|Loading Page. Please Wait...|
|General Site Information|
|Author:||All content written, coded, illustrated, maintained and posted by Bill Edwards|
The topic of How To Play nearly anything on a musical instrument is obviously broad, even more so on piano, and is therefore difficult to avoid tainting with the author's bias. I have nonetheless attempted, by your requests, to compile a guide to learning and enhancing the performance of Ragtime/Old-Time piano pieces. I hope that you find it useful in some regard, and that even a little bit of information may be derived from it. I only ask a couple of things. Many of the ideas in here come not just from me, but from many of my ragtime compatriots and acquaintances. Where they are mentioned, please remember that many of them have a web presence as I do. See what they have to say, and remember to patronize our sites and take advantage of our products as you can. One of the better learning techniques is to listen and learn from our live recordings, not just our web MIDI files. We also have original sheet music for sale, and all this helps support our sites and continue to bring you accumulated knowledge such as is presented here. The second thing... please don't get better than me. As good is OK, but not better *sheepish smile*.
|Tips For Learning and Playing Ragtime|
An Essay on Tips and Techniques for Learning Ragtime Piano
Contents Copyright ©2000/2004 by William G. Edwards
The old story goes that a young man was walking the streets of Manhattan one afternoon. Obviously lost, he stopped a gentleman passing by and asked him, "Excuse me sir. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The gentleman simply answered, "Practice young man, practice!" (Insert canned laughter here). This applies to virtually any form of music. Practice is fundamental, but knowing what to practice and the ability to set your goals realistically are also major factors affecting your progress.
|ENHANCEMENTS AND IMPROVISATION|
Now we are going to delve into a somewhat personal and individualistic area; that of applying style and improvisational techniques to printed ragtime. Everybody with experience in this field has their own individual signature that they apply to their pieces, including me. But don't expect to be able to just apply it on the fly. Max Morath once told me, "Bill," (that's my name), "when you perform, whether it be playing, singing, or presenting anecdotes on stage, make sure that every ad-lib is scripted and every improvisation is well rehearsed!" It may sound contrary, but it is quite true. Even if you are not consciously improvising during playing, that piece of advice applies to adding any enhancements to your playing that are not on the printed page. However, rather than teaching you how to play like "Perfessor" Bill or Max Morath, I will provide general guidance along with a few common devices used by various ragtime pianists over the last century. You decide how to apply these tips, and what works for you. Also, since the web is an interactive and dynamic medium of presentation, you can e-mail me with anything you might want to comment on or add to this broad topic, and I will include if and where it is appropriate. Indeed, many things have been added to this article as a result of your input. I hope that at least something in here will be of benefit to ragtime pianists of all ability levels.
|PLAYING OLD-TIME SONGS|
There are a number of methods to improve presentation of old-time songs, particularly when they are played as piano solos. If you are planning to play for sing-along purposes only, application of many of the techniques presented in the Ragtime Enhancements section will not work. Some of the old-time repertoire actually requires singing in addition to good piano technique, so be realistic in your assessment of your singing abilities. Don't be discouraged though, because quite often the ability to entertain can effectively overcome an average singing voice. I speak from vast experience. I don't know how many times I have been asked to sing "long ago and far away," or "can you sing a solo... so low that we can't hear?" But I get a much higher level of praise for my vocals as well when I sell the song and demonstrate how well I can play the piece. Years of public performance have made me tough in this regard. So unless you have the vocal pipes of a Harry Connick, Jr. or a Bessie Smith, be ready for occasional barbs. Also remember that awesome pianistic technique will draw attention away from lesser singing abilities, and a good entertainer can often hide deficiencies in both areas. The performance of old-time songs is often tricky since so many people think they really know them. Often times you'll find that your audience knows the songs incorrectly or with horrific variations, but they still know them to some extent and have certain expectations about what they'll hear. Hopefully the tips below will help you to exceed those expectations while maintaining your balance.
Ragtime is every bit as much of a performing art as stage, screen, opera, or similar forms of entertainment. Where you take it depends on your affection and affinity for it. Know your limits, then raise the bar and set new goals that exceed those limits. Ragtime inspires both the performer and the listener to do exactly that. Play it for yourself as much as you play it for everyone. You can at once be selfish and sharing in this aspect when it comes to nearly any form of music performance. I feel that I am blessed with a God-given talent, and to not share it with others is selfish. Take good care of your music books and sheets, your hands, your hearing, and your instrument. Keep it tuned regularly. Keep your mind tuned as well. Sight-read new material just for fun. And play it. Play it for relatives. Play it for friends. Play it for children. Play it for paying audiences. Play it for anyone who will listen. But play it. Guard it. Preserve it. Love it. Just Do It!
PLAY THEM RAGS!!!
|Continue on to Tempos and Pedaling in Ragtime Performance|
|General Bibliography and Sources|
The Ragtime Webring-Dedicated to Scott Joplin and the music of the Ragtime Era, this ring is an invaluable resource for jazz music lovers, musicians and historians. Sheet music, midi files, afro-american history, record collectors...
|| Previous | Next | Random Site | Ring Hub | Add Your Ragtime Site ||
There are lots of great ragtime recordings by top artists available from|
Including some of my recommended favorites:
And don't miss these movies which include some ragtime music:
Or just search their site using the search engine below!
Site Map |
About Bill |
Bill's Biography |
Powered by iPowerWeb |
Contact Bill |
Frequently Asked Questions ||
| Ragtime MIDI/Covers | Ragtime Resources | Ragtime Links | Ragtime Recordings | Ragtime Nostalgia |