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#986466 - 12/28/06 05:51 PM Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
gourdo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/06
Posts: 34
I played one of the simplified arrangements of the Entertainer as a child, and recently after starting to play again, decided I wanted to learn the original -- even though it's a bit above the level of anything I've tried before, I was motivated and kind of liked the idea of stretching my playing skills a bit.

Well, I've been at it for two months now. The melody is definitely recognizable, but it's really slow (like 1/4 normal speed) and my fingers just can't seem to nail those octaves consistently when playing at a reasonable pace -- i have small hands and have trouble hitting octaves when I have to stretch to hit certain middle notes in between -- a common occurrence in this piece. Furthermore, I seem to be plateauing. I wonder if this is about as good as its gonna get for me at this point. So far, I've really only focused on the first two pages... I felt it would be better to focus on a page or two rather than wasting energy learning the whole piece if I'm never going to play it well.

Anyway, should I call it a day and move on, or should I plod through this for longer? I just feel like no matter how much more I practice this piece, I just don't have a big enough reach to consistently hit the octave passages at a good pace...

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#986467 - 12/28/06 06:45 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2510
Loc: Not in Texas
I don't know if it's the best metric in the world but I find that if I can't advance through a piece by two measures per week of practice where I can play them at close to normal tempo at the end of the week that the piece is above where I'm at right now and I come back to it later.

Also, it's hard to say without watching you play but if you can reach an octave but playing notes while holding an octave is giving you trouble I would say that's more an indicator of a lack of strength/flexibility rather than hands being too small.

Whether you keep at it or come back to it later is up to you. Personally, I find that if I keep beating my head against a piece that's beyond me I am actually making slower progress than I would be playing something that's a bit of a stretch but within my current level of ability.
_________________________
Greg

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#986468 - 12/29/06 07:58 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
gourdo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/06
Posts: 34
Yeah, I think I'll give it another couple weeks (maybe a miracle will happen, I really want to learn this piece). If after two weeks, I'm not progressing at my expected pace, I'll shelve it.

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#986469 - 12/29/06 09:30 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Gyvulys624 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/23/06
Posts: 12
Hey, I'm only 15 now, and i've been playing classical piano since i was 6, and when i was about 10 my neighbor came up to my house and gave me a copy of "Maple Leaf Rag". My teacher thought it was outta my league, but we decided to take in on, and it took me a while, but i learned it remarkably fast, faster than i'm learning much easier pieces now 5 years later (because of a lack of motivation no doubt) :p

Well as i saying, I have been playing Maple Leaf Rag for a while, and although i havn't look at the sheet music for the entertainer, Maple Leaf sounds a lot easier. You should check out Maple Leaf, and ill check out the entertainer.

As for not progressing at expected rate, that only happens to me when i don't practice an hour a day every day (been a couple years since i did that), but the more you practice the more it should help.

Do you have a teacher??

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#986470 - 12/30/06 12:51 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Sarah M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 293
Loc: California
Entertainer is hard for people with small hands. I tried it many years ago and could only play it okay.

I'd give it a couple more weeks. The last two sections are easier than the first two.

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#986471 - 12/31/06 09:43 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Hi Gourdo

I agree that "The Entertainer" is a very challenging piece. I have been on and off with it for about a year. The better I get at it the more I realize how tough this piece is to play right. The hard part is playing those octaves crisp and clear. I once thought the Entertainer was easier than "Maple Leaf" and commented on this forum to that effect. There was another more experienced player, John Citron I believe, who stated that "The Entertainer" is tougher. I am beginning to believe him, this piece is not as easy as it sounds precisely because of those octaves. It takes plenty of practice to develop the strength and flexibility to play them accurately as C7 Player notes, especially those with small to average hands but I believe it is doable if you can comfortably reach an octave. I wouldn't give up but keep on working on it periodically, it will get better over time.

If you are into Joplin rags, I would recommend trying out "The Cascades" and "Solace" which are both a bit easier to play than either of the above.

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#986472 - 12/31/06 09:46 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
dannylux Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 1815
Loc: Connecticut
Vintagefingers,

Please check your Private Messages.

Mel
_________________________
My Recordings

"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn

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#986473 - 01/02/07 01:30 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
gourdo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/06
Posts: 34
Well, I had a bit of a break-through. I'm actually progressing slowly again... things are getting a tad bit easier and it's speeding up a bit.

