Music Humor

Here is music-related humor I thought you might enjoy. Some text, some links, some insulting (I apologize in advance for any offense given).

Instrument Jokes

Many of these instrument jokes came, in one form or another, from either a site at M.I.T. or the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's home page. Both of these sites have other fun stuff, too.

String players' motto: "Better sharp than out of tune."

Q: Why are viola jokes so short?
A: So violinists can understand them.

Q: How do you make a cello sound beautiful?
A: Sell it and buy a violin.

Did you hear about the bassist who was so out of tune his section noticed?

Q: Why is an 11-foot concert grand better than a studio upright?
A: Because it makes a much bigger kaboom when dropped over a cliff.

The organ is the instrument of worship for in its sounding we sense the Majesty of God, and in its ending we know the Grace of God.

Q: Why are harps like elderly parents?
A: Both are unforgiving and hard to get into and out of cars.

Q: How long does a harp stay in tune?
A: About 20 minutes or until someone opens a door.

Q: How do you get two piccolos to play in unison?
A: Shoot one.

Q: Why is a bassoon better than an oboe?
A: The bassoon burns longer.

Q: What is a burning oboe good for?
A: Setting a bassoon on fire.

Q: What is the definition of a half step?
A: Two oboes playing in unison.

Q: What is the definition of a major second?
A: Two baroque oboes playing in unison.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To get away from the bassoon recital.

Q: How many clarinetists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one, but he'll go through a whole box of bulbs before he finds just the right one.

Q: What's the definition of "nerd?"
A: Someone who owns his own alto clarinet.

Q: What do you call a bass clarinetist with half a brain?
A: Gifted.

Q: What's the difference between a saxophone and a lawn mower?
A #1: Lawn mowers sound better in small ensembles.
A #2: The neighbors are upset if you borrow a lawnmower and don't return it.
A #3: The grip.

Q: What's the difference between a baritone saxophone and a chain saw?
A: The exhaust.

Q: What's the difference between trumpet players and government bonds?
A: Government bonds eventually mature and earn money.

Q: What's the difference between a bass trombone and a chain saw?
A #1: Vibrato, though you can minimize this difference by holding the chain saw very still.
A #2: It's easier to improvise on a chainsaw.

Q: How can you make a French horn sound like a trombone?
A #1: Take your hand out of the bell and lose all sense of taste.
A #2: Take your hand out of the bell and miss all of the notes!

Q: What is a gentleman?
A: Somebody who knows how to play the trombone but doesn't.

Q: What do you call a trombonist with a beeper and a cellular telephone?
A: An optimist.

Q: What is the dynamic range of the bass trombone?
A: On or off.

Q: How can you make a trombone sound like a French horn?
A: Stick your hand in the bell and play a lot of wrong notes.

Q: Why is the French horn a divine instrument?
A: Because a man blows in it, but only God knows what comes out of it.

Q: What's the range of a tuba?
A: Twenty yards if you've got a good arm!

Q: How do you fix a broken tuba?
A: With a tuba glue.

Q: Why are orchestra intermissions limited to 20 minutes?
A: So you don't have to retrain the drummers.

Q: Did you hear about the time the bass player who locked his keys in his car?
A: It took two hours to get the drummer out.

Q: If you threw a violist and a soprano off a cliff, which one would hit the ground first?
A: The violist. The soprano would have to stop halfway down to ask directions.

Q: What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?
A: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Q: What's the difference between a Wagnerian soprano and the average All-Pro offensive lineman?
A: Stage makeup.

Q: How do you put a sparkle in a soprano's eye?
A: Shine a flashlight in her ear.

Q: What's the definition of an alto?
A: A soprano who can sight-read.

Q: Where is a tenor's resonance?
A: Where his brain should be.

Q: How many basses does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They're so macho they prefer to walk around in the dark and bang their shins.

Q: What is the difference between the men's final at Wimbledon and a high school choral performance?
A: The tennis final has more men.

Q: Know how to make a million dollars singing jazz?
A: Start with two million.

Q: How does a young man become a member of a high school chorus?
A: On the first day of school, he turns into the wrong classroom.

Q: What's the definition of an optimist?
A: A choral director with a mortgage.

Q: What's the difference between a banjo and a chain saw?
A: The chain saw has greater dynamic range.

Q: What's the least-used sentence in the English language?
A: "Isn't that the banjo player's Porsche?"

Q: What do you say to a banjo player in a three-piece suit?
A: "Will the defendant please rise?"

There's nothing I like better than the sound of a banjo, unless of course it's the sound of a chicken caught in a vacuum cleaner.

Q: What does it mean when a guitar player is drooling out both sides of his mouth?
A: The stage is level.

Q: How do you get a guitar player to play softer?
A: Give him some printed music.

Q: What do you call two guitarists playing in unison?
A: Counterpoint.

Did you hear about the electric bass player who was so bad that even the lead singer noticed?

Q: If you drop an accordion, a set of bagpipes and a viola off a 20-story building, which one lands first?
A: Who cares?

Q: What's the difference between an Uzi and an accordion?
A: The Uzi stops after 20 rounds.

Q: What do you call ten accordions at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good start.

Q: What's a bassoon good for?
A: Kindling for an accordion fire.

Q: Why do bagpipe players walk while they play?
A: To get away from the noise.

A Primer for Beginners

original attributed to Memphis Earlene Gray, with help from Uncle Plunky
emendations by Martha Beth Lewis

Most Blues begin with "Woke up this mornin'."

It is usually bad to start the Blues with "Got a good woman" unless you stick something mean in the next line. Example: "Got a good woman with the meanest dog in town."

Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something else that rhymes. Sort of. Example: "Got a good woman with the meanest dog in town...oh, yeah!...Got me a good woman with the meanest dog in town. He got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and he weigh 'bout 500 pound."

Blues cars are Chevys, Cadillacs, and broke down trucks circa 1957.

Other acceptable Blues transportation are a Greyhound bus or a "southbound train." Note: A BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, mini-van, or sport utility vehicle are NOT Blues cars.

"Walkin' " plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does "fixin' to die" and "findin' a good woman."

Teenagers can't sing the Blues. Only adults sing the Blues. Adulthood, when it comes to the Blues, means old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

You can have the Blues in New York City or Los Angeles - sort of - but not in New Haven or Phoenix. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a minor depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues, but Abilene, Mobile, and New Orleans are ok in a pinch.

The following colors do NOT belong in the Blues: antique violet, champagne, mauve, taupe, and peach.

Blues is not a matter of color, however. Tiger Woods can't sing the blues; Sonny Liston can.

You can't have the Blues in an office building or a shopping mall; the lighting is all wrong. Other bad places for the Blues: Kmart, gallery openings, and the supermarket.

Good places for the Blues: a jail house, your mama's back porch, beside the highway, bottom of a rot-gut whiskey glass, or a solitary room in a fleabag hotel.

No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit or anything by Ralph Lauren.

Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
Yes, if:
· your first name is a southern state. Example: Georgia
· you're blind
· you shot a man in Memphis.

No, if:
· you're deaf
· anyone in your family drives a BMW
· you have a trust fund.

Yanni, Julio Iglesias, Michael Bublé, and Barbara Streisand may not sing the Blues. Ever.

If you ask for water and your baby gives you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other Blues beverages are:
· malt liquor
· whiskey
· muddy water
. Thunderbird wine (or Ripple or Riunite; but not Boone's Farm)
· one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer. At the same time.

Blues beverages are NOT:
· mai-tai
· Chardonnay
· Yoo Hoo (all flavors)

If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is also a Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, Demon Rum, or cocaine.

It is NOT a Blues death if you die during a liposuction treatment, on account of being denied treatment in an emergency room, or oxycontin, or 'ludes.

Some Blues Names for women: Sadie, Louise, Bessie, and Baby.
Women's names which are NOT Blues names: Heather, Jennifer, Emily, and Alexandra.

Some Blues Names for men: Joe, Willie, Joe Willie, Willie Joe, Hank, and Po' Boy.
Men's names that are NOT Blues names: Geoffrey, Derek, and Keith.

Persons with names like Damien, Alistaire, Sierra, or Sequoia will NOT be permitted to sing the Blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

Need a Blues Name? Try this mix and match starter kit.
· name of physical infirmity (Blind, Asthmatic, etc.) or character flaw (Dishonest, Low Down, etc.)
· or substitute name of a fruit (Lemon, Fig, Persimmon); or use first -and- fruit names
· finish with the last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
Examples: Low Down Persimmon Johnson; One-Handed Fig Wilson.

Need a Blues instrument? Play one or more of the following and alternate with husky voice riffs:
· harmonica
· gih-tar
· fiddle
· sax
· pie-anner (in need of tuning)

-Now- you're ready to sing the Blues! Unless you own a computer.

