our guest Jonny May www.PianoWithJonny.com on this video. Jonny is an expert at Ragtime music who will share his music and knowledge with us. An early form of jazz music, created just before the turn of the 20th century, ragtime is a popular form of music that you’ve undoubtedly heard many times. … Continue reading What is Ragtime Music?Read More