It seems that as Vintagefingers says, its playing those octaves crisply every time that's difficult for small fingers. I find that when I first start playing the piece I'm in pretty good shape, but after about 10-15 minutes of practicing, my fingers fatigue just ever so slightly and the octaves start to get sloppy. It really takes concentration and probably some flexibility work for me to get more consistent.

I've got Maple Leaf Rag as well. It's good to know that it's a little easier. I will start into it just as soon as I'm certain I've plateaued with the Entertainer.

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#986474 - 01/02/07 10:03 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
gaffster Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/06
Posts: 240
Loc: east central florida
Solace is a sweet tune. It was the b-side of "The Entertainer" single.. Showing my age..
_________________________
-cheers!!!

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#986475 - 01/02/07 09:24 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
ARIAS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/06
Posts: 122
Loc: Tampa Bay
Gourdo:[/b] I have been attempting to play the Entertainer [/b] for 10 years. It's one of my favorites. I have been picking up the piece every 6 months for the last 10 years ( no joke) and each time it gets easier and easier and it seems like my hands can handle the octaves better and most importantly much more smoother. Also it seems like my fingers can stretch just a little bit more as time goes on. I just picked up the piece again over the holidays and it seems like I can handle the octaves quicker and smoother than ever before. I have a hunch that I may finally[/b] be able to play it by years end. ;\)
So don't give up, you may need to put it aside for awhile and pick it up again a few months down the road and you will find that it is easier.

Solace? Umhhhh I need to find a recording of that!Can someone send me a recording of that Y'all such a smart group here I am always learning stuff I did'nt know before! :p

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#986476 - 01/03/07 12:12 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Arias

You can hear a little snippet of it here:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=VexRPM2WPho

You might recongize it from the film "The Sting" It was used in the scene where Robert Redford had a little romantic encounter with the waitress in the diner.

"Solace, A Mexican Serenade"

Thanks Mel, but I can't open the link to that file.

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#986477 - 01/03/07 09:39 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
hobo57 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 97
Loc: Quad Cities, IL/IA
I'm glad to hear that "Maple Leaf Rag" is easier than "The Entertainer" as I'm a beginner and set "Maple Leaf" as a goal for (hopefully) two years out.

I have the music book "Scott Joplin arranged by Lawrence Rosen: 18 Rags in easier versions". Would I be harming myself to do these simplified versions? Or just stay with basics until I can do the full version?

Thanks much...
_________________________
There is nothing to it. You have only to hit the right note at the right time, and instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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#986478 - 01/03/07 10:32 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2510
Loc: Not in Texas
Nope, no harm at all and it'll help you develop a feel for playing the rythm of ragtime.
_________________________
Greg

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#986479 - 01/03/07 11:16 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Hobie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 475
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I hate to disagree here, but the Entertainer is probably one of Joplin's easiest rags. Maple leaf, by contrast is one of his hardest.

Part of the reason is that Maple Leaf is written in the key of A-flat, while the Entertainer is in the key of C...it is harder (at first) for musicians to read the 4 flat key sig.

The real reason, though, is that the technical difficulties involved in Maple Leaf like the chord voicings and the rhythmic syncopations are much more advanced than in the Entertainer.

I have seen a much watered-down version of Maple Leaf written in the key of C, but it was so diluted that it was a mere shadow of the real thing...I wouldn't recommend that.

When playing Joplin it really helps to have a relaxed hand. I think Aamsco publishes a version very close to the original where instead of those huge octaves, 6ths are used instead.

I applaud anyone who attempts harder music...just be ready for the long process and don't get discouraged. It might not be a bad idea to also have some easy peices to work on also.

Just a thought..
Hobie
_________________________
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Groucho Marx

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#986480 - 01/03/07 11:22 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Famous Pies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/06
Posts: 82
Loc: Santa Fe NM
I suggest you get the book "Scott Joplin Complete Piano Rags" Edited by David A. Jasen (Dover: ISBN 0-486-25807-6). Not all of the originals are that much more difficult than those in "Scott Joplin arranged by Lawrence Rosen: 18 Rags in easier versions."

I find "Entertainer" "Maple Leaf" "Cascades" and "Solace" much tougher than "Favorite" or "Paragon" or "Peacherine." Try "Weeping Willow"- a real delight and each section is quite unlike the others. Or "Sunflower Slow Drag" is worth a try as it sounds best when played slowly.

