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I am practicing Scott Joplin - The Entertainer, based on this score from 8notes.com.

It all sounds fine, except for this segment:

The red marked segment sounds off when I play it. It sounds nothing like the sound file on 8notes.com. Is there maybe a misprint or something else wrong with it? Or does it sound and look fine to you?

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    If you think that the 8notes.com recording sounds OK, but your playing doesn't sound like it, then logically, you must be doing something wrong. Consider uploading an excerpt of your playing to YouTube or clyp. – 200_success May 17 at 17:20
  • In addition to the other answers, the "recording" on that website plays the right hand at a piano dynamic level while the left hand continues at forte. This softens the dissonance (quite literally) on beat 4 and makes it less obvious, something one wouldn't do when performing this piece. – Richard May 18 at 4:54
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This is not the original score but a simplified version of it. The original uses a bass/chord pattern of E-c-C-c7 (and fuller chords) so you might want to change the third quarter note E to C and add a b flat to the chord on the fourth quarter note (this fits the movement into the next chord as written).

Doing this will make for a less "stuck" appearance of the second half of that measure and will have better leading into the next measure.

You might want to ditch that simplified version. The first prints of Joplin should be out of copyright so you should be able to get copies of the original comparatively easily, and it's not that much more difficult to play.

And messing up fine points of the harmonic and melodic developments and bass lines like this really distracts from the original flow of the piece.

  • Thanks for the input. Still, no matter how I twist or turn it, the F-sharp just sounds weird in it. – Leonore May 17 at 15:39
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    I disagree with your assessment that the original is not that much difficult: it has more chords in the right hand, and the left hand jumps around a lot. I'd like to point out, though, that the original's tempo indication is "Not fast", yet the 8notes.com version says "Presto", which is totally not "Not fast"! – 200_success May 17 at 17:17
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You can get an accurate score here: https://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/piece-info.cgi?id=263 , and you can hear a public domain recorded performance here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Entertainer_(rag) (box on the right). Here's the part you're talking about:

enter image description here

The score you're working from is simplified, and in this particular bar it's inaccurate. The left hand doesn't have a G on the final 8th note of the bar, it has the chord Bb C E. Joplin presumably didn't include a G in this chord for exactly the reason that it bugged you -- a prominent clash with the melody.

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We can't hear your playing, but if you are at the stage where you are playing this type of simplified arrangement, I would guess the problem is that you haven't yet learned that the dynamic level of every individual note in each chord is important.

The G F# G in the right hand are marked "p" (soft) but you need to play the G and C in the left hand even quieter than the F# in the right hand.

As another answer said, its worth looking at the original version here. In particular, including the original B flat in that chord will make a lot of difference to the overall effect. Try changing the C to a Bb if you don't want to increase the number of notes you play.

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First I wrote the following as a comment, but then I realized that it is in fact an answer and therefore should not go in the comments section but instead be posted as an answer:

Well, it actually sounds fine the way it is written in that score, BUT when you practice it in a slow practice tempo the F♯ will sound weird because you have a G in the left hand at the same time. There are many pieces of music where there will be sections which will often sound weird when you practice it in a slow tempo. Once you get the tempo faster it turns out OK.

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    This interpretation would be more plausible if the score the OP was working from didn't simply have a wrong chord at that spot. And Joplin always insisted that his work wasn't supposed to be played fast. – Ben Crowell May 17 at 18:44
  • @BenCrowell I actually I did NOT say you should play it fast. I talked about practicing in a slow practice tempo and then you can later play it faster than that and it will sound OK. This particular score will sound OK, but of course the closer you get to the original the better off you are. – Lars Peter Schultz May 17 at 19:14
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You can get away with most 'off sounding notes' in ragtime just because of the speed of resolution. Most rags uses a lot of chromatic notes that clashes with the melody or harmony unless you play it fast enough. There are a lot of walking bass lines with chromatic movements and if played slow they can clash with the harmony or vice versa, but if you play it at a normal speed and they resolve fast enough back to a diatonic tone, it gives more like a 'color' to the song instead of an off-sounding feeling.

Other than that, I know that 8notes has a lot of scores, sadly they are more often than not not too accurate. They are probably fine for simple songs like hymns, but not that great for more advanced scores, because they often have mistakes in them.

Especially for ragtime, I would always search for an original score. Because many of them are already in public domain (copyright free, because they were written before 1929), you'll find a lot of copies of the original scores online. Here is for example just the first page of the song you're looking for. If this version is too hard to play for you, you can just simplify them yourself ;)

enter image description here

  • Just read your comment. Thanks for elaborating posting the notes, it helps! – Leonore Jul 7 at 11:18
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Thanks for all the helpful answers. Indeed, it must sound off due to my slow playing speed and the simplified version of notes.

I found this person on youtube who plays the exact notes I posted (

). Indeed, it sounds ok at the pace he's playing, and he definitely includes the F-sharp.

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