A drummer, sick of all the drummer jokes, decides to change his instrument. After some thought, he decides on the accordion. So, he goes to the music store and says to the owner, "I'd like to look at the accordions, please." The owner gestures toward a shelf in the corner and says, "All our accordions are over there." After browsing, the drummer says, "I think I'd like the big red one in the corner." The store owner looks at him and says, "You're a drummer, aren't you?" The drummer, amazed, says, "How did you know?" The store owner says, "That 'big red accordion' is the radiator."

The violinist Fritz Kreisler was out strolling with a friend when they came upon a fish market. Kreisler looked down at the fish, seeing row upon row of staring eyes and gaping mouths. Suddenly, he smacked his hand to his forehead. "I'm late for a concert!"


The members of the orchestra are divided into four sections. These are woodwinds, the strings, the brass, and the percussion. There's also someone standing in front of all these other folks playing no instrument at all. This would be the conductor. It is generally required that the conductor is required to make musical decisions and to hold all of the instruments together in a cohesive interpretation of any given work. Not so. Rather, the conductor is necessary because the four groups would rather eat Velveeta than have anything to do with someone from another section. And, as we know, musicians are quite serious about their food.

Why all the animosity? Before I begin my explanation, let me set the record straight in plain English about some of the characteristics which typify the four groups.

Woodwind players have IQs in the low- to mid-genius range. Nerds with coke-bottle glasses and big egos, blowers tend to be extremely quiet, cowering behind bizarre-looking contraptions - - their instruments - - so nobody will notice them. It is often difficult to discern whether a wind player is male or female.

String players are neurotic prima donnas who won't even shake your hand for fear of permanent injury. A string player will never look you directly in the eye. They never bathe carefully - - or often.

Brass players are loud-mouthed drunkards who bully everyone, with the possible and occasional exception of a stray percussionist. They like to slick their hair back. Nobody knows why.

Percussionists are insensitive oafs who constantly make tasteless jokes at the expense of the strings and woodwinds. They look very good in concert attire but have the worst table manners of all musicians. They are always male - or close enough.

Now, is it any wonder orchestra members have little to do with anyone outside of their own section? For the answer to this and other pertinent questions we will need to examine the individual instrument and the respective - - if not respected - - players within each section.

The Woodwinds:

Oboe players are seriously nuts. They usually develop brain tumors from the extreme air pressure built up over the years of playing this rather silly instrument. Oboists suffer from a serious Santa Claus complex, spending all their waking hours carving little wooden toys for imaginary children, although they will tell you they are putting the finishing touches on the world's greatest reed. Oboists can't drive and always wear clothes one size too small. They all wear berets and have special eating requirements which are endlessly annoying and which are intended to make them seem somewhat special.

English horn players are losers, although they dress better than oboists. They cry at the drop of a beret.

Bassoon players are downright sinister. They are your worst enemy, but they come on so sweet that it's really hard to catch them at their game. Here's an instrument that's better seen than heard. Bassoon players like to give the impression that theirs is a very hard instrument to play, but the truth is that the bassoon only plays one or two notes per piece and is therefore only heard for a minute in any given evening. In order to keep their jobs, however - - and this is their only real concern - - they act up a storm doing their very best to look busy, usually by raising and lowering their eyebrows at an alarming rate.

It takes more brawn, and slightly less brain, to play contrabassoon. They are available at pawnshops in large numbers - - the instruments as well as the players - - and play the same three or four numbers as the tuba, although not quite as loudly or beautifully.

Okay, now we come to the flute. Oversexed and undernourished is the ticket here. The flute player has no easier time of getting along with the rest of the orchestra than anyone else, but that won't stop them from sleeping with everyone. Man and woman alike, makes no difference. The bass flute is not even worth mentioning. Piccolos, on the other hand, belong mainly on the fifty yard-line of a football field, where the unfortunate audience can maintain a safe distance.

The clarinet is, without a doubt, the easiest of all orchestral instruments to play. Clarinets are cheap, and the reeds are literally a dime a dozen. Clarinetists have lots of time and money for the finest wines, oriental rugs, and exotic sports cars. They mostly have no education, interest, or talent in music, but fortunately for them they don't need much. Clarinets come in various sizes and keys - - nobody knows why. Don't ask a clarinetist for a loan, as they are stingy and mean. Some of the more talented clarinets can learn to play the saxophone. Big deal.

The Stings:

Let's continue now with the real truth about this section. We begin with the string family's smallest member: the violin. The violin is a high-pitched, high-tension instrument. It's not an easy instrument to play. Lots of hard music is written for this instrument. Important things for a violinist to keep in mind are: Number one - - the door to your studio should be left slightly open so that everyone can hear your brilliant practice sessions. Number two: you should make disparaging remarks about the other violinists whenever possible, which is most of the time. And number three: you should tell everyone how terribly valuable your instrument is until they drool.

The viola is a large and awkward instrument, which, when played, sounds downright disgusting. Violists are the most insecure members of the string section. Nothing can be done about this. Violists don't like to be made fun of and therefore find ways of making people feel sorry for them. They wear shabby clothes so that they'll look as if they've just been dragged under a train. It works quite well.

People who play the cello are simply not good looking. They have generally chosen their instrument because, while in use, the cello hides 80% of its player's considerable bulk. Most cellists are in analysis, which won't end until they can play a scale in tune or, in other words, never. Cellists wear sensible shoes and always bring their own lunch.

Double bass players are almost completely harmless. Most have worked their way up through the ranks of a large moving company and are happy to have a secure job in a symphony orchestra or anywhere. The fact that it takes at least ten basses to make an audible sound tends to make these simple-minded folks disappear into their woodwork, but why do they drive such small cars?

Plucked and Hammered Strings:

Harpists are gorgeous. And they always know it. They often look good into their late eighties. Although rare as hen's teeth, male harpists are equally beautiful. Harpists spend their time perfecting their eye-batting, little-lost-lamb look so they can snare unsuspecting wind players into carrying their heavy gilded furniture around. Debussy was right - - harpists spend half their life tuning and the other half playing out of tune.

Pianists in the symphony orchestra work the least and complain the most. They have unusually large egos and, because they can only play seated, also have the biggest butts. When they make mistakes, which is more often than not, their excuse is that they have never played on that particular piano before. Oh, the poor darlings.

The Brass:

Trumpet players are the scum of the earth. I'll admit, though, they do look good when they're all cleaned up. They'll promise you the world, but they lie like a cheap rug. Sure, they can play soft and pretty during rehearsal, but watch out come concert time! They're worse than lawyers, feeding off the poor, defenseless, weaker members of the orchestra and loving every minute of it. Perhaps the conductor could intercede? Oh, I don't think so.

Trombone players are generally the nicest brass players. They do tend to drink quite heavily, however, and perhaps don't shine the brightest headlights on the highway, but they wouldn't hurt you. They don't count well but stay pretty much out of the way, anyway. Probably because they know just how stupid they look when they play. It's a little-known fact that trombone players are unusually good bowlers. This is true. They're the folks to call with all your pharmaceutical questions.

Regarding the French horn, I have only two words of advice: stay away. Horn players are piranhas. They'll steal your wallet, lunch, boyfriend, or wife given half a chance - - or no chance at all. They have nothing to live for and aren't afraid of ruining your life. The pressure is high for them. If they miss a note, they get fired. If they don't miss a note, they rub your nose in it and it doesn't smell so sweet.

The kind-hearted folks who play the tuba are good-looking and smart. They'd give you the shirt off their back. The tuba is one of the most interesting to take in the bath with you. It's a crying shame that there's only one per orchestra. Would that it could be different.

The Percussion:

These standoffish fools who get paid perfectly good money for blowing whistles and hitting things don't deserve the considerable space they are allotted on the stage. Aside from the strange coincidence that all percussionists hail from the Deep South, another little known, but rather revealing fact is, there are no written percussion parts in the standard orchestral repertory. Percussion players do have music stands, and they do use them - - to look at girlie magazines. Percussionists play whatever and whenever they damn well feel like it, and it's always too loud! The ones with a spark of decency and intelligence play timpani.

Most percussionists are deaf, but those who play tipani pretend to tune their instruments for the sake of the ignorant and easily-duped conductor.

The guy with the short nose who plays the cymbals is no Einstein, but he's also one of the best guys to share a room with on tour. Cymbal players don't practice - - I guess they figure it's bad enough to have to listen to those things at the concert.

Percussionists pretend to have lots of kids whose toys can be seen quite often shaken, dropped, or manhandled to great effect. Whole percussion sections can be seen now and then on various forms of public transportation, where they practice getting up and down as a group. This represents the only significant challenge to a percussionist.

And that just about does it. I trust that this little tour has enlightened you just a little bit to the mysterious inner world of the symphony orchestra. This world, one which is marked by the terrible strain of simple day-to-day survival, is indeed not an easy one. Perhaps now you will be a bit more understanding of the difficulties which face a modern-day concert artist. And so, the next time you find yourself at the symphony, take a moment to look deeply into the faces of the performers on the stage and imagine how much more difficult their lives are than yours.

This is surely what's on their minds ... if anything.