Everybody loves rags! \:D
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M&H "A" #92414

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#986481 - 01/03/07 12:56 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
ARIAS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/06
Posts: 122
Loc: Tampa Bay
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Vintagefingers:
[QB] Arias

You can hear a little snippet of it here:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=VexRPM2WPho

  • Thanks, Vintagefingers, nice video, I checked out the sheet music and it doesnt look too hard to play

  • Hobie I agree Entertainer is without a doubt easier to play than the Maple Leaf Rag all because of the key it is written in. With the a,b,d and e flats it makes it harder. The Entertainer being written in the key of c makes it easier to play, just gotta keep those octaves smooth! ;\) .

  • Famous Pies that book you were talking about for the Scott Joplin Rags is it still the original music? I wouldnt want anything too simplified beause alot of the beautiful sounds of the rag melody is lost.

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#986482 - 01/03/07 01:12 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Famous Pies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/06
Posts: 82
Loc: Santa Fe NM
The music in "Scott Joplin Complete Piano Rags" Edited by David A. Jasen (Dover: ISBN 0-486-25807-6) is all original... and includes the original covers.

Another with all original music is "Classic Piano Rags" selected and with an introduction by Rudi Blesh (Dover: ISBN 0-486-20469-3). This book includes works by many composers including Joplin, Joseph Lamb, James Scott, and 12 others.

In both books the original sheet music covers are reproduced; many take one back to a time of vicious racism.
_________________________
M&H "A" #92414

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#986483 - 01/03/07 05:41 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
hv Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 1226
Loc: Cape Cod
My favorite David Jasen cover is his own:

http://www.audiophileusa.com/item.cfm?record=45555&c=1&kw=Jazz

... by an artist for all Joplins.

Howard

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#986484 - 01/04/07 05:24 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
tinyfingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 22
Loc: Issaquah, WA
This is my first post on this particular forum. I'm really just a lurker, but the discussion about "The Entertainer" brought back a fond memory from my childhood that I wanted to share.

When I was about 8 years old, my brother and I had been taking piano lessons for a couple of years. After hearing the music promoting "The Sting", we taught ourselves to play "The Entertainer" as a duet -- he played the left hand notes and I played the right hand notes (neither of us could play the whole thing on our own). We actually played a great deal of popular music this way while we were growing up.

I still have the sheet music and recently practiced it for a while, but it REALLY IS HARD to play if you have small hands. So Gourdo, keep practicing, but don't torture your poor fingers too much. There are some pieces that simply require a big reach (believe me, I can just reach an octave flathanded).

I do remember playing the Maple Leaf Rag years ago -- perhaps it's a more difficult piece but easier for small hands??
_________________________
tinyfingers

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#986485 - 01/07/07 11:20 AM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
If you are into Joplin rags, I would recommend trying out "The Cascades" and "Solace" which are both a bit easier to play than either of the above. [/b]

Below is a quote from William Albright, Professor of Music Composition at the University of Michigan who's recording of the Complete Rags of Scott Joplin can be purchased through The Musical Heritage Society Catalog # 522771H. Virtuoso performances and an excellent reference for the student wishing to hear them played correctly. I have several other recordings that are not up to this standard.

"The Cascades is a virtuoso work and one of Joplin's best. Having played it off and on since I was eleven or twelve, I can testify that it doesn't get easier with age!"

What is tough about this piece is the tempo, it is fast! It starts out in C Major going to B Flat Major in the C Section to E Flat Major in the D section.

You can take what I say with a grain of salt \:D What is "easier" about this piece is that it doesn't have those multiple sixteenth octave progressions which are hard to nail with the effortlessness (relaxed hand) that Hobie speaks of. This is the point about playing these rags, there has to be an absolute flow and eveness to pull them off. I suppose this is why it takes so long to learn them.

So far as Solace being as or more difficult than some of the others, I personally disagree. It has a slower pace, nothing too terribly difficult so far as chords go. The only part that is technically difficult, at least for me is the "B" section. I still don't have that flow down but it is gradually improving. Now so far as mastering any of these rags I expect it will be years away but they are just a joy to learn and play.

After looking closely at the score and listening to Mr. Albright play Joplin's Rags, I come back to my original opinion that "Maple Leaf" is the most challenging. My teacher agrees. I don't feel in the least ready to tackle this piece as it would consume too much time.

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#986486 - 01/07/07 12:03 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Serge88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 775
Loc: Canada
I'm learning The Entertainer for easy piano, if I have a chance I will upload a recording.

Serge
_________________________

“Being able to hear recorded music freed up loads of musicians that couldn't necessarily afford to learn to read or write music. With recording, it was emancipation for the people.”
-Keith Richards


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#986487 - 01/07/07 04:38 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4372
Loc: Jersey Shore
I'm surprised this song. The Entertainer is the last song in the Alfred book #1...

