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#1134873 - 03/06/05 05:27 AM Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Works1 Offline
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Although a lot of ragtime is not played fast, Maple Leaf Rag just sounds better played at a lively pace (like The Cascades and Elite Syncopations). I am going to be performing Maple Leaf next month and was thinking 120 bpm (quarter note) seemed to be a good tempo that I can handle and would get a good response without sounding too fast.

For those who have performed this piece, what do you find is a good tempo to play it at?

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#1134874 - 03/06/05 11:16 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Horace Offline
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The recordings I have range from 95 (from a ragtime collection) to 142 (from an Emerson Lake and Palmer record, in which the whole piece, played without repeats, i.e. A-B-A-C-D, lasts one minute). Average seems to be around 105, or around 3 minutes for the whole piece with repeats: A-A-B-B-A-C-C-D-D. I think it sounds fine no matter what the pace, but in the slower recordings there does tend to be more of an emphasis on dynamics and improvisational embellishments.

#1134875 - 03/06/05 11:23 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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There was a guy playing Maple Leaf Rag at Disneyland while we were there for NAMM.
Had to have been playing the song at at least 160BPM!!!

But whatever is comfortable to you is the best tempo. Faster doesn't always mean more lively.

#1134876 - 03/07/05 12:12 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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I'd have to say that the whole piece for me takes about 4 minutes. That's the speed at which I can do the C part properly. I don't embellish much at all but try to vary dynamics as much as possible

#1134877 - 03/07/05 01:58 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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OK, 160 BPM is out of control. It seems like this is one of those pieces that is played at so many different tempos. I have a wonderful Joplin collection played by Joshua Rifkin and I like his tempos on all the Joplin pieces (Elite Syncopations, Pine Apple Rag, etc.) with the exception of Maple Leaf which I think is too slow.

But I agree that it should be a comfortable tempo which for me having tried several tempos is 120 BPM to get the whole piece to sound clean (especially the C part). Elite Syncopations I like at 130 BPM.

Thanks all for your comments.

#1134878 - 03/07/05 09:47 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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I have the Joshua Rifkin CD also. I'd say just play them at the tempo he uses. His seem to be the definitive interpretations, and I feel he understands how they are to be played. Of course, you are free to interpret the tempo as you see fit, however, that musical choice should be based on some knowledge of the music and what it is about. I'm thinking the reason you feel his tempo is too slow, is because all your life we've heard it played incorrectly by hacks as background music in honky-tonk bars and movies.

In Joplins notes, he says specifically his rags are not to be played fast, so in my opinion, anyone who wants to play it at 160 is just mocking the music and trying to turn it into a joke. Most people seem to think it's cute, but most people are ignorant about nearly everything, especially music.

Just think of it as your chance to help educate the masses.


"Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage."

-- Winston Churchill
#1134879 - 03/07/05 11:28 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Horace Offline
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I agree that 160 is ridiculously fast. Even the 142+ from the Emerson Lake and Palmer record is clearly played just for the novelty of the speed. The crowd enjoys it, but the performer's the thing, rather than the music.

But, we were having this discussion in another thread, I do wonder whether there's any valid musical reason to feel that a performance at 90 is better than a performance at 120. In that other thread, someone mentioned the theory that Joplin added the "not too fast" recommendation to appease amateurs who were intimidated by the fast renditions they were accustomed to hearing. I seem to recall that Joplin's own piano roll performace of Maple Leaf, recorded late in his life when his technique had started to deteriorate from his illness, clipped along at at least 100.

#1134880 - 03/07/05 10:50 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Spin Doctor:

In Joplins notes, he says specifically his rags are not to be played fast, so in my opinion, anyone who wants to play it at 160 is just mocking the music and trying to turn it into a joke. Most people seem to think it's cute, but most people are ignorant about nearly everything, especially music.
Yeah, Joplin said all that to make his songs more appealing as parlor music. He was trying to make it easier, in other words. As well as saying that ragtime isn't meant to be played fast, he said that ragtime is not an improvisational genre of music. When I was younger I used to play a whole lot of ragtime -- especially Scott Joplin (all original, unsimplified versions): The Entertainer, Maple Leaf, Cleopha, Wall Street Rag, The Cascades, Pine Apple Rag, Palm Leaf, Elite Syncopations, Solace. I always played them faster than they were intended to be played. Not because I liked to play fast, I just liked them more upbeat. I also would add little improvisations to the songs.

These days when I play ragtime, I tend to put a tiny bit of swing to them to really give it that toe-tapping ragtime feel. Playing jazz and stride really helps your ragtime feel.


Greg Schlaepfer
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#1134881 - 03/08/05 04:02 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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I agree that 120's the reasonable speed to play it, although I usually play it faster just because its more fun smile

#1134882 - 03/08/05 04:22 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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It can really be a fun piece to play at fast speed and I really don't think it takes anything away from the musicality of the piece or insults the composer in any way. It's just a great piece that almost anyone loves to listen to at a good pace.