German Piano Lesson

author unknown


Piano Stool:


Piano Recital:

Fathers at the Recital:

Mothers at the Recital:

According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, the wall above one of the fixtures in the ladies' room of a Sausalito café bore the sign, "Please Wiggle Handel," under which someone had scrawled, "If I do, will it Wiggle Bach?"

A Glossary of Musical Terms for Viola da Gambists

by Wolfgang A. Rattelmacher
(from Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America)

A PATELLA: accompanied by knee-slapping
ACCIDENTALS: wrong notes
ADLIBITUM: a premiere
AGITATO: one's state of mind when a peg slips in the middle of a piece
AGNUS DEI: famous female composer of sacred music
ALTERED CHORD: A sonority that has been spayed
APPROXIMATURA: ornament common in briskly-moving notes and chromatic passages for brass and winds
APPROXIMENTO: musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch
AUGMENTED FIFTH: a 36-ounce bottle
BARLINE: a gathering of people, among which may be found one or more musicians
BREVE: the way a sustained note sounds when you run out of bow
BROKEN CONSORT: when somebody in the ensemble has to leave for a moment
CADENCE: when everybody hopes you're going to stop, but you don't
FINAL CADENCE: when they force you to stop
CANTUS FIRMUS: the part you get when you can play only four notes
CHANSONS DE GESTES: practical jokes set to music
CLASULA: Mrs. Santa
COLORATURA: soprano who has great trouble finding the proper note, but who has a wild time hunting for it
COMPOUND METER: street parking that requires two dimes
CONDUCTUS: process of getting Vire into the cloister
COUNTERPOINT: type of Baroque punishment
COUNTERTENOR: a singing waiter
CROCHET: 1) tritone with a bent prong; 2) like knitting, but faster; 3) unpleasant illness that occurs after the Lai, if prolation is not used
CUT TIME: when you're going twice as fast as everybody else
DETACHE: articulation the sackbutts are to play with the slides removed
DI LASSO: Italian composers popular with Italian cowboys
DILL PICCOLINI: exceedingly small blockflute that plays only sour notes
DRONE: sound of a single monk during an attack of crotchet
DUCTIA: (Latin, 2nd declension); a lot of mallards
EMBOUCHURE: way you look when you've been playing the the wrong part
ENGLISH HORN: woodwind that got its name because it's neither English nor a horn. Not to be confused with French horn, which is German
ESPRESSIVO: play with a wide vibrato
ESTAMPIE: what you put on letters in Quebec
FIDDLER CRABS: grumpy vielle players
FINE: 1) that sounded just great! 2) finally!
DA CAPO AL FINE: I like your hat!
FLUTE FLIES: tiny insects that bother transverse flute players at outdoor gigs
FRUGALHORN: inexpensive busine
GARGLEFINKLEIN: 1) tiny recorder played by neums; 2) short time with Listerine
GAUL BLATTER: a French zink player
GLISSANDO: technique adopted by string players for difficult runs; also used by singers, particularly sopranos
GREGORIAN CHANT: singing in unison, invented by monks to hide to hide snoring
GREGORIAN CHAMP: male singer who excels with the tenor line in Machaut masses; or cantus firmus in Bach chorales
HEMIOLA: an hereditary blood disease caused by chromatics
HEROIC TENOR: male singer who gets by on sheer nerve and tight clothing
HOCKET (HOCKETT): thing that fits into a crochet to produce a rackett
HURDY-GURDY: truss for medieval percussionists suffering from organistrum
INTERVAL: how long it takes you to find the right note. There are three kinds: major interval (a long time), minor interval (a few bars), and inverted interval (when you have to gp back one bar and try again­)
INTONATION: singing through one's nose; considered highly desirable in the singing medieval music
ISORHYTHMIC MOTET: when some members of the consort get a different copy than the others
KEYBOARD SUITES: where the portativ organist spends the night when on tour
LAI: what monks give up when they take their vows
LAMENTOSO: with handkerchiefs
LAUDA: dynamic level of sackbutts
MEAN-TONE TEMPERAMENT: one's state of mind when everybody's trying to tune at the same time
METRONOME: short person who lives in the city
MINIM: time you spend with Vire when there is a long line
o BREVE: time you spend when the line is short
o LONGA: time between visits to Vire
MINNESINGER: a boy soprano
MOTET: 1) usually cheaper than an orchestral suite; 2) where you meet Vire if the cloister is guarded
MUSICA FICTA: when you lose your place and have to bluff the notes
NEUMES: medieval dwarves
ORDO: 1) character in "Lord of the Rings"; 2) William the Conquorer's half-brother
ORGANUM: lais are necessary to participation in one
ORGANISTRUM: job-related hazard for careless medieval percussionists, caused by getting one's tapper caught in the clapper
PIZZICATO: a small Italian pie garnished with cheese, anchovies, etc.
PNEUMATIC MELISMA: bronchial disorder, often caused by hockets but sometimes by rubato
POSITION: acrobatics needed to play the viol
o DISPOSITION: getting on the wrong fret
o IMPOSITION: being forced to play above the top frets
o INDISPOSITION: selling the viol and buying a recorder
PROLATION: 1) precautions taken before the lai; 2) what you're on after you get out of jail
QUAVER: beginning viols
o SEMI-QUAVER: intermediate viols
RACKETT: capped reeds class
RECITATIVE: disease that musicians (and others) suffer, presumably because they failed to use prolation
ROTA: early Italian method of teaching music without printed music
RUBATO: measles from north of the Rhine
SANCTA: Clausula's husband
SINE PROPRIETATE: language inappropriate
SOLESME: state of mind after a rough case of crotchet
SPRITZICATO: indication to krummhorn players to produce a bright and bubbly sound
STOPS: missing on Bach's organ
o DIATONIC: low-calorie Schweppes
TEMPO TANTRUM: what serpent players have when at odds about speed with the sopraninos
TEMPUS PERFECTUM: everybody had a good time
TEMPUS IMPERFECTUM: the cops arrived
TONE CLUSTER: chordal orgy first discovered by a well-endowed woman pianist leaning forward for a page turn
TRANSPOSITION: advanced recorder or krummhorn technique in which you change from alto to soprano fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a piece, sometimes without notice or even unintentionally
TRILL: musical equivalent of an epileptic seizure
TROPE: 1) malevolent neum; 2) bunch of Boy Scouts
TROTTO: early Italian form of Montezuma's Revenge
TUTTI : large number of recorders
VIRELAI: woman known for her expertise in the lai
VIBRATO: 1) villain in Handel's oratorio Arpeggio et Tessitura; 2) used by rebec players to hide the fact that they are playing the wrong pitch; similarly with singers, particularly coloratura sopranos and heroic tenors
VIRTUOSO: musician with high morals

Your Viola Questions Answered

by Professor Hans Orff

Q. Should the beard be worn inside or outside the shirt when playing the viola?

A. This is a tricky one. The usual answer is "inside for Baroque and outside for Romantic." Of course, problems arise with music from the Classical period, such as Mozart, Gruntfutter, Stamitz, Schimmelfarb, Haydn, and Hummel. A good compromise is to wear a waistcoat and tuck the beard into that unobtrusively while re-tuning for slow movements. In fast passages, the player naturally will want the beard to fly freely.

Q. Can playing the viola damage my health?

A. The simple answer to this is: not if done in moderation. Ardent young players probably will want to play the viola once a day and may even have an uncontrollable urge to try the viola d'amore (or, in extreme cases, the viola da caccia). As middle age approaches, however, three times a week is a good regimen. I know happily-married violists who take the viola out only once a week.

Q. Sometimes when I get up in the morning and take my viola out of the case, I find that it has grown from 15 to 18 inches. Is this normal?

A. The problem of viola size is one that can never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The case you are describing is called Parallax Phenomenon, in which, if the player has imbibed strong beverages the night before, the viola will, indeed, seem larger in the morning. If the player closes the eyes and relaxes for 10 minutes, the sensation will pass, in most cases. Sometimes a cold shower will do the trick. If symptoms persist, you (or your viola) should see a doctor without further delay.

Literature for the Viola da Caccia

by Professor Hans Orff

I am often asked, especially by my mother, about the viola da caccia. What can we learn from study of this instrument (provided we can find one)? What literature is available? Which pieces in the repertoire are best?

As you may know, the viola da caccia was principally played on horseback during the hunt. Its 14 sympathetic strings - - to say nothing of its 27 unsympathetic strings - - left the player very little scope for managing the horse well. Hence, the number of these priceless artifacts which were smashed and the many virtuosi who were permanently crippled or even killed by falling from their mounts remains yet to be catalogued. The interrogator is quite correct, therefore: it may be difficult to find an instrument.

As to what you might learn, I do not know.

As to literature, the outdoor curse touches posterity here, as well. Judging from the remaining repertory, we must assume that many of the best pieces were blown away, eaten by dogs, used to wrap the remains of lunch, or rendered sodden by inclement weather. These same factors, in slightly different form, may also figure in the paucity of instruments.