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#986488 - 01/07/07 06:37 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Hi all,

I have a good CD of 14 of the most popular Joplin Rags. These are played by Alexander Peskanov and the CD # is 394391142 on Maxos 'American Classics'

I also agree with Hobie that Maple Leaf Rag is harder than the Entertainer. If you practice long enough the octave will not be a problem and the hand will stretch if you are young enough and if acoustic piano is your instrument you will surely need that octave capability. Plus more pain on some classical, or boogie left hand stuff.

The piano isn't easy on 'repetitive strain injury' Just keep at it and the pain will not last long. Nor will it return once you have gone though that stage.

Alan

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#986489 - 01/07/07 11:23 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
mimi9 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 32
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I learned to play The Entertainer when I was 16 or so, when "The Sting" came out. I learned the Maple Leaf Rag then too. I didn't find them that hard but I probably wasn't very critical of my playing at the time. My point is that I probably didn't play them all that well, but I *was* able to play them at proper speed.

I am 49 now and have been working on The Entertainer again. The first section is the hardest with those octave chords. I have been struggling to get those clean. My hands are small---I can barely reach a ninth---but what I am noticing is that as I keep working on the piece, the stretch gets easier. I think my fingers are getting a bit more limber due to the practice.

What I have found hard about the piece is relaxing. Sometimes I find one of my hands tensing up and I have to work on relaxing it. It's getting better though.

If you're finding it too hard, by all means set it aside and try it again in a few months. Your subconscious will work on it---and if you work on other pieces in the meantime, it should be easier when you get back to it.

I have also been working on Solace, which is fairly straightforward, but that B section is tough....those grace notes drive me crazy....

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#986490 - 01/09/07 05:06 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
Kevin_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/02
Posts: 335
Loc: Illinois
I love Joplin music. In my opinion, The Cascades and Euphonic Sounds are among the toughest to play.

If you want an "elegant" Joplin piece, try Solace, as others have recommended, or Gladiolus Rag. I wouldn't say that these are especially easy, either, but they are beautiful and fun.

To warm up, I've sometimes used the exercises in Joplins "School of Ragtime." They have helped me stretch the hands and prepare for the octave reaches. Going up and down the keyboard in octaves with both hands (C scale) helps, too.

Because the Entertainer isn't supposed to be played very fast, I think you have to work harder to hit all the octaves cleanly -- and that's tiring for the hands.

Good luck!

Kevin

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#986491 - 01/09/07 05:27 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
BB Player Offline


Registered: 11/17/06
Posts: 2510
Loc: Not in Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kevin:
Because the Entertainer isn't supposed to be played very fast, I think you have to work harder to hit all the octaves cleanly -- and that's tiring for the hands.

Kevin [/b]
I believe one of Joplin's biggest complaints was that people played his music too fast. I know that for me, it's really easy to do. I find myself starting "The Entertainer" at a nice, slow tempo but then by about 2/3rds of the way through I'm lettin' it rip - it's just so much fun to play!
_________________________
Greg

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#986492 - 01/09/07 06:00 PM Re: Trying to play Joplin's The Entertainer
mikewu99 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/03
Posts: 314
Loc: Audubon, PA
The key to playing the octave chords is to relax the hands. Resist the temptation to "lock" your hands in the chord position and bang away. Your hand will tire out in no time if you do this.

A good exercise (but tedious) for chord sequences where you tend to tense up is:
(1) Play the first chord, keep you hand on the keys.
(2) Deliberately force you hand to relax, while keeping the keys depressed. Shake your wrist to make sure it is relaxed.
(3) Once your hand relaxes, look at the keys for the next chord. Lift your hand from the first chord and hit the next chord. Look then jump!
(4) Again pause with your fingers on the second chord, deliberately force your hand to relax. Continue in this manner for the entire chord sequence.
(5) Try stringing together chords in pairs, pausing and relaxing between pairs. Move on to triples, etc. until you can play the entire chord sequence.
(6) If you still have trouble, playing each chord change forwards then backwards a few times using the pause/relax exercise can help.

As far as easier Joplin rags, if I recall correctly "The Strenuous Life" and "The easy Winners" are both considerably easier than "The Entertainer". I find the rhythms in both "Maple Leaf" (heavy syncopation) and "Solace" (slow tango) to be quite difficult (the key doesn't bother me, I find that pieces with more black keys are easier to play once you get past the reading issues; I love c# minor...)

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