Scott Joplin (c.1867–1917)

Born:

Sometime between July 1867 and January 1868, somewhere in Texas, USA. (Many books say he was born on 24th November 1868 in Texarkana, Texas, but there is no real evidence for this.)

Scott Joplin’s grave in New York

Died:

1st April 1917 in New York, New York, USA.

Buried:

Saint Michaels Cemetery, East Elmhurst, Queens County, New York, USA.

Some famous pieces:
  • The Entertainer.
  • Maple Leaf Rag. (See below for a video.)
A great recording:
  • King of Ragtime (c.1898–1913).

This is recorded from piano rolls—Scott Joplin did not actually make any recordings. A piano roll is a roll of paper with holes in it. This paper is fed into a special piano called a player piano. The player piano then reads the roll and plays itself! (See below for a picture of a player piano.)

Some interesting facts:
  • He was the greatest composer of ‘ragtime’. In fact he is often called the ‘King of Ragtime’. (Ragtime is a mixture of Black American folk music and classical music. It is not quite jazz, but is certainly where a lot of the ideas for jazz came from.)
  • He made ragtime very popular. This made people ready to hear and write the jazz that came afterwards. It also set the scene for American popular music over the last century. Put simply, Scott Joplin has had a very big influence on jazz and popular music over the last 100 years.
  • Like classical music, Scott Joplin’s rags are written down exactly. They are pieces to be played as written on the piano. This is quite different from jazz, where it is normal for the musicians to make up some of the music as they play.
  • He became famous with his piece ‘Maple Leaf Rag’. This piece appeared in 1899. It sold over 75,000 copies in the first six months! The piece was named after the Maple Leaf Club where Scott Joplin used to play the piano.
  • His father had been a slave.
  • He was very lucky to learn music. Most Black American children around the time Scott Joplin was born would not have had this chance. His father certainly didn’t want him to learn music. However his mother was keen. And a kind local music teacher taught him for free.
  • He also composed two operas as well as some other classical music. Scott Joplin tried very hard to make these operas popular, but didn’t succeed. In the end he died very disappointed with the failure of his operas.
  • After Scott Joplin died, ragtime music was almost forgotten about as jazz became popular.
  • His music became popular again in the 1970s—especially when ‘The Entertainer’ was used in the 1973 film ‘The Sting’. His music has been popular ever since!

Here is video of a piano roll recording of Scott Joplin playing some of his own music.

A piano roll recording of Scott Joplin playing some of his own music

By the way, here is a picture of a player piano. This is the sort of instrument playing in the video above. Note the roll of paper in the middle. This is the music for the piano.

A player piano

Finally, here is a video where you can see someone playing Scott Joplin’s The Maple Leaf Rag.

‘Maple Leaf Rag’ by Scott Joplin

Picture credits:
  1. Scott Joplin. This photograph is dated 17th June 1907. The image is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Scott Joplin’s grave in New York. This photograph was uploaded to the Find A Grave website by Curtis Jackson. Curtis has informed me that, as far as he knows, the image is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image.
  3. A player piano. This is a photograph of the roll mechanism of a 1927 Welte-Mignon reproducing piano. It was taken by the user Gerhard51 on Wikipedia. The image is free to use providing one credits the photographer. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
Video credits:
  1. SCOTT JOPLIN ORIGINAL PIANO ROLLS. SCOTT JOPLIN ORIGINAL PIANO ROLLS.
  2. Scott Joplin – Maple Leaf Rag. The person who posted this on YouTube writes: About the speed: I strived to play it at this specific speed and I think it is appropriate and not excessive. Of course, you’re entitled to have your own opinion though. There is more information about this one on the video’s YouTube page.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 adelia 24th March 2012

i like the music very nice facts because im doing a school report

2 juley 30th April 2012

It really did help me with my essay on Ragtime. I had no idea what Ragtime was until i saw this website. THANKYOU!

3 emma 11th June 2012

this really helped me with my homework on scott joplin and ragtime 🙂 thanks so much!
Emma 🙂

4 Arlene 13th September 2012

I used this for my music hw in ps115

5 Millie 15th September 2012

Thank You SOOOOO Much!

You just helped me complete my essay on Scott Joplin and Ragtime Music! I will defiantly be recomending this website to everyone at school 😀

6 jade 23rd September 2012

aw, this really helped with my hwk, ty xxxxxxx

7 SHAUNA 26th September 2012

thank you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

8 Island 14th November 2012

Needed this sooo much, thank u!!!

9 amber 25th November 2012

THANK YOU THIS HELPED ME ALOT

10 gabriel 25th February 2013

thak u so much i need this imformation for a book report

yayayayaayaayayayayayayayayayayayay 🙂

11 Andrea Farmer 12th March 2013

This helped me so much…project in English and Spanish class

12 wyatt seyring 8th April 2013

this is kind helpful

13 Alyssa 14th November 2013

It was very nice listening to the Maple Leaf Rag:). I play piano and its always nice to hear someone better than you and also very inspirational. I love this website and will come visit it again if i ever do another research paper on a composer!!!

14 reign 22nd November 2013

THANK YOU SO MUCH I LOVE THIS SO MUCH THANX XOXOXO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELPD ALOT lOVE I LOVE SCOTT JOPPLIN

15 PHIL BAKER 25th February 2014

I would like use one of the photographs on your site for a publication I have in preparation on jazz and would like permission to do so vis a vis any copyright issues.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Thanks

16 Malcolm Pullan 25th February 2014

Thank you for getting in touch. Most of the pictures on this site come from other sources and most are in the public domain. You will find the copyright information for all the pictures at the bottom of each page.

17 Samuel Tode 25th March 2014

Playing the Maple Leaf Rag is always fun. This website is great for some quick finishing facts.

18 Samuel Tode 25th March 2014

My grand aunt knew Scott Joplin. Amazing, he is.

19 Jordyn 4th May 2014

Thnaks so much this helped me for my Music class project on Scott Joplin

20 Sophie 10th October 2014

cool love music learning about in music class

21 Sierra Hudson 4th January 2015

Thx this website really helped me with the captions for my Scott Joplin Project!!!

22 frozen yoghurt 27th April 2015

this was very helpful with my music homework about Scott Joplin and his music!!!

Thank you!!!

23 jeorje 3rd November 2015

good

24 Emma Hill 10th December 2015

This helped so much you wouldn’t even believe it I had a assignment do tommorow and I got it done in 15 minutes I love this site make more!!!!

25 chloe 4th February 2016

im doing a report on scott joplin and this really helped! thank you!

26 Chelsey rector 4th February 2016

I’m doing a report to helped me a lot thanks so much!!!

27 Chelsey.r. 4th February 2016

THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!!!😍

28 Brandonn W. 6th February 2016

Thanks, helped lots on my report

29 Fri 6th October 2016

Thanks that help with my project

30 Dy Fam 31st October 2016

Class doing a school report

31 LC 9th December 2016

Thank you👍🏾

32 Josep Navarro i Solves 18th January 2017

Ha sigut un plaer poguer interpretar la magnífica partitura del famós i preciós THE ENTERTAINER.
thanks, thanks and thanks…

33 Max 17th February 2017

AWESOME!This helped me with my black history month project.THANKS 😀

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