Let us move on to the literature that does remain. It is a rather uneven assembly, in terms of quality. Here are some of the less-offensive oeuvres:

All are published by Dummkopf u. Würfelspiel, except for the Nono Nonet, which is available from Edizione Chaotica Roma.

Do-It-Yourself Country Western Song Kit

I met her (1) (2). I can still recall (3) she wore.

(1) at a hoedown
at rehearsal
on the highway
at a truckstop

(2) in September
down in Memphis
close to Nashville
wrestlin' gators

(3) the purple dress
those Wal-Mart boots
that fuzzy hat
that Mozart wig

She was (4) (5), and I knew (6).

(4) sobbin' at the tollbooth
drinkin' Dr. Pepper
crawlin' in the swampgrass
playin' minor triads

(5) in the twilight
by the off-ramp
with her shoes off
near the dance hall

(6) no guy would ever love her more.
she'd bought her dentures in a store.
that she was rotten to the core.
that she'd never use a score.

(7) (8) forever. She said to me (9).

(7) I promised her I'd
I yodeled that I'd
She asked me if I'd
I'll swear off meat and

(8) stay with her
knew deep down
wear red socks
play Satie

(9) our love would never die.
there was no other guy.
she'd have a ham on rye.
that weddings made her cry.

But who'd have thought she'd (10) (11). (12) goodbye.

(10) run off
sing loud
sky dive

(11) with my best friend
in the choir room
in my Edsel
near Atlanta

(12) You'd think at least that she'd have said
I never had the chance to say
She sent a hired thug to say
I now can kiss my credit cards

Q: What happens if you play blues music backwards?
A: Your wife returns to you, your dog comes back to life, and you get out of prison.

Q: What does it say on a blues singer's tombstone?
A: "I didn't wake up this morning..."

Q: How many sound men does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. Upon finding no replacement, he takes the original apart, repairs it with a chewing gum wrapper and duct tape, changes the screw mount to bayonet mount, finds an appropriate patch cable, and re-installs the bulb fifty feet from where it should have been, to the satisfaction of the rest of the band.

Son: "Mother, I want to grow up and be a rock-n-roll musician."
Mother: "Now, son, you have to pick one or the other. You can't be both."

Q: A conductor and a violist are standing in the middle of the road. Which one do you run over first, and why?
A: The conductor. Business before pleasure.

Q: Why are conductor's hearts so coveted for transplants?
A: They've had so little use.

Q: What is the difference between a world war and a high school choral performance?
A: The performance causes more suffering.

Q: Why do high school choruses travel so often?
A: Keeps assassins guessing.

Q: What's the difference between an Appalachian dulcimer and a hammered dulcimer?
A: A hammered dulcimer burns hotter; an Appalachian dulcimer burns longer.

Q: How many country & western singers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to change the bulb and two to sing about the old one.

Q: "Hey, buddy, how late do the Rocking Lizards play?"
A: "Oh, about half a beat behind..."

Q: What do you have when a group of conductors are up to their necks in wet concrete?
A: Not nearly enough concrete.

Angus MacDougal was asked why there were drones on the bagpipe when they made such a distressing sound. He answered, "Without the drones, I might as well be playing the piano."

Minimum Safe Distances Between Street Musicians And The Public

violinist: 25 feet
bad violinist: 50 feet
tone deaf guitar player who knows 3 chords: 75 feet
15-year-old electric guitar player with Nirvana fixation: 100 feet
accordionist: 60 miles

"Haven't I seen your face before?" a judge demanded, looking down at the defendant.
"You have, Your Honor," the man answered hopefully. "I gave your son violin lessons last winter."
"Ah, yes," recalled the judge. "Twenty years!"

A double bass player arrived a few minutes late for the first rehearsal of the local choral society's annual performance of Handel's Messiah. He picked up his instrument and bow and turned his attention to the conductor. The conductor asked, "Would you like a moment to tune?" The bass player replied with some surprise, "Why? Isn't it the same as last year?"

Q: You are driving round a mountain road, and sprawled in the middle of the road are an accordion player and a banjo player. You cannot swerve: which one must you hit?
A: The banjo player: duty before pleasure.

Quotes from Grade School Essays on Classical Music

Source: a Missouri music teachers' newsletter.

Note: I am sure most of these are not from children, but they are clever, nonetheless.

Bach died from 1750 to the present.

Refrain means don't do it. A refrain in music is the part you'd better not try to sing.

Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was rather large. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so good. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this.

Henry Purcell is a well-known composer few people have ever heard of.

An opera is a song of bigly size. In the last scene of Pagliacci, Canio stabs Nedda, who is the one he really loves. Pretty soon Silvio also gets stabbed, and they all live happily ever after.

When a singer sings, he stirs up the air and makes it hit any passing eardrums. But if he is good, he knows how to keep it from hurting.

Aaron Copland is one of our most famous contemporary composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most composers do not live until they are dead.

My favorite composer is Opus.

A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.

Probably the most marvelous fugue was between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

My very best liked piece of music is the Bronze Lullaby.

Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music.

Caruso was at first an Italian. Then someone heard his voice and said he would go a long way. And so he came to America.

A good orchestra is always ready to play if the conductor steps on the odium.

Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people were happy.

Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago.

Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.

I know what a sextet is but I'd rather not say.

A harp is a nude piano.

A tuba is much larger than its name.

Instruments come in many sizes, shapes, and orchestras.

You should always say celli when you mean there are two or more cellos.

Another name for kettle drums is timpani. But I think I will just stick with the first name and learn it good.

A trumpet is an instrument when it is not a hearing aid.

While trombones have tubes, trumpets prefer to wear valves.

The double bass is also called the bass viol, string bass, and bass fiddle. It has so many names because it is so huge.

When electric currents go through them, guitars start making sounds. So would anybody.

Question: What are kettle drums called? Answer: Kettle drums.

Cymbals are round, metal CLANGS!

A bassoon looks like nothing I have ever heard.

Last month I found out how a clarinet works by taking it apart. I both found out and got in trouble.

Question: Is the saxophone a brass or a woodwind instrument? Answer: Yes.

The concertmaster of an orchestra is always the person who sits in the first chair of the first violins. This means that when a person is elected concertmaster, he has to hurry up and learn how to play a violin real good.

For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every line of flute music. You just watch.

I can't reach the brakes on this piano!

The main trouble with a French horn is it's too tangled up.

Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time gets to be the conductor.

Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word for many player-types.

The flute is a skinny, high-shape sounded instrument.

The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.

A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only more so.

Tubas are a bit too much.

Music instrument has a plural known as orchestra.

I would like for you to teach me to play the cello. Would tomorrow or Friday be better?

My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play people seldom play it. That is why I like the bassoon best.

It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the neck and shake him in rhythm.

Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.

Performance Criteria for Hiring and Promotion
in University Music Departments

Rate the candidate/your colleague on each of the following criteria. Keep track of how many first, second, etc. answers you give the candidate/colleague.

Quality of work:

Leaps tall buildings with a single bound from a standing stop.
Must take running start to leap tall buildings with a single bound.
Leaps over short buildings only or medium buildings with no spires.
Crashes into buildings.
Cannot recognize buildings, much less jump over them.

Timeliness of completion:

Faster than a speeding bullet.
A little slower than a speeding bullet.
Not quite as fast as a speeding bullet.
Compares less favorably to a bullet lying on the table.
Shoots self in foot.

Reliability of Output:

Walks on water consistency.
Walks on water in emergencies.
Washes with water.
Drinks water.
Passes water when terrified.

Strength of Initiative:

Stronger than a locomotive.
Stronger than a bull elephant.
Stronger than a bull.
Shoots the bull.
Smells like a bull.

Communication Skills:

Talks with God.
Talks with angels.
Talks to himself.
Argues with himself.
Loses arguments with himself.


Publishes books.
Writes regularly for scholarly journals.
Writes good articles.
Writes bad articles.
Writes bad checks.

Recitals and Performance:

Frequent solos and recitals.
Knows current repertory.
Knows first 8 bars of current repertory.
Plays infrequently; instrument dusty.
Plays golf; instrument in pawn.


Mostly 1: Far exceeds job requirements - - do not hire or promote, as faculty anarchy will ensue immediately because candidate is tremendously over-qualified or is an agent for a government organization.

Mostly 2: Exceeds job requirements - - do not hire or promote, as other faculty will complain and be jealous.

Mostly 3: Meets job requirements - - do not hire or promote, as other faculty will be suspicious of favoritism.

Mostly 4: Needs improvement meeting job requirements - - possible hire/definite promotion, as other faculty will not feel threatened.

Mostly 5: Does not meet job requirements - - do not hire or promote, as faculty anarchy will ensue immediately because candidate will have a less-demanding job.

Hiring/Promotion Decision:

Toss score sheets in the trash. The chairperson's spouse/niece/cousin/yardman will be hired for this position.

No promotions will be made this year. Excess funds will go toward refurbishing chairperson's office.

