Syncopated music has developed through many phases during its history. What it was like prior to 1900 we can only speculate since we have no sheet music or recordings from that era. The first sheet music was written by Scott Joplin who made no recordings though he is reputed to have made some piano rolls. The earliest recordings of ragtime were made by brass bands.

Scott Joplin composed and published a large number of rags from 1899 to 1913. His earliest success was in 1899 with the Maple Leaf Rag which sold a million copies, and was played and recorded by numerous pianists and bands.

Rags had a well defined structure consisting of 4 themes each usually played twice, and the third theme usually in a different key.

Jazz burst on the scene in 1917 with the historic recordings of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Whereas ragtime was piano music, jazz was band music. Whereas ragtime was published, jazz was recorded. Whereas ragtime was scored, jazz was improvised. There was also a difference in the way the music was played. Whereas ragtime was 8 to the bar, jazz was 12 to the bar. See the Technicalities page for more on this.

The influence of jazz on piano styles produced a less rigid structure, often a single theme played in a variety of ways, and improvised on. The pioneers were Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. The classic example of jazz piano is the Carolina Shout recorded by James P. Johnson in 1921.

Very little jazz piano has been published in sheet music form. The style has to be learnt by listening to the musicians and the records.

On this website you will find sheet music for 3 original rags composed by John Reade, together with recordings of these rags played by him. These recordings are available on a CD available from John Reade at for 5. This CD also includes rags by Scott Joplin and others.

John Reade. (Spring 2006)