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FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / Any ragtime players here?

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Contributing Member

Watertown, MA

Feb 27th, 2006 08:50 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm a total hack piano player and know hardly a thing about proper fingerings or technique, but I got the sheet music for Scott Joplin's "Solace" - one of my favorite piano tunes of all time - and I'm trying to learn how to play it. I really should get an Alfred's beginning adult piano book. But for now should I take it just a measure at a time with both hands, try each hand individually, or what? Any advice for a beginner?

Anna Crusis

Theory Geek...

... and proud of it.
Feb 27th, 2006 11:24 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

That's a beautiful composition. I love playing ragtime, and have shocked a few audiences by playing pieces by Joplin, James Scott, or Joseph Lamb as encores at stuffy classical recitals. As far as I'm concerned, they're just as worthy as a Chopin waltz or a Schubert dance.

Ragtime is technically demanding, though, and 'Solace' is no exception. If you're determined to learn it no matter how long it takes, I'd say go ahead, but if you're trying to improve your piano skills, you'd probably make more rapid progress by starting out with easier material. I think a lot of adult beginners have the problem that their musical tastes are far more advanced than their playing skills, so they tend to want to play things that are just too hard for where they are technically.

I'd start out hands separately, but only play that way until you understand what each part is supposed to sound like and have the fingering worked out. The majority of your practice time should be hands together, because coordination between the hands is usually the hardest thing to get. *Slow* practice and practice with a metronome should be helpful.

There's a copy of 'Solace' in the folio 'World's Greatest Ragtime Solos' (Alfed Pub., Maurice Hinson, ed.) that has the fingering notated for the tricky parts. You might check to see if your local library has a copy.

Contributing Member


Does Moe's have a bathroom?
Feb 28th, 2006 01:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I should have a copy of that here somewhere.

Scott Joplin can be tricky for beginners - large hand spans and leaps and lots of octaves - so take it slowly and don't be too impatient.

Left hand right through then right hand then both.



reality is hard to define
Apr 3rd, 2006 11:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I played the 'Maple Leaf Rag' by Scott Joplin and have never looked back. Joplin's rags are for the most part very beautiful. Try especially 'Gladiolus Rag', 'Magnetic Rag' and don't forget his collaboration with the ill-fated young genius Louis Chauvin....'Heliotrope Bouquet'



Apr 7th, 2006 07:40 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Here is a great link to orignial ragtime sheetmusic available for free download
Some covers and titles are politically incorrect..

link title, please

(This message was last edited by amcrory at 03:58 PM, Apr 16th, 2007)



May 31st, 2006 06:55 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Could anybody please recommend me a few ragtimes from the page whose link Stanza has copied? I don't think I know any of them, and since I don't have much time to download things, I'd like to know which ones are more beautiful and worth learning (technique is not a problem).

Anna Crusis

Theory Geek...

... and proud of it.
Jun 6th, 2006 10:48 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi, Colombo. There are some good pieces in the Colorado Archive, but to tell you the truth, most of them are there not because they're good, but because they're out-of-print, incredibly rare and unavailable anywhere else.

Having said that, you can't go wrong with anything by Scott Joplin, James Scott, or Joseph Lamb.

If you just want to learn some really good rags, get a copy of 'Classic Piano Rags', edited by the late Rudi Blesh.

If you really want to delve into the Colorado Archive, first get a copy of 'Rags and Ragtime' by Jasen and Tichenor. It will help you sort out the outstanding pieces from the mediocre ones.

Both these books are still in print and are available either from amazon.com or doverpublications.com.



Jun 8th, 2006 01:02 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi Anna,

Thank you very much for your answer. Much as I like it, I'm not a ragtime expert; in fact, the only rags I've ever learnt are "The Entertainer" and "Maple Leaf Rag", both by Joplin. I was already considering the possibility of buying a book with Joplin's rags, but I preferred to look for some rags by other authors. That sheet music book you've told me about seems a good starting point. Also, the other book will be very interesting and helpful, in case I learn all the rags in the first book and, thirsty for more, try to find something else in the Colorado Archive.

I'd like to know something more: is there a good CD with recordings of the rags contained in "Classic piano rags"? Knowing how they sound, it would be easier to choose which ones to learn first (although I can get a general idea by playing them once, hearing them at the right speed would make things easier).