Mozart Applies for a Faculty Position

Dear Dean:

This is in response to your suggestion that we appoint Mr. Wolfgang Mozart to our music faculty. The music department appreciates your interest, but the faculty is sensitive about its prerogatives in the selection of new colleagues.

While the list of works and performances the candidate has submitted is very full, it reflects too much activity outside academia. Mr. Mozart does not have an earned doctorate and has very little formal education and teaching experience. There is also significant evidence of personal instability evidenced in his resume. Would he really settle down in a large university such as ours? Would he really be a team player? I must voice a concern over the incidents with his former superior, the Archbishop of Salzburg. They hardly confirm his abilities to be a good team member and, moreover, show a disturbing lack of respect for authority.

Franz Haydn's letter of recommendation is noted, but Mr. Haydn is writing from a very special situation. Esterhazy is a well-funded private institution, quite dissimilar from ours, abler than we to accommodate non-academics, such as Mr. Haydn himself. Here, we are concerned about all students, not just the most gifted. Furthermore, we detect cronyism on the part of Mr. Haydn.

At Mr. Mozart's interview with the musicology faculty, they found him sadly lacking in any real knowledge of music before Bach and Handel. If he were to teach only composition, this might not be a serious impediment. But would he be an effective teacher of music history? The applied faculty were impressed with his pianism, although they thought it was somewhat old-fashioned. That he also performed on violin and viola seemed to us to be stretching versatility dangerously thin. We suspect a large degree of dilletantism on his part.

The composition faculty was skeptical about his vast output. They correctly warn us from their own experience that to receive many commissions and performances is no guarantee of quality. The senior professor of composition pointed out that Mr. Mozart promotes many of these performances himself and has never won the support of a major foundation.

One of our faculty members was present a year ago at the premiere of, I believe, a violin sonata. He discovered afterwards that Mr. Mozart had not written out all the parts for the piano before he played it. This may be very well in that world, but it sets a poor example for our students. We expect deadlines to be met, including all necessary paperwork.

It must be admitted that Mr. Mozart is an entertaining man at dinner. He spoke enthusiastically about his travels. It was perhaps significant, though, that he and the music faculty seem to have few acquaintances in common.

One of our female faculty members was deeply offended by his bluntness. She even had to leave the room after one of his endless parade of anecdotes. This propensity of his to excite the enmity of some is hardly conducive to the establishment of the comity we aspire to maintain on our faculty, let alone the image that we wish to project to the community at large.

We are glad, as a faculty, to have had the chance to meet Mr. Mozart, but we cannot recommend his appointment. Even if he were appointed, this is almost no hope of his being granted tenure. The man simply showed no interest in going to school to collect his doctorate. This is egotism at its zenith.

Please give our regards to Mr. Mozart when you write him. We wish him our very best for a successful career. All are agreed, however, that he cannot fulfill the needs of this department.

We wish to recommend the appointment of Antonio Salieri, a musician of the highest ideals and probity that accurately reflect the aims and values that we espouse. We would be eager to welcome such a musician and person to our faculty.

Sincerely yours,

The Chair and Faculty of the Department of Music

P.S. Some good news. Our senior professor of composition tells me there is now a very good chance that a movement of Salieri's concerto will have its premiere within two years. You will remember that his work was commissioned by a foundation and won first prize nine years ago.

Pop Quiz for String Quartets

1. How does Beethoven's Op. 18, No. 1 begin?

2. The best use for a metronome is to:

3. Many quartet players feel the most disconcerting audience distraction to be:

4. The most important function of a cellist's endpin is to:

5. What is the best edition of Mozart quartets and why?

6. When it is best for the first violinist to take a solo bow?

7. The primary function of a music review is to:

8. Amateur quartet players (especially doctors) have the following advantages over professional players:

9. What is the most effect way to offend a concert sponsor?

10. When do most quartet first violinists leave first position?

11. What is the most challenging audience?

12. Certain French and Czech editions (as of Ravel and Janácek) are well known to quartet players because they are:

13. When may a quartet second violinist be too loud?

14. What should you do when you are lost in the Grosse Fuge during rehearsal?

15. Most arguments in quartet rehearsals occur over:

A Paen to City Life

Author Unknown

To be read aloud:

You can Telemann by where he likes to live. I just Toch a trip Orff into one of the Wilder areas Faure Wieck, and to be Verdi Franck, it nearly drove Menotti.

I know opinion Varese, but even Vivaldi urban noises, the Bizet traffic, De Falla engines, as well as knowing there are Mennin the streets Callas enough to knock your Bloch off. I couldn't resist the urge to Galuppi home early Satie, and I Haieff to say I Still prefer the Mitropoulos. The Boyce were Sor that I had Gibbons up and succumbed to the Riegger of the Field so easily, but I don't give a Schuetz.

I was practically Krein from my Severacs and Pains brought on by that brief time in the countryside! Even the sounds got my Dandrieu up; let me Liszt some of them: the Rorem of the wind, a constant Birtwhistle, the Menuhin of the Katz, the Lipatti-Patti-Glinka-Poulenc of the Reiner on the roof, the Gluck-Gluck of the hens, and every morning a woodpecker or some Byrd Chopin holes in a Tree. My only company was a Thorne Busch, a Partch of poison Ives, a Braun Babbit, and sometimes a Wolf, nothing Moore. For a Forrest Grainger it may be Fine - it may be the Katz Milhaud -- but I could have died of Borodin. A friend suggested my making this Tureck; "Abegg" his pardon, but I will never go Bach to those Gotterdaemmerung Hillis. They Suk!

No, I don't care for the Ruggles life. I like a good Mehul - - a little Suppe, some Szigeti, maybe some Salome at my local Taverner with a little lime Schubert after (even if they don't always clear the Crumbs off the table). And I like to Locatelli while I'm Eaton Maderna at night. Is that asking for Egk in Meyerbeer?

Nono! So many people Berio themselves under a Holst of problems they know they can't Handel. Their answer is too Offenbach to nature - - into Haydn, it seems to me. I Karajan a d'Indy life in the Berg for the most Paert. Maybe it isn't Perle Bliss for everybody, but it's Godunov for me.

After playing the violin for the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, Albert Einstein asked, "Did I play well?"
"You played relatively well," replied Piatigorsky

"Harpists spend ninety percent of their lives tuning their harps and ten percent playing out of tune."
Igor Stravinsky/Claude Debussy

When told that a soloist would need six fingers to perform his concerto, Arnold Schoenberg replied, "I can wait."

"I would like to hear Elliot Carter's Fourth String Quartet, if only to discover what a cranky prostate does to one's polyphony."
James Sellars

"Exit in case of Brahms."
Philip Hale's proposed inscription over the doors of Boston Symphony Hall

"His music used to be original. Now it's aboriginal."
Sir Ernest Newman on Igor Stravinsky

"Why is it that whenever I hear a piece of music I don't like, it's always by Villa-Lobos?"
Igor Stravinsky, who obviously was having a bad day

"If he'd been making shell-cases during the war it might have been better for music."
Maurice Ravel on Camille Saint-Saens

Someone commented to Rudolph Bing, manager of the Metropolitan Opera, "George Szell is his own worst enemy."
"Not while I'm alive, he isn't!" said Bing.

"He has an enormously wide repertory. He can conduct anything, provided it's by Beethoven, Brahms, or Wagner. He tried Debussy's La Mer once. It came out as Das Merde."
anonymous orchestra member on George Szell

"Parsifal is the kind of opera that starts at six o'clock and after it has been going three hours that you look at your watch, and it says 6:20."
David Randolph

"One can't judge Wagner's opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don't intend hearing it a second time."
Gioacchino Rossini

"I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music."
Benjamin Britten on Stravinsky's The Rakes's Progress.

"Her singing reminds me of a cart coming downhill with the brake on."
Sir Thomas Beecham on an unidentified soprano in Die Walküre

The great German conductor Hans von Buelow detested two members of an orchestra, who were named Schultz and Schmidt. Upon being told the Schmidt had died, von Buelow immediately asked, "Und Schultz?"

"We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and again?"
--Sir Thomas Beecham to a musician during a rehearsal

A little short on collegiality, aren't they?!

Musical Advice To Christmas Shoppers

Make out your Chopin Liszt early before Debussy season, when you have time to check out Verdi good bargains and can still get gifts Faure good price, not have to Handel large crowds and have time to give Bach things you decide you don't want.

More Musical Advice To Christmas Shoppers

If you go shopping early you will surely be baroque because you can shop at each store Purcell. Yule be saying, "I wish I Haydn't did it, I guess my sin is Grieg." I bought too many Three Stooges paraphernalia, but I couldn't resist Mozart. Now all I see at the bottom of my checkbook are those big, bad Berlioz. But don't worry. After shopping, yule just say, "Schumann, let's go eat some Mexican crocodile named 'Elgar' and then we can top it off with some Shubert. After which, I can give you a ride home in my station Wagner."

