About

me

 

My name is Ragnar Hellspong. I've been playing ragtime piano in the Stockholm area for more than 50 years and piano in various traditional jazz bands for even longer than that. So I'm obviously an old man. Stopped playing in jazz bands long ago but just for fun I present below a 1990 recording by my last band (called Rhythm Kings). We took our tunes primarily from the repertoir of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers and Bix Beiderbeck and his Gang. This sample is from the Bix repertoir and it's called:

Sorry

First heard ragtime on a vinyl record, probably around 1958. It was a piano roll recording and I still remember some of the tunes: Magnetic Rag, Ragtime Oriole and A Tennessee Tantalizer.

It was practically impossible to find any ragtime sheet music back then but I was lucky enough to finally find a folio of 12 classical rags by Scott Joplin, James Scott and Joseph Lamb. That's how it started for me.

Some years ago I composed two rags myself. Here they are:

1996 Rag's Rag show or download score
2000 Krusenberg Rag show or download score

Krusenberg Rag was recently arranged for pianola by Adam Ramet of Pianola Society fame. Here is his arrangement. The pdf-file contains the arrangement, and comparing it to the original score gives a clue to as why piano rolls can sound so much better than straight performances of the piano score. On a piano roll you can have as many voices as you like and you are not restricted by the limited span of human hands. Quite revealing I think.

2000 Krusenberg Rag for pianola (Arr: Adam Ramet) show or download score

Today ragtime sheet music and MIDI files are readily available on the Internet. So why make yet another ragtime site?

Reason #1 is that nowhere have I found each piano rag presented with both an audio file and the corresponding sheet music. Here you can look at the sheet music while listening to the audio file. For someone wanting to learn how to play a certain rag this must be ideal.

Reason #2 is that I believe it's no longer advisable to stick to rags in MIDI-format. The sound quality for the average man (with no other sound source than his computer's built-in Wavetable synth) is poor and the fact that a MIDI-file is about 100 times smaller than a mp3-file has become irrelevant. Broadband connections are getting faster and faster, yet all ragtime sites carry MIDI-files only. So all files on this site are in mp3 format which gives a much better sound quality for everyone plus when downloading the files the possibility to use various mp3-devices (including most mobile phones) for play back.

Reason #3 is that I felt the need for a site which also carried ragtime orchestra audio files and arrangements. It would certainly please me if this site could inspire someone to start a ragtime band using the arrangements presented here. I would love to start one myself too.

If you want to comment on this site you can can reach me at my mail adress below (can't make it too easy for spam robots!).

You can also leave a comment on a related blog where all uploads to this site are listed.

About

Swedish

Ragtime

Society

 

Yes, there is a Ragtime Society in Sweden too, thanks to my friend Oleg Mezjuev. He has meant a lot for the promotion of ragtime in this country and on his web site the Swedish Ragtime Home Page you will find - among other things - a completely unique collection of mid-files of contemporary rags from all around the world as well as biographical information on all composers.

Oleg introduced me to the world of music sequencers and inspired me to compose my own two rags, mentioned above. Kudos to him for that!

About

this site

 

The virtual ragtime performances - both piano and orchestral - on this site have all been produced with the help of state of the art music notation software and digital sound libraries.

The music notation software (Sibelius 7) can produce professional looking music scores and play back the music with the help of digital sound libraries.

In an effort to make the audio files to sound as natural and professional as possible I have over time replaced one sound library with another three times (so far) and redone all or most of the existing audio files all over again.

I started off in 2009 (half a year before ragsrag.com went online) by using the sound library that comes with the Sibelius package. This sound library is called Sibelius Sounds. All audio files were produced with this package until November 2011 when I switched to a better sound library called Garritan Jazz & Big Band 3 and shortly thereafter also Garritan Personal Orchestra 4. These libraries had better sounds than the Sibelius package but they were kind of cumbersome to use, at least for the orchestral pieces as I found it difficult to mix the instruments to a balanced rendition.

The latter problem was solved when a brand new sound library called NotePerformer became available in September 2013. The fantastic thing with this sound library was that it optimized the orchestral balance between the instruments automatically (based on some magic algorithms I suppose). This is so far an unique feature not available in any other sound library package. So now (in the beginning of December 2013) I have redone all orchestral sound files on the Virtual Orchestra page with NotePerformer. I hope you will like the result!

The piano files on the Piano rolls and Virtual piano pages have not been redone with NotePerformer as there is no balancing to be made with just one instrument. These files were - and are - made with the Garritan Jazz & Big Band library and more specifically it's Steinway piano font.

Most pieces have been transcribed from original music scores with the help of a music scanning program called PhotoScore Ultimate 7. The original scores surprisingly often contained errors which have been fixed when found.

The piano roll mp3:s have been converted from MIDI format with the help of Sibelius. This process involves getting the MIDI files from the people who converts piano rolls to MIDI. The four sites I used to get these files are:

Kudos to Terry Smythe, Robert Perry, Frank Himpsl and Warren Trachtman for making these files available for free.

All audio samples are in mp3 format. You can listen to them online (a good head-set is recommended for much better sound) or download them. If downloaded these files can be used as they are on your PC or on a mp3-player.

All scores are in pdf format so you can look at them online, download them or print them out. The piano scores usually consists of 2-4 pages and the orchestral scores of 2-3 pages for the piano part and 1 page per instrument for the other instruments.

Practically all music on this site was composed before 1923 and are thus in the public domain. The few pieces composed later are still copyrighted but are here with the consent of their composers so you are free to dowload them too if you like.