I can't play it any faster than 125 without it starting to sound sloppy in the C section.

#1134883 - 03/08/05 06:35 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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I'll bet the Disneyland man was Rod Miller. When asked why he plays Maple Leaf so fast he replied that he expects his faculties to deline with age and he should therefore reach approximately the right tempo when he is an old man.

He visited Auckland about nine years ago and played in shopping malls here. I asked him to play something by Joplin or Scott but he told me he no longer plays classical ragtime as it's not what his Disneyland public wants to hear.

He needn't have worried as it's doubtful anyone here knew what they were listening to anyway.


"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows
#1134884 - 03/12/05 09:41 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Just ran through the collection (57 different versions on my iTunes), and times for full performances, with repeats, range from 2:25 (Alex Sandor) to 3:19 (Brian Keenan, and one of the recordings of the Joplin piano roll). It feels best to me between 2:30 and 2:40. Dick Wellstood comes in at 2:47, but adds an intro. Both he and Dick Hyman (2:29) are playing around 112 bpm.

There is some thought that the "Don't play ragtime fast. It is never right to play ragtime fast - the composer" was added by John Stark, the publisher, to try to boost sheet music sales by making the slower tempo of the parlor pianist "acceptable".

It is a tune that shouldn't be played slow, IMHO. There is too much energy in it to let it languish.

#1134885 - 03/13/05 04:25 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Steve, I completely agree with you and I also believe the "Don't play ragtime fast" stemmed out of the desire to sell more sheet music to the masses. Still much of Joplin's music would sound rushed if played fast but Maple Leaf just sounds better faster. The 112 bpm is a good lively pace. Somewhere between 110 and 120 always seems to be the pace I enjoy playing at without sounding too slow or too rushed.

For the Alex Sandor recording, what tempo is he playing the piece at? My quess would be about 115 bpm based on the time of 2:25.

#1134886 - 03/13/05 08:38 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Actually, Alex Sandor is playing around 126 bpm. As cleanly as he plays, it doesn't sound rushed at all. The extra few seconds are a four bar introduction, and some great added bars of upward arpeggios.

You've started me listening to all 57 versions - including Butch Thompson doing Jelly Roll's Maple Leaf Stomp, and a great Sidney Bechet version.

#1134887 - 03/15/05 04:44 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Maple Leaf is my first rag, and the C part has taken me a while to get under my fingers. Can anyone suggest specific exercises other than playing it that would help me improve? Favorite technique exercise books etc.

thanks for your time.

Dave

#1134888 - 03/15/05 06:53 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Colm O'Brien, an Irish ragtime payer, says that it takes ten years to learn to play the piano, and then another ten to learn the C strain of Maple Leaf after three Guiness......

There are a few quirky jumps in the C strain that you'll only get by playing it over and over - I can't imagine any exercise that would make similar twists as in bars 9-12 of the C strain.

I've played ragtime for 30 years, and only now am getting brave enough to perform Maple Leaf at a public gig. Maybe it is that I hold it to a higher standard than other rags, or maybe it is just that the C strain is too darned hard to be sure you will nail it every time.

#1134889 - 03/16/05 11:24 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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The thing that kills me about Maple Leaf Rag is that I've never learned the last "page".

My jazz teacher gave me that one when I was really struggling at about age 13 or 14, and it nearly killed me.

But it also inspired me...thought never enough to learn the last freakin' page!!!

Some day...

#1134890 - 04/13/05 07:47 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Steve the ragtimer:
Just ran through the collection (57 different versions on my iTunes)....
57 versions! eek (You didn't get them from the Heinz ketchup people, did you? wink )


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#1134891 - 04/17/05 07:01 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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NmbrNine: I've not made it to the last page either, and if Dave could let me know a quick way to get there once he's mastered it I'd be grateful

#1134892 - 04/18/05 11:31 PM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Wombat66:
NmbrNine: I've not made it to the last page either, and if Dave could let me know a quick way to get there once he's mastered it I'd be grateful
Hey man, we should make a deal...we both start out on the last page at the same time. Maybe a friendly race? I've not looked at it since I was about 15 years old, and I'm sure it would take me forever. But at least a little friendly inspiration might get us both there.
Of course, first I'd have to find the sheet that's buried somewhere in my garage...that might take equally as long!

And thanks to everyone who's chimed in on the tempo. I believe I've been playing this piece WAY to fast. In fact, I find it's hard to maintain a tempo throughout.

#1134893 - 04/20/05 10:16 AM Re: Good tempo for Maple Leaf Rag?  
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I have Maple Leaf sheet music that says 88, and has a note that said Scott Joplin recorded it on a piano roll at 96.

The sheet music is cool because includes the improvisational embellishments that Joplin adeed on his piano roll recording.


George

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