Thanks again for your help!



Jun 16th, 2006 07:57 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Twelfth Street rag, Ragtime Cowboy Joe, Darktown Strutters Ball, Dill Pickles, are pretty good. Do a google search for Perfessor Bill Edwards to hear some midis of rags that might be there!



Jun 19th, 2006 01:44 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'll have a look at those ones. Thanks!



Jun 21st, 2006 06:20 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


I've already taken a look at Perfessor Bill Edwards's site, and there's something I'd like to ask you. I've listened to the midi file of "Maple Leaf Rag", and I see it's different from the one I know! Apart from an intro I don't have in my score and from the repetition of the first section at the end, the midi file in that web seems more elaborated than the version I knew (that can be found at ), with some ornaments in the right hand and a different bass notes in the left. How come that? I hope I haven't learnt a simplified version!

make a link

(This message was last edited by amcrory at 03:59 PM, Apr 16th, 2007)

Anna Crusis

Theory Geek...

... and proud of it.
Jun 21st, 2006 10:34 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The version at metronimo.com is the full original published version, not simplified.

There is a long tradition of playing improvisations and variations in ragtime, and that is what Bill Edwards is doing in his version. If you ever hear the piano rolls that Scott Joplin made of his own compositions, even he rarely plays them exactly as written in the sheet music.

I missed your earlier post about looking for good contemporary ragtime artists. I think the best ones playing today are Scott Kirby, John Arpin, David Thomas Roberts, Morten Gunnar Larsen, and Dick Hyman. There is not a big market for ragtime music today, so their recordings unfortunately can be hard to find.



Jun 23rd, 2006 05:00 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi Anna,

Thank you very much for your answer. I had no idea that ragtime players improvised. I'm no good at improvising, but I think I'll listen carefully to Bill Edwards' version to see what he does, and I'll try to play something of my own the next time I play "Maple Leaf Rag" (that is, tonight, as soon as I get home). I'll also take a look and see whether I can find recordings by those players you've mentioned.

After reading your second paragraph, for a moment I thought there could exist recordings by Scott Joplin. But then, I wondered why you'd called them "piano rolls". I've gone to Amazon, and I've found a CD called "King of the Ragtime Writers". From the reviews, I've got the impression that a piano roll must be something like a hurdy-gurdy, but I really don't know what it is. Also, one of the reviewers states that all the rags but one are played by Scott Joplin. What does that mean? That it was he who moved the crank? Or is a piano roll something altogether different from what I'm thinking? Do you think that CD is worth having? I don't know whether it certainly has a historic value, or whether I'd better buy other CDs with real piano players playing versions of these rags with real pianos (supposing a piano roll is no real piano!)



Apr 12th, 2007 01:53 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


I'm resurrecting this old thread to ask a couple of questions. Nothing really important, but I'd like to know.

Following your advice, I bought the book 'Classic Piano Rags' (Rudi Blesh), and I'm trying to learn enough rags to be able to go and play for a reasonable time at a public bar or something. Right now I'm learning 'The Ragtime Dance', and apart from a couple of printing mistakes that can be easily spotted, there are two things that I think may be wrong, although I'm not sure. They're really unimportant, but...

The last thing in the intro is a chord, and the last note before it is an F, but if played as written, that in the left hand should jump down an octave, must it be so? I've heard a couple of midis in which they play the F immediately below the previous note.

And also, in the last section of the piece (that in which the player must stamp his or her feet on the floor) there are two stamps in each bar, except for one bar (I don't have the score here -I think it's at the end of the first set of descending semiquavers) in which there are three. Is there one too many or, on the contrary, is there one missing in the corresponding bar of the second set of semiquavers?

One thing that has surprised me is how often Scott Joplin stresses the fact that rags shouldn't be played too fast. Does anybody know the approximate metronome equivalents of each of the tempos he writes down? I mean, what's "Not Too Fast"?

Contributing Member

Memphis, TN

I Wanna Go Faster......
Apr 16th, 2007 03:04 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Don't have an answer for you but I'd also recommend some of the old movies of the 40's and 50's that had some of the greats playing along with the jazz bands of the time. I'm thinking there was a movie specifically made about that era and can't remember the name. Hmmm.

