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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: J (Part 1 – Joplin, Scott)

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Scott Joplin is probably the best-known ragtime composer of all time. Born in the northeastern part of Texas between July 1867 and January 1868, Joplin grew up in Texarkana on the Texas–Arkansas border. He started studying piano as a child, most likely with the German immigrant Julius Weiss.

Joplin composed the “Maple Leaf Rag,” copyrighted in 1899, when he lived in Sedalia, Missouri. This composition earned him the informal title King of Ragtime.  In 1902, after moving to Saint Louis, Missouri, he composed his well-known piece “The Entertainer,” which is prominently featured in the movie The Sting. Another prominent piece is “The Cascades” from 1904.

The distinctive features of ragtimes are the syncopated, “ragged” rhythms. Ragtimes are mostly based on marches written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The off-beat accentuations in the melodic line give the music a special drive and often humorous kind of energy.  Ragtimes were especially popular between 1895 and 1918.

Sheet music cover with photograph of Scott Joplin. Joplin, Scott. The Cascades: A Rag. St. Louis, MO: John Stark and Son, 1904.
Sheet music cover with photograph of Scott Joplin. Joplin, Scott. The Cascades: A Rag. St. Louis, MO: John Stark and Son, 1904.

After moving to New York in 1907, Joplin composed an opera: Treemonisha. While he wrote it around 1910, Treemonisha was first performed in its entirety only in 1972 and posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize in music in 1976. Joplin continued writing ragtimes until he died in New York on April 1, 1917.

The NLS Music Section offers several compositions in accessible formats of Scott Joplin, who is one of the nation’s most influential African American composers and a seminal figure in American music history. Furthermore, the Library of Congress Music Division can assist with research on ragtime and on African American composers, as outlined in their recent blog post.


Please contact us to request braille, digital audio-cartridges, or large-print materials or to download audio materials from BARD. We’re happy to help you find music scores or music instructional materials in our catalog. Our phone number is 1-800-424-8567, option 2. You can also e-mail us at [email protected].



The Entertainer. A Rag Time Two Step Dedicated to James Brown and His Mandolin Club. For piano. Bar over bar. (BRM27108)

Collected Piano Works. In 5 volumes. Edited by Vera Brodsky Lawrence with an introduction by Rudi Blesh.  Volume 1 includes Scott Joplin: Black American Classicist by Rudi Blesh; Volume 2 includes Maple Leaf Rag (1899); Volume 3 includes The Entertainer, A Ragtime Two Step (1902); The Cascades, A Rag (1904);  Volume 4 includes Wall Street Rag (1909); Volume 5 includes Scott Joplin’s New Rag (1912); Kismet Rag, written with Scott Hayden (1913); and School of Ragtime Exercises for Piano (1908). Bar over bar. (BRM32027)

Complete Piano Rags; edited by David A. Jasen. 3 volumes (v. 1, v.2, v.3), includes: School of Ragtime, Maple Leaf Rag; The Entertainer; Cascades; and Kismet Rag, written with Scott Hayden; Magnetic Rag; Reflection Rag; Silver Swan Rag. Bar over bar. (BRM35569)

Maple Leaf Rag. For piano. Bar over bar (BRM34947)

Piano Rags – Book 1. Maple Leaf Rag; The Entertainer; Ragtime Dance; Gladiolus Rag; Fig Leaf Rag; Scott Joplin’s New Rag; Euphonic Sounds; Magnetic Rag. (BRM23887)


Large Print

Bethena. A Concert Waltz. For piano. (LPM00858)

The Entertainer. For piano. (LPM00799)

The Music of Scott Joplin. For piano. 7 volumes. (LPM00739)



The Entertainer, for piano. Taught by Bill Brown. (DBM02310)

Maple Leaf Rag, for piano. Taught by Bill Brown. (DBM02825)

Ragtime Piano, taught by David Cohen. Six Lessons to learn ragtime. (DBM00420)

Contemporary Ragtime Guitar. Audio course taught by Stefan Grossman. (DBM00456)



Ragtime Piano Solos. Easy Piano. 9 Scott Joplin compositions arranged by Allan Small. Bar over bar (BRM28569)

The Entertainer. Simplified and arranged for piano by Lawrence Grant.  (BRM23642)

The Entertainer. Arranged for guitar. Taught by Bill Brown. (DBM02936)

Maple Leaf Rag. Arranged for guitar. Taught by Bill Brown. (DBM02841)

Six Ragtimes. Sechs Ragtimes. Volume 1 (Bd. 1), for bassoon, flute, or clarinet and piano. (Fagottstimme: für Flöte oder Klarinette in B oder Fagott und Klavier). Arranged by Dieter H. Förster. (BRM33553)

Ragtime for Violin: from 6 Rags. Arranged for violin by Itzhak Perlman. (BRM32863)

Scott Joplin Ragtime. Arranged for one piano four hands by Denes Agay. (BRM28542)


About Scott Joplin

Berlin, Edward A. King of Ragtime (DB42223)

Brown, John W. Missouri legends. Famous People from the Show Me State. (DBC06485)

Hasking, James and Kathleen Benson. Scott Joplin. (LPM00516)

Mitchell, Barbara. Raggin. A Story about Scott Joplin. (DB28056)

Whorf, Mike. Found in My Piano Bench. Pianist Max Morath plays turn-of-the-century music, including the work of Scott Joplin. (DBM01005)

Whorf, Mike. Livin’ a Ragtime Life. (DBM00961)

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