Ragtime didn't exist in a vacuum.
Ragtimers were required to play folk, blues, popular tunes of the day.
Yet, ragtime piano was unique. The melodies were captivating - but the rhythm
Syncopation! Two rhythms at once - a steady beat in the left hand and something
happening off the beat in the right hand. The tension between the two gives
ragtime its special kick. Ragtime's syncopation grew into the foundations of
Jazz, Swing and Rock n' Roll. Whether a rag is fast (like the "Maple Leaf Rag")
or slow ("The Entertainer"), you feel the syncopation.
In 1899, the "Maple Leaf Rag" put Scott Joplin on the map. Although Joplin was
not a technically great pianist, with his unique compositions he quickly
established himself as the king of ragtime composers.