At what tempo should I play the Maple Leaf Rag?
October 30, 2009 12:43 PM Subscribe
Suggested tempos for Joplin's piano rags?
posted by Maximian to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I was about 16, I learned to play the Maple Leaf Rag, at a fairly fast tempo, about eighth note = 190 on the metronome. I played it in front of an expert organist and pianist, and he said I was playing it "much too fast". Being a teenager, I ignored the advice of my elders.
Fast-forward 12 years, during which I played little piano. Eventually, seeking to recover my piano skills, I check out a book of Joplin's rags from the local music library. The preface (written by Joplin himself, if memory serves) admonishes the student never to play fast. No tempos are given in any of my scores. Three different recordings of the Maple Leaf I've listened to have the tempo somewhat above 180. However, I play the Gladiolus rag at 116, or even a little slower, and it sounds great. This matches at least one recording I have. Another recording I've heard, of the Magnetic Rag (which I'm currently learning), is perhaps even slower than that.
So, what is the "correct" tempo for the Maple Leaf? Do pianists play this and other rags at different tempos for different effects? What did Joplin mean by "ragtime is never to be played fast"? I'm currently retraining my fingers to play the Maple Leaf at 144, but is this too slow?
As a bonus question, my score for Joseph Lamb's "Ragtime Nightingale" indicates "Slow March", but I have no idea what that translates to on the metronome. What tempo should this be?