True Ensemble Players' Golden Rules
for Ensemble Playing (or Singing)

1. Everyone should play the same piece.

2. Stop at every repeat sign and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat or not. The audience will love this a lot!

3. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your partners.

4. Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.

5. Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play out of tune all night with a clear conscience.

6. Take your time turning pages.

7. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note, except among the tone-deaf.

8. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.

9. Strive to play the maximum NPS (note per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.

10. Markings for slurs, dynamics, and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the printed score.

11. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.

12. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should tune".

13. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.

14. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be fascinated.

15. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.

16. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left over.

17. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.

Neophyte's Guide to Choir Singers

author unknown

In any choir, there are four voice parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Each voice part sings in a different range, and each one has a very different personality. Sometimes these four are divided into first and second within each part, prompting endless jokes about first and second basses.

There are also various other parts such as baritone, countertenor, contra alto, mezzo soprano, etc. These are mostly used by people who are either soloists, belong to some excessively hot shot classical a cappella group (this applies especially to countertenors), or are trying to make excuses for not really fitting into any of the regular voice parts. We will ignore them for now.

You may ask, "Why should singing different notes make people act differently?" and indeed this is a mysterious question and has not been adequately studied, especially since scientists who study musicians tend to be musicians themselves and have all the peculiar complexes that go with being tenors, French horn players, timpanists, or whatever. This is beside the point, however; the fact remains that the four voice parts can be easily distinguished. Draw close, young neophyte, and you will now learn how.

THE SOPRANOS are the ones who sing the highest, and, because of this, they think they rule the world. They have longer hair, fancier jewelry, and swishier skirts than anyone else. They consider themselves insulted if they are not allowed to go at least to a high F in every movement of any given piece. When they reach the high notes, they hold them for at least half again as long as the composer and/or conductor requires and then complain that their throats are killing them and that both the composer and conductor are sadists.

Sopranos have varied attitudes toward the other sections of the chorus, though they consider all of them inferior. Altos are to sopranos rather like second violins to first violins - - nice to harmonize with but not really necessary. All sopranos have a secret feeling that the altos could drop out and the piece would sound essentially the same, and they don't understand why anybody would sing in that range in the first place - - it's so boring. Tenors, on the other hand, can be very nice to have around; besides their flirtation possibilities (it is a well-known fact that sopranos never flirt with basses), sopranos like to sing duets with tenors because all the tenors are doing is working very hard to sing in a low-to-medium soprano range, while the sopranos are up there in their range (the stratosphere) showing off effortlessly. To sopranos, basses are the scum of the earth. They sing too darn loudly, are useless to tune to because they're down in that low, low range, and there has to be something wrong with anyone who sings in the F clef. Although while they swoon while the tenors sing, they still end up going home with the basses.

THE ALTOS are the salt of the earth - - in their opinion, at least. Altos are unassuming people who would wear jeans to concerts if they were allowed to. Altos are in a unique position in the chorus in that they are unable to complain about having to sing either very high or very low, and they know that all the other sections think their parts are pitifully easy. But the altos know otherwise. They know that while the sopranos are screeching away on a high A, they are being forced to sing elaborate passages full of sharps and flats and tricks of rhythm, and nobody is noticing because the sopranos are singing too loudly (and the basses usually are, too).

Altos get a deep, secret pleasure out of conspiring together to tune the sopranos flat. Altos have an innate distrust of tenors, because the tenors sing in almost the same range and think they sound better. Altos like the basses and enjoy singing duets with them - - the basses just sound like a rumble anyway, and it's the only time the altos can really be heard.

Altos' other complaint is that there are always too many of them and so they never get to sing really loudly.

THE TENORS are spoiled. That's all there is to it. For one thing, there are never enough of them, and choir directors would rather sell their souls than let a halfway decent tenor quit, while they're always ready to unload a few altos at half price. And then, for some reason, the few tenors there are always are really good - - it's one of those annoying facts of life. So it's no wonder that tenors always get swollen heads - - after all, who else can make sopranos swoon?

The one thing that can make tenors insecure is the accusation (usually by the basses) that anyone singing that high couldn't possibly be a real man.

In their usual perverse fashion, the tenors never acknowledge this but just complain louder about the composer's being a sadist and making them sing so darned high. Tenors have a love-hate relationship with the conductor, too, because the conductor is always telling them to sing louder because there are so few of them. No conductor in recorded history has ever asked for less tenor in a forte passage.

Tenors feel threatened in some way by all the other sections - - the sopranos because they can hit those incredibly high notes; the altos because they have no trouble singing the notes the tenors kill themselves for; and the basses because, although they can't sing anything above an E, they sing it loudly enough to drown out the tenors. Of course, the tenors would rather die than admit any of this.

It is a little-known fact that tenors move their eyebrows more than anyone else while singing.

THE BASSES sing the lowest part. This basically explains everything. They are stolid, dependable people and have more facial hair than anybody else. The basses feel perpetually unappreciated, but they have a deep conviction that they are actually the most important part (a view endorsed by musicologists but certainly not by sopranos or tenors), despite the fact that they have the most boring part and often sing the same note (or endless fifths) for an entire page. They compensate for this by singing as loudly as they can get away with - - most basses are tuba players at heart.

Basses are the only section that can regularly complain about how low their part is, and they make horrible faces when trying to hit very low notes.

Basses are charitable people, but their charity does not extend so far as tenors, whom they consider effete poseurs. Basses hate tuning with the tenors more than almost anything else. Basses like altos - - except when they have duets, and the altos get the good part. As for the sopranos, they are simply in an alternate universe that the basses don't understand at all. They can't imagine why anybody would ever want to sing that high and sound that bad when they make mistakes. When a bass makes a mistake, the other three parts will cover him, and he can continue on his merry way, knowing that sometime, somehow, he will end up at the root of the chord.

Top Ten Reasons...

Top Ten Reasons for Being a Soprano

10) The rest of the choir exists just to make you look good.
9) You can entertain your friends by breaking their wine glasses.
8) Can you name an opera where an alto got the man?
7) When sopranos want to sing in the shower, they know the tune.
6) It's not like you are ever going to sing the alto part by accident.
5) To wear great costumes - - like the hat with the horns on it.
4) How many world famous altos can you name?
3) When the fat lady sings, she's usually singing soprano.
2) When you get tired of singing the tune, you can sing the descant.
1) You can sing along with Michael Jackson.

Top Ten Reasons for Being a Bass

10) You don't have to tighten your shorts to reach your note.
9) You don't have to worry about a woman stealing your job.
8) Or a pre adolescent boy.
7) Action heroes are always basses. That is, if they ever sang, they would sing bass.
6) You get great memorable lyrics like "bop", "bop," "bop," and "bop".
5) If the singing job doesn't work out, there's always broadcasting.
4) You never need to learn to read the treble clef.
3) If you get a cold, so what?
2) For fun, you can sing at the bottom of your range and fool people into thinking there's an earthquake.
1) If you belch while you're singing, the audience just thinks it's part of the score.

Top Ten Reasons for Being a Tenor

10) Tenors get high without drugs.
9) Name a musical where the bass got the girl.
8) You can show the sopranos how it should be sung.
7) Did you ever hear of anyone paying $1000 for a ticket to see The Three Basses?
6) Who needs brains when you've got resonance?
5) Tenors never have to waste time looking through the self-improvement section of the bookstore.
4) You get to sing along with John Denver singing "High Calypso."
3) When you get really good at falsetto, you can make tons of money doing voice-overs for cartoon characters.
2) Gregorian chant was practically invented for tenors. Nobody invented a genre for basses.
1) You can entertain your friends by impersonating Julia Child.

Top Ten Reasons for Being an Alto

10) You get really good at singing E-flat. And D, too.
9) You get to sing the same note for 12 consecutive measures.
8) You don't really need to warm up to sing 12 consecutive bars of E-flat. Or D.
7) If the choir sounds really awful, it's unlikely the altos will be blamed.
6) You have lots of time to chat during soprano solos.
5) You know you are better than the sopranos because everybody knows that women only sing soprano so they don't have to learn to read music.
4) You can sometimes find part time work singing tenor.
3) Altos get all the great intervals.
2) When the sopranos are holding some outrageously high note at the end of an anthem, the altos always get the last words.
1) When the altos miss a note, nobody gets hurt.

Top Ten Ways a Church Choir Director Can Tell
Someone He/She Can't Sing

10. I'm sorry. We've run out of robes.

9. We need strong singers like you in the congregation to help them sing the hymns.

8. I wouldn't want you to strain your voice.

7. Did you know singing can aggravate sinus problems?

6. We still need good people for the handbell choir.

5. Here's a book on spiritual gifts. Why don't you look through it, and we can find another place in the church for you to minister effectively?

4. It's a shame composers don't write more songs in your style.

3. You have a unique range - you hit both notes well.

2. Did you know there is a new Bible study starting the same night as choir practice? I think you'd get a lot from it.

1. You have excellent posture.

More Definitions

ACCIDENTALS: The wrong notes.