If nothing else, you might want to watch "The Glenn Miller Story" or "The Benny Goodman Story" which will give you a feel for their beginnings as they both had jazz/rag pianists with them.



May 1st, 2007 01:35 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Colombo, in regards to tempo.. Rent the movie "THE STING". The soundtrack is all Joplin piano rags and they are played beautifully at a what I think is the tempo he had in mind...sort of an "elegant stroll".



One, two, three, faw!
Dec 7th, 2007 06:44 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


I thought I had answered to these two last messages when I was last here... My apologies! I followed your advice and watched "The Sting", although I couldn't find any of those suggested by shoebox22. Now I know more or less how to play them. I like to play some slower and some quicker, but in general I think I know how they should sound.

I'd like to ask you whether you could please tell me which rags you would learn next. Following wise advice given here, I bought Rudi Blesh's "Classic Piano Rags", and so far I've learnt "Maple Leaf Rag", "The Ragtime Dance", "The Easy Winners", "The Entertainer", "A Breeze From Alabama", "Eugenia" and "Heliotrope Bouquet". I love them all! I've seen that several of you have suggested other rags in this thread but, unfortunately, they're not in this book. Anna said that anything by Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamd or James Scott would be good, but since I'm a slow learner, could you please tell me some of your favourite rags in this book which I haven't learnt yet? Or perhaps, some rags with very different styles that may help giving variety when played all in a row. I wanted to be able to play for at least one hour, but I'm still half-way!



One, two, three, faw!
Dec 14th, 2011 01:12 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


I haven't come to the FDP for ages (as a matter of fact, I haven't been to many web sites either, in all this time). And I'm answering to this very old post because I don't think my question deserves a new one (and anyway I don't know where it would belong, not being strictly a piano question).

After going through all of Rudi Blesh's "Classic Piano Rags" I decided that my favourite rags were Scott Joplin's, so I recently bought his complete piano works.

I have seen that a couple of his scores ("Eugenia" and I think another one) mention that there existed arrangements for band. Do you know whether it was Joplin himself who made these arrangements? Is there any way to find them? I play in a band (brass, woodwind and percussion), and I'd like to suggest that we play some ragtime.

I have seen several web sites where they sell scores for band, but I would like not to buy them blindily (our band has got no kind of fund, so it should have to be a "donation" from me, and band scores are not cheap), and none of those sites has an audio file so I can hear how those particular arrangements sound. I think that the only arrangement I'd buy without listening to it is Joplin's.

Of course, if no arrangement by Joplin is available, any (good) other would do. Does anyone know where to find them?


Anna Crusis

Theory Geek...

... and proud of it.
Dec 14th, 2011 09:46 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yes, Joplin arranged seven of his compositions for band (winds, strings, and rhythm section) and published them in a folio known as the "Red Back Book." These arrangements, plus others, were recorded by an ensemble led by Gunther Schuller of the New England Conservatory. That CD is still widely available.


The Red Back Book score, edited by Schuller, was republished in the 1970s, but it is now out of print again. It is available in many U.S. libraries, but I don't know about Europe.

However, since Joplin's compositions are now in the public domain, I understand that the Red Back Book is available for free download. Try


from the German website


These will be PDF files in WinZip format, so you will need WinZip or a similar expander and Adobe Acrobat reader to view them. Good luck!



One, two, three, faw!
Dec 15th, 2011 01:08 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hi Anna,

Thanks a lot for helping. It's great to know Joplin himself arranged his rags. From what you say, his arrangements won't suit us (we're only winds and rhythm, with no strings), but maybe it's possible to change what instruments play each part (our conductor will know more about that).

The direct link to the Red Back Book doesn't work any more, but I've requested to join a Yahoo Group where it can be downloaded (I hope they'll admit me, since I've warned them I cannot contribute any score to the group, at least for now). Anyway, that German site is great! They've even got midi files for "Treemonisha"!

Anyway, I'll try to find a copy of the Red Back Book, since I prefer to have the scores in print (like with the piano works, I bought the book, even though I'd already got them in pdf format).

And I'll buy myself that CD! Ragtime sounds great when played by a band, too!

Thanks again!

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