The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
spired to endow the pianist with unique facilities. Equipped to play as many as ten notes at once, he can enact the part of a lone or auxiliary bass player, through the normal function of the left hand, as well as those of several horn players through the work of the right.
It is impossible to separate cause and effect in examining the original function of the piano. Perhaps it was because the ragtime artists struck single notes or octaves with the first and third beats of the measure, and filled in with chords on the second and fourth, that the fuller sound of these chords gave the music a syncopated quality, as if the weaker second and fourth beats, because of their richer harmonic content, were being deliberately accented. Or perhaps this apparently ragged rhythmic imbalance (leading to the spontaneous development of the term "ragtime") was an effect deliberately sought as a result of some quality already inherent in the music as played on guitars, cornets and trombones.
Whatever the reason, ragtime piano provides us, through the medium of early piano rolls transferred to LP discs, with a glimpse of syncopation in its most primitive stage of develop­ment. As far as one can generalize about a phase that produced thousands of pieces of written music, it may be said that the typical ragtime composition (ragtime was more composed than improvised) involved, in the right hand, alternations of single notes, simple chords and syncopations. Though the left hand maintained the "ump-cha, ump-cha" feeling of what was in effect a four-four time, the right hand used eighth notes exten­sively. The syncopation in the left hand might divide the four beats into two dotted quarters followed by a quarter, for variety, and in the right hand would often use such simple devices as the hesitation, omitting half the first beat in favor of an accent on the second (Ex. 1):