AUDITION: The act of putting oneself under extreme duress to satisfy the sadistic intentions of someone who has already made up his mind.

ACCELERANDO: What happens when drummers have to keep a steady beat.

CONDUCTOR: An ignorable figure capable of following numerous individuals at once.

CUT TIME: The sudden realization that everyone else is playing twice as fast as you are.

CRESCENDO: A reminder to the performer that he has been playing too loudly.

CYMBALS: Percussion instruments to be dropped while the band plays pianissimo.

FERMATA: A chance for the conductor to catch his breath while attempting to make his wind players pass out.

GLISSANDO: The way string players play difficult runs.

KEY CHANGE: A change in the main pitch or "tonal center" that takes full effect three to five bars after it is noted in the music.

MUSICA FICTA: When you lose your place and have to bluff until you find it again.

PAGE TURN: A good way to avoid playing the hard parts.

PRACTICE: Don't worry about it. Musicians never do it anyway.

RALLENTANDO: What never seems to happen during the technical passages.

RELATIVE MINOR: A bass player's girlfriend.

RITARD: The idiot behind the stick.

SUBITO PIANO: Indicates an opportunity for some obscure orchestra player to become a soloist.

TEMPO CHANGE: Signal for the musicians to ignore the conductor.

UNISON: A "minor second."

VIBRATO: A way for musicians, especially singers, to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.

Question and Answer

Q: What do you call a beautiful woman on a trombonist's arm?
A: A tattoo.

Q: What do you call a drummer in a three-piece suit?
A: The Defendant.

Q: What's the similarity between a drummer and a philosopher?
A: They both perceive time as an abstract concept.

Q: Why do some people have an instant aversion to banjo players?
A: It saves time in the long run.

Q: What's the difference between a guitar player and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Q: What's the difference between a jet airplane and a drummer?
A: About three decibels.

Q: What's the latest crime wave in New York City?
A: Drive-by trombone solos.

Q: What's the definition of a minor second interval?
A: Two soprano sax players reading off the same part.

Q: What is another term for trombone?
A: A wind driven, manually operated, pitch approximator.

Q: How do you get an oboist to play A-flat?
A: Take the batteries out of his electronic tuner.

Q: What is the dynamic range of a bass trombone?
A: On or off.

Q: What's the difference between a SCUD missile and a bad oboist?
A: A bad oboist can kill you.

Q: Why do clarinetists leave their cases on the dashboard?
A: So they can park in the handicapped zones.

Q: What's the difference between a soprano and a pit bull?
A: Lipstick.

Q: Why do people play trombone?
A: Because they can't move their fingers and read music at the same time.

Q: What do you call a guitar player who only knows two chords?
A: A music critic.

Q: How do you keep your violin from being stolen?
A: Put it in a viola case.

Q: What will you never do to a banjo player?
A: Point at the banjo player's Bentley.

Q: What do a viola and a lawsuit have in common?
A: Everyone is relieved when the case is closed.

Q: What's the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?
A: You can hit a baseball further with a bassoon.

Q: How are a banjo player and a blind javelin thrower alike?
A: Both command immediate attention and alarm; and force everyone to move out of range.

Q: What's the best recording of the Walton Violin Concerto?
A: "Music Minus One."

Q: What's the difference between a Wagnerian soprano and a baby elephant?
A: Eleven pounds.

Q: What's the difference between alto clef and Greek?
A: Some conductors actually read Greek.

Composers' Name Puns

You sure know how to Telemann from a boy.

I notice you're Offenbach here where we heat up our borscht in the Beethoven.

Nu, we don't have to ask, "Verdi go?"

It's like the tale wagging the dog, and I see she's Wagner so briskly I'm afraid it'll Mahler, and she'll become a teenie-weenie Puccini.

If I'm not too Bizet, I guess I can cope if I go to Copeland before I unRavel.

Maybe I should give up being a classical man and turn to rock music - - but I'm afraid I'm not Rachmaninoff.

As Rhett Butler said, "Frankly, Scarlatti, I don't give a damn."

My pet Gerbil has a new bicycle - - it's a Gershwin.

Vivaldi puns here, I was Straussed out Faure while, but, it's better to be pissed off than Piston.

New Recordings

These compositions may be considered basic to a well-rounded, impressive-looking, record collection. The recorded versions cited here are outstanding for interpretation, fidelity, or the pretty picture on the cover.

Rearguard BG 10478
Claudio Rrrowrr, Pianist

Telephon 900-1147-639
Amsterdam Concertgeboom Orchestra
Bernard Hijinks, Conductor

Argive 647801
Chorus & Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera for the Criminally Insane
Carl Rictus, Conductor

Seraglio 1692
William Pimpnose, Viola
Montmartre Philandermonique de Chambre
Nicolaus Hardoncourt, Conductor

Debussy, LA MERDE
Nosuch II 455
Academy of Prince Albert-in-the-Can
Sir Colin Divot, Conductor

Odium 199
MTV Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Sideburns, Conductor

Angle DS 144356
Orchestra de la Suisse Watch
Karl Boom, Conductor

Capitalist 3777
Bathroom Festival Orchestra
Daniel Barenbomb, Conductor

Deutsche Gestalt Gemütlichtkeit 3330-676
Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce Orchestra
Raymond Leper, Conductor

Argyle ML 34277
Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covert Garden
Sir Adrian Dolt, Conductor

Enigma 67934
Tom Glamoore, Violin; Pamela McCuddles-Edelweiss, Viola
The FitzWilliam Hippocampus Consortium of Miami University School of Medicine
Akira Nintendo, Conductor

Erratum STU 77080
I Solisti di Zig-Zagreb
Loren Mazeltov, Conductor

Megaphon 3455 33
Academy of St. Christopher-on-the-Dashboard
Sir Neville Marinara, Conductor
With the Hangover Boys Choir

Turnover TVA 72333
Eastman Kodak Symphony Orchestra
Howard Handsome, Conductor

Serigraph S 52222
Disneyland Wind Ensemble
Wilhelm Fahrtwängler, Conductor

Telefunk CX342256
Dumbarton Oaks Chamber Orchestra
Rafael Freschbatch de Burgers, Conductor

Archaic DT347631
Halley's Comet Orchestra
Sir John Barbarian, Conductor

Rimsky-Korsakov, LE COQ AU VIN
Turnoff TWA 503477
Vienna Volkswagen Orchestra
Richard Boinggg, Conductor

Deutsche Gewürtztraminer Gazelleschaft 8988
New York Philanthropic Orchestra
Ernest Answerman, Conductor

Deccadence 96534
Zoltan Coccyx, Piano; William Hips, Strumpeter
BidetPest Symphony Orchestra
WetOld Loutoslapstick, Conductor

Argot ZPG 122
Barbarian Radio Orchestra
Hans Upp, Conductor

Stravinsky, THE FIREBUG
Arson Nova 911
Manuel de Falla Society Orchestra
Krzysztof Painindernecki, Conductor

Tacobell, CANNON
Megaphon 3445-34
English Chamberpot Orchestra
Claudio Abbadabba, Conductor

Panatela 4739
Bert Urim-Thummin, Cello
The Philadelphia Tabernacle Strings
Eugene Mormondy, Conductor

Tchaikovsky, MARCHE SLOB
His Master's Arse 1342
London Pandemonic Orchestra
Michael Teeter-Totter, Conductor

Superphun 90210
Royal Pain Philharmonic Orchestra
Carl & Maria Giulini, Conductors

Children's Recordings (Recommended with reservations):

His Master's Voice 679
1. Bach
2. Orff
3. Bartok
4. Wolf

1. Milhaud
2. Gliere
3. Auber

Quotations from Musicians
on Music and Other Musicians

It's pretty clear now that what looked like it might have been some kind of counterculture is, in reality, just the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness.
- Jerry Garcia

My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer.
- Cole Porter

Don't bother to look. I've composed all this already.
- Gustav Mahler, to Bruno Walter, who had stopped to admire mountain scenery in rural Austria.

I would rather play "Chiquita Banana" and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve.
- Xavier Cugat

[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art.
- Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.

The amount of money one needs is terrifying.
- Ludwig van Beethoven

Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living.
- Kirke Mecham, on his life as a composer

I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.
- Niccolo Paganini

Of course, I'm ambitious. What's wrong with that? Otherwise you sleep all day.
- Ringo Starr

Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats.
- Victor Borge, playing to a half-filled house in Flint, Mich.

If one hears bad music, it is one's duty to drown it by one's conversation.
- Oscar Wilde

Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together.
- Mel Brooks

Life can't be all bad when for 10 dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for 10 years.
- William F. Buckley Jr.

