Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 18: ragtime.

Ragtime deserves special attention for improvising. It has a characteristic rhythm of 3 against 2 beats with shifting accents. Once you have mastered the trick, you not only can play ragtime, but you will also be able to cheer up other music styles.

But even when you have mastered the 3-2 beat and even the shifting of accents to your liking, you actually should learn the finishing touch by sometimes touching the notes of the chords not simultaneously but a tiny little bit irregular.

I mean the 'tr-effect' a ukulele banjo has because the stroke of the finger does not touch all the strings simultaneously. The difference is so small it is not expressed in notes, but it gives the playing a rhythmic affect like the tr in the following rhythm (the accents are underlined):
tu tr ta tu tr ta tu tr ta tu tr ta   Hear what I mean.

The ragtime rhythm is especially suitable for improvising, because once you have mastered the trick, it will be easy to shift l'improviste the accents and the tr-effect, giving a piece of music all kinds of rhythmic variations.

George Gershwin himself has played his 'I got rhythm' quite different from what you would expect if you had seen his sheet music. His playing is full of tiny little irregularities, not meant as inaccuracies but as a rhythmic finishing touch.

Learning a ragtime by sheet music is hardly worthwhile, as the main point is the rhythm and its finishing touch. It even has the risk you pay more attention to the melody than to the rhythm.
Summarizing we will have to learn the following things in order to master ragtime:

Sound example of the following points:
  1. left hand 2 beats against right hand 3 (e.g. left note c and right note e)
  2. the same, but the right hand now makes a melody (a riff) of 3 notes, e.g. e, e-flat, c
  3. the same, but now the left hand makes a chord, e.g. C (with the notes g+c+e)
  4. the same, but now the left hand makes a chord scheme, e.g. C D7 G7 C
Sound example of the following point:
The accents and their shifts.

Sound example of the following points:
  1. Use two note chords: replace the right hand melody e, e-flat, c as follows:
  2. Next we make the same movement with the right hand, but instead of beginning with note e-flat we begin with another black key, e.g. a-flat. This grasp may be used for practically any black key as beginning key.
  3. Subsequently we play a chord scheme in the left hand, e.g. C D7 G7
Sound example of the following point:
The finishing touch (scheme C D7 G7) (tr-effects etc.)

Sound example of the following point:
The ragtime rhythm is suitable for occasional use in another style.
HOMEWORK: Learn the 3 against 2 beat and try to make ragtime.
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