Difference Between Ragtime and Stride (With Table)

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The styles of playing American piano are closely related and often sound similar. The two common styles are Ragtime and Stride. The styles have an active virtuosity and a steady baseline. But there are distinct differences in the features of both styles of piano playing.

Ragtime vs Stride

The main difference between ragtime and stride is that ragtime follows a strict structure of sheet music while stride does not follow any strict structure of written music. Ragtime has originated earlier, between 1897-1950 while stride has been developed later in 1920-1930.

Ragtime comprises of “rags”. The composition is strict and inspired by marches. They are usually written down and played upon dictation. There are four main strains and 16 measures organized in different forms. There is often a short introduction before the first play. Ragtime does not allow any kind of improvisation and solely follows the written music.

On the other hand, the stride is open-ended and there is no strict composition to follow. The pianists of stride can give their personality to the composition and does not restrict to any specific sheet music. There have been numerous improvisations and embellishments in stride.

Comparison Table Between Ragtime and Stride

Parameters of Comparison RagtimeStride
Origin period 1897 to 1950s 1920s to 1930s
Origin place Originates in Midwestern and southern United States Originated in East Coast cities especially New York
Father of the culture Scott Joplin James P Johnson
Improvisation Did not allow any improvisations or embellishments Allowed more improvisations and embellishments
History Ragtime was waned and waxed before the recording of music started Stride was developed during the early revolution of recording technology

What is Ragtime?

Ragtime is a genre of music with a specific piano style that was found in 1897. The characteristic of the ragtime genre of music is that the rhythm sounds ragged. The music type was composed for the piano.

Ragtime was used as original music in dance music of the American cities like Saint Louis or New Orleans red-light area. The influencing factor of ragtime music was African music. John Philip Souza had made ragtime popular by modifying the March music and making additions of polyrhythms.

The most popular composer of ragtime music was Scott Joplin. The most loved work of Scott Joplin is Maple Leaf rag which was published in the year 1899. It had become a big hit on the revived music. Ragtime was also forgotten for some time but later revived in the late 1940s. Many people consider ragtime to be responsible for influencing the jazz genre of music. The belief is due to several jazz players who played ragtime during the 1940s.

The revolution of ragtime was seen in the 1950s when new rags were being constantly composed, recorded, and published. The revolution in the 1950s also brought about a change in the style of ragtime. The rags of Scott Joplin brought revival in the 1970s to ragtime. This also won the record of Grammy Award for the genre of ragtime. Most people consider ragtime as the American classic.

What is Stride?

Stride is referred to the style or way of playing jazz piano. The term stride is synonymous with stride piano or Harlem stride. The term stride has been inspired by the striding movement of the left hand on the keyboard. This style of playing the piano was common in the East Coast cities especially in New York during the time 1920 to 1930s.

Stride was mainly developed in New York City. This style of playing jazz piano was mainly found in slow-tempo music. Stride could be played with more speed once the player had reached an expertise level. This style of piano playing has arisen mainly from ragtime players.

Some prominent stride pianists are Mary Lou Williams, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Luckey Roberts, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and several others. This style of piano actively uses quick tempos and pianos ranges. The left hand plays a four-beat pulse with a single bass note and major 7th or 10th on the interval of the third and the first beat and a constant chord of the 2nd and 4th beat.

The stride of the piano is highly rhythmic as it has alternate-based nodes and chord actions produced by the left hand. There is a subtle rhythmic tension that is quite close to the tempo which is established. The “Father of Stride” is referred to as James P Johnson.

Main Differences Between Ragtime and Stride

  1. Ragtime consists of rags and is inspired by marches while stride is open-ended and can be given different forms depending upon the personality.
  2. Ragtime was developed from 1897 to the 1950s while stride was developed during the 1920s to 1930s.
  3. Cities like New Orleans and Saint Louis were the first to start ragtime while New York was the first city to develop stride style.
  4. Ragtime does not allow any embellishments in the written music while stride allows embellishments in the written music.
  5. Scott Joplin is known as the “king of ragtime” while James P Johnson is known as the “father of stride”.


Ragtime and stride at two major forms and styles of playing American piano. Since founded early, ragtime was quite strict with its composition while stride was open-ended to the pianists. This later led to a critical movement of pianists from ragtime to the jazz tradition.

Ragtime has been even before the recording of music started. Hence ragtime is also considered an American classic. It was during the end of the ragtime era when the piano players were given prominence in the music industry. After the introduction of stride, a shift of pianists toward this culture was seen because of the freedom of composition.

Both the styles of piano playing sound similar as they have syncopated melodic rhythm and active bases. There are prominent players in both styles. Both styles have brought progression in the musical style and recording industry.


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=lang_en&id=oAI8CrQhM2cC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=ragtime+and+stride&ots=jW4yQXwsqt&sig=7eNi16Xw_UtfMvyvt-oZd9gL5FE
  2. https://ir.library.illinoisstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4103&context=somp
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