You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and drive slowly.
- Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket

Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
- Mark Twain

I love Beethoven, especially the poems.
- Ringo Starr

If a young man at the age of 23 can write a symphony like that, in five years he will be ready to commit murder.
- Walter Damrosch on Aaron Copland

There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major.
- Sergei Prokofiev

I never use a score when conducting my orchestra. Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?
- Dimitri Mitropoulos

God tells me how the music should sound, but you stand in the way.
- Arturo Toscanini to a trumpet player

Already too loud!
- Bruno Walter at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, on seeing the players reaching for their instruments

I really don't know whether any place contains more pianists than Paris or whether you can find more asses and virtuosos anywhere else.
- Frederic Chopin

Never look at the trombones. It only encourages them.
- Richard Strauss

In opera, there is always too much singing.
- Claude Debussy

Oh, how wonderful, really wonderful, opera would be if there were no singers!
- Gioacchino Rossini

Movie music is noise. It's even more painful than my sciatica.
- Sir Thomas Beecham

When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.
- Bob Hope, on comedienne Phyllis Diller

I think popular music in this country is one of the few things in the 20th century that has made giant strides in reverse.
- Bing Crosby

Jack Benny played Mendelssohn last night. Mendelssohn lost.
- anonymous

Answer to the Question:
"I've just bought a sax from your store
and would love to know how to play it."

First things first. Since you're a white guy, you'll need a stupid hat, the more stupid the better and preferably a beret. Sunglasses are optional, but all the really, really good players wear them, especially indoors. You'll also need some "gig shirts" -- Hawaiians are good. In a pinch, anything with a loud floral pattern is acceptable, as are T shirts from various jazz clubs and festivals. The good thing about the latter is that you can get them by mail order, so you don't have to go to all the trouble of actually seeing live music. And sandals are an absolute must, even in winter (but no socks then, please).

Once you've assembled the proper attire you can begin practicing. One of the most important things about playing is being able to convey emotion to the audience. This you do through various facial expressions. The two emotions you'll need to convey are (1) rapture/ecstasy and (2) soul-wrenching pain and sadness (i.e., the blues).

You may find it useful in the beginning to borrow a page from the method acting school. So, for example, to convey rapture try thinking of something nice, like puppy dogs.

To convey the "blues" try thinking of something really really appalling, like rap. You should practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at least two hours per day.

You may feel a tad stupid at first, but you'll never get the chicks if you don't jump around on stage like a monkey with your face all contorted. And bottom line, chicks is really what music's all about.

Next, you'll need the correct ligature. Some people think that the ligature is just a stupid piece of old metal that holds the reed on the mouthpiece. Well, those people are idiots. Besides your beret, the ligature is the single most important piece of musical equipment you will ever buy. Mine, for example, is 40% platinum and 60% titanium; one screw is rubidium and the other plutonium. It makes me sound exactly like Booker Ervin would if Booker Ervin were (1) not dead and (2) on Mars, if (2)(a) there was oxygen on Mars. You may have to spend years and years and thousands of dollars finding the proper ligature, but in the end it will definitely be worth it.

Now: reeds. Optimally you'll want to move to Cuba, grow, and cure your own cane and carve your own reeds by hand. If you're just a "weekend warrior," however, you can get by with store-bought. First, buy ten boxes of reeds, 100 in all. Next, open all the boxes and throw away 60 reeds. Those were unplayable. Take the remaining reeds and soak them in a mixture of 27.8% Alpine spring water bottled at the source and 72.2% chicken stock for a period of 17 weeks. Throw away 20 more reeds. Those were stuffy. Take the remaining 20 reeds and sand each one for exactly 13 seconds with #1200 grade 3-M sandpaper. Throw away 14 reeds. Those squeaked. Take the remaining 6 reeds and soak them for another 17 weeks, this time however in a mixture of 27.7% Pacifica beer and 72.3% rubbing alcohol. Sun dry the 6 remaining reeds for 3 weeks, optimally at an equatorial latitude, and throw away 3 more just on general principles. You now have 3 reeds that will last you several months if you play each one only 20 minutes a day in strict rotation.

Now, you say you just bought a horn. Although you didn't say what kind it is, I'd sell it immediately and get a different one. The best one to get would be a Selmer Mark VI made at 4:27 PM on June 14, 1963, serial number 125543. If you can't get that one (and I seriously doubt you can since it's mine), generally speaking, the older and more expensive the better. The following brands are good: Selmer Paris Mark VI. The following brands not to be considered: any other Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Beuscher, Yanigasawa, Cannonball, LA, Jupiter, Elkhart, King, Martin, Keilworth, Boosey and Hawkes, Couf, Silvertone, and Holton.

On no account should you play the horn before you buy it. Go strictly on reputation and price. If you can't get a Mark VI and need further information, there's some woman who's owned every saxophone ever made, Sherry or Sheryl or something, and she can probably tells you which one's the best.

You will also need some accoutrements: a flight case capable of withstanding atmospheric pressure of dP = - Dg dz where D and g are, respectively, the density of air and the acceleration that i a result of gravity at the altitude of the air layer and dz is a horizontal layer of air having unit surface area and infinitesimal thickness; a tuner; a combination alto, tenor, baritone sax stand with pegs for an oboe, bass clarinet, flute, English horn, and bassoon; Band in a Box; every Jamie Abersold play along record ever created; a reed cutter; swabs, cleaners, pad savers, pad dope, pad clamps; a Sennheiser Digital 1092 Wireless Microphone; an effects rig with digital delay and parametric EQ; a 200 watt (per channel, minimum) amplifier and 18" monitor; and a metronome.

It will be helpful if you listen to lots of sax players. Unfortunately, listening solely to players you like is absolutely the worst thing you can do. To really understand the music and its traditions you have to go back to the beginning and listen to every bit of music ever recorded. I'd start with chant and work forward. Once you get to the 20th century pay particular attention to players like Jimmy Dorsey and Sidney Bechet, the wellsprings of the modern jazz saxophone. In no time at all, or by 2054, whichever comes first, you'll be able to understand the unique be-bop stylings of players like Ace Cannon, Boots Randolph, and Grover Washington Jr.

Finally, to play the sax itself, blow in the small end and move your fingers around.

A New Opera at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera is scheduled to produce an opera commemorating Bill Clinton's experiences from his eight years in the White House. Composed by Giuliani Veritas (in Italian), it was commissioned by Jesse Helms in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts.

The synopsis:

"LA BUBBA VITA" by Giuliani Veritas

Act I. ...The Situation: Bill Clinton has been elected President of the United States by an overwhelming margin. The Republicans are devastated, angry, and are trying to find their way back to power. As the curtain rises on the opera, the House Republicans are meeting with Ken Starr, with the object of trying to find a way to remove Bill Clinton from the Presidency.

The opening chorale, "We Must Find a Way" (Creato grandissimo floozi scandala) is sung as a sextet. In an impressive recitative, Tom DeLay sings "Where Will We Find a Helper" (Dredgi uppulia una Granda Bimbo). The House Republicans exit.

Paula Jones enters stage right with a mirror, singing her plaintive "Why Can't I Find a Man?" (Mia schnozola es humongo.) Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich enter from the other wing. They spot Paula and sing the duet "Why Not Her?" (La floozi perfecta). They meet and take Paula to a small cafe where they hatch their plot in hushed tones. Paula tells them of her meeting in a hotel with Clinton years earlier and how her fortunes have collapsed since then. DeLay and Gingrich offer to help. They sing the aria "Your Luck has Changed" (Nozjobbo e'rewardo).

Act II. ...The House Republicans reconvene with the news of Paula's revelations. They sing in jubilation "We Must Tell the World" (Fono tabloido). The rear curtain raises to reveal the Chorus of Media who sing the chorale "Tell Us More, But Only the Truth" (Sexio scandala hypo sweepi) Gingrich enters with Pat Robertson. They sing the duet "He Must Go" (Hypocriti pious crappola). Robertson offers to make time on his television program to expose the charges. At the House Republicans' suggestion, Paula initiates a lawsuit. The Paula Jones scandal becomes the topic of conversation throughout the country.

The Chorus of Lawyers enters from the right to sing the jubilant grand chorale. "We Must do Our Duty" (Multi, multi grande moola). Ken Starr meets with the House Republicans to plan the next steps. They sing the aria "We Will Save the Country" (Sleezi connivo, la media succisttuppo). Starr promises to convene a grand jury which will send charges to the Congress. He sings, "The Truth Will be Known" (Whitewaternon starto, il probo la floozy epidemio). The Chorus of Lawyers sings a reprise of "We Must Do Our Duty" (Multi,multi grande moola!) as the act ends.

Act III. ... Linda Tripp enters the stage arm in arm with Ken Starr. She is wearing a headset and singing "Monica is My Dearest Friend" (Io sono la wiccida witchi occidenta). She tells Starr about the secret tapes that she has made of conversations with Monica Lewinsky. Starr takes them from her and sings "We've Got Him Now" (Presidente droppo pantaloni). Starr hurries off to the Grand Jury to call Monica as a witness.

In Scene 2. ... Monica enters the grand jury room where the Chorus of Lawyers asks her questions. They sing the recitative "How Did It Happen?" (Panti thongo, la flashi). Monica sings the long passionate aria "We Were Meant for Each Other" (Nonsmoko El Pruducto, Phallisymