• E.M.G.

Cool Rag (English version)

Mis à jour : 11 févr. 2019

Listen to the Ragtime: https://youtu.be/aL-3p2OAInU


This Rag is made up of 2 parts A and B. It is written in the key of Ab major (part A) and part B sounds in the key of DbM (key of the subdominant, the degree IV).


Instead of most traditional Rags, eighth notes must be played lively (with some swing). You may also hear some stride formulas at the end of each phrase (octaves bass with chromatic motions in the melody).


Here are the different parts of this Ragtime

Introduction from measures 1 to 4.


Parts A A B B A


Themes a b repetition c c’ repetition repetition


Mes. 4+4 4+4 8 8


Keys I to V V to I IV


N° mes. 5 13 21, 29 37 45 53, 61 69, 77


Climax 17 to 19 33 to 35 49 to 51 65 to 67 81 to 83


Measures 1 to 4: waiting for the dominant chord EbM


The first measure begins in a relative high register with the right hand playing downward arpeggios of the Ab7 chord (dominant of the degree IV, DbM). In measure 2, the melody goes on the DbM and Dbm chords tones (IVM and IVm).


In measure 3 appears the bass playing a chromatic upward motion leading to the dominant (Eb) in measure 4. Note the opposite motion between this bass line and the downward chromatic motion in the melody. With the tonic pedal in the right hand, it sounds like the end of the introduction and brings the dominant chord in measure 4 (EbM and Eb+).


Finally, what can we find in an introduction? Beginning with only one melodic line creates suspense, using chromatic motions over subdominant chords (degree IV) increase expectance of the dominant chord (degree V), and writing in various registers may give a direction to the music.


What about the last “chord” of measure 3? It is the result of the 2 chromatic lines both leading to Eb, but can be understood as a Bb7#11 chord (dominant of the dominant, V/V), or even its substitute chord E7! Indeed, D, Fb and Ab are the same notes as D, E and G#!


Measures 5 to 20: Part A (a Eb, F and G story)

The first theme begins, it uses a short pattern based on Eb, F and G (these notes can be found in measures 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 14, 16 and even 19). The melody and chords progression can be divided in 2 groups of 8 measures.


Measures 5 to 8:

These 4 measures are almost based the same chords as in the introduction: IM (AbM), I7 (Ab7), IVM and IVm (DbM and Dbm) but without the dominant chord. Note the major 6th on the tonic chord, typical of Ragtime music, and the chromatic motion (blue notes) between the 9th and 3rd of Ab7 (mes. 6).


Measures 9 to 12:

These 4 measures lead to a short modulation to the dominant key Eb major. In measure 10, note the chromatic upward bass from the tonic Ab to the dominant of the dominant (Bb). This AbM chord is both the previous tonic and the next subdominant.


Indeed, after the AbM chord, there is a F#°7 chord (same role as F7: V/V) bringing a 2nd inversion of EbM (in measure 11: a 4th and 6th inversion), and the new dominant (Bb7) of the new key (Eb major). This is a “final” progression V to I into the dominant key Eb major.

As regards the right hand, in measure 9, the rhythm of the melody is a diminution of measure 5. In measure 10, we find the same chromatic motion as in measure 6. Note the major 6th on the Bb7 chord in measure 11, and the chromatic upward motion from F to the new dominant Bb on last beat of measure 10 and 1st of 11.


Measures 12 to 20:

This modulation to Eb major doesn’t last long, as the EbM chord in measure 12 quickly turns into a Eb7 chord again, to come back to the original key Ab major. Note the similarity of the melody in measure 8 and 13, 9 and 14.


In measure 15, the DbM chord (IV) is followed by G-7b5, bringing a C7 chord in measure 16. In measure 17, C7 resolves on F7. In measure 18, note the chromatic upward bass from Db to the dominant Eb, thanks to chords Bbm7 (degree II) and B°7 (equal to Bb7: V/V). In most cases, such an acceleration of harmonic rhythm announces a final V to I progression.


What about chords in measure 12? Between the octaves of the left hand in the bass and the dominant pedal in the treble, you may hear some chromatic motions. The first and last chords of measure 12 are EbM and then Eb7, but Eb7 is brought by 2 other chords DbM and F#°7 (or Eb°7). This Eb°7 chord is an approach chord of Eb7.


In Ragtime, diminished approach chords can be used on the main degrees I or V.

To find the appropriate diminished approach chord of a target chord, take the root of the target chord (I or V) and built a 7° chord over it. As regards the choice of the 2 bass notes, it can either stay on the root, or go to the 5th or 3rd of the degree I or V in a chromatic upward motion.


However, note that the target chord must be played on a strong beat! And don’t mistake secondary dominant 7b9 chords without root for diminished approach chords!

Concerning the melody, note the similarity between measures 15 and 16. On the 2nd beat of measure 19, note the 2nd intermediate melody. In measure 20, remark the parallel upward chromatic 3rd. By the way, to enhance the melody, the right hand uses several parallel 6th or 3rd all along the Rag (measures 6, 8, 13, 14, 16 and so on…).


Unity of the melody may be reinforced by the following half note rhythm: eighth note, quarter note and eighth note again (in measures 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 19).


Measures 37 to 68 : Part B, the climax

At the end of part A, in measure 36, the octaves bass, with the flat G, plays Ab7 (V/IV). The previous tonic chord (AbM) becomes the new dominant chord (Ab7). Using common chords between 2 different keys is an efficient way to create modulations.


Measures 37 to 40 are made of 2 groups of 2 measures. Indeed, the pitch contour of the melody in measures 37 and 38 is the same as in measures 39 and 40, although it isn’t a real transposition but only imitation.


These 4 measures are based on chords I, V and V, I. As those 2 chords aren’t played in the same order, whereas the right hand pattern is still played the same way, we can hear each part of the melody “re-harmonized” by V and I. This idea of inverting harmonization (or keys) while the melody follows the same order is an efficient way of creating forms, in many styles of music (especially in the Sonata form, also in Baroque imitations).


Moreover, note that melodic patterns in measures 37 (39) and 38 (40) are relatively different: the first uses a 6th on DbM and arpeggios of Ab°7, whereas the other plays chromatic parallel downward 3rds.


Measures 41 and 42 play the same pattern on Bb7 (V/II) and Eb- (II), almost a real transposition. Note the use of a new longer rhythm and plated chords in the right hand.

In measure 43, this Eb- chord turns into a Eb7 (V/V). It brings the dominant chord Ab7 in measure 44. In this measure, note that the melodic pattern on the first beat is the same as in measure 11.


However, this time it is written in parallel 3rd. On the 2nd beat of measure 44, the right hand plays parallel chromatic downward 6th from root to 7th. In most cases, those parallel 3rd or 6th can be related to real “virtual” chords: either dominant, subdominant or diminished approach chords.


For example, in measure 20, parallel 3rd which are not based on the current chord AbM are: Eb and G, Gb and A, G and Bb, Bb and C#, B and D.


Indeed, B and D can be harmonized by Ab°7, diminished approach chord of AbM, Bb and C# can be linked to Eb7 (G and Bb, Eb and G too) which is the dominant chord, and Gb and A can be understood as Eb°7, diminished approach chord of Eb7.


The 2nd part of B, from 45 to 52, is almost based on the same chords changes and melody as in measures from 37 to 44. However, this one is written an octave higher. Moreover, in measure 46, parallel 3rd of measure 38 become parallel chromatic chords: F-, E- and Eb- over the Ab7 chord.

Also note some modifications in the bass: in measures 45 and 47, instead of 37 and 39, there is a chromatic upward bass, from the tonic Db to Eb in 45 and from Eb to F in 47. Note in measure 47 the use of Db°7, diminished approach chord of DbM, which doesn’t appear in 39.

In measure 48, to bring variation, the bass follows a downward chromatic motion from Db to Bb. Of course, as it is the end of part B, measures 40 to 52 differs from 42 to 44: this time the Eb- chord goes to Eb°7 (equal to Eb7, V/V) to bring the final V to I progression in 51-52.


In measure 51, on the first beat, over a 2nd inversion of DbM, the melody is the same as in 44 (real transposition). In Measure 52 sounds another stride process using stepwise motion other passing octaves: after the dbM chord, 3 additional chords appear: AbM (V), Eb7 (V/V) and Ab7 again to bring back the Db major key of part B.


This part B uses more diminished approach chord than in part A: on the last beat of 37 and 45 (Ab°7 going to AbM), last beat of 47 (Db°7 going to DbM). Moreover, the use of a higher register and more harmonic tension sound like a climax.


Finally, the part A is played again after a short break on Eb7, the original dominant, brought back by the previous degree I DbM (measure 68).

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