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Songbook Review: The Big Book of Ragtime Piano
Hal Leonard
Cover image of the songbook The Big Book of Ragtime Piano by Hal Leonard
The Big Book of Ragtime Piano
Hal Leonard
2008 / Hal Leonard
304 pages / 63 songs
Review by Kathy Parsons
I have been a big fan of ragtime piano for a lot of years and thought my collection of printed rags was pretty complete until I saw The Big Book of Ragtime Piano when I was shopping for a high school graduation gift for one of my more advanced piano students. I ordered a copy for myself as well as for him when I saw that the pieces have been newly laid-out in a much easier to read format than most of my other books, which contain copies of the original sheet music. I love having the original sheet music covers, as they say so much about our American culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but the sheet music itself is often a bit cluttered and hard to read. (This book does not contain the cover artwork!) This book is beautifully-transcribed and easy on the eyes. I don’t know who edited the book, but it contains a great sampling of Scott Joplin’s rags (26 of them - 43% of the book) as well as four by James Scott (my other favorite), five by Joseph Lamb, two by Eubie Blake, and many others. The pieces that I have played feel like the originals, so I don’t think any arranging has been done - perhaps some corrections and clarifications, but I believe these are the original pieces as composed. My only complaint is that because it’s a very big book (304 pages), it’s hard to keep it open on the piano. Spiral-binding would be ideal, but I’m sure the book will get broken-in soon as I’m rediscovering some old favorites and finding some new treasures. As others have mentioned, this is not easy or even intermediate music to play, but it’s great fun and a first-hand look at what is now being considered “American Classical Music.” Very enthusiastically recommended!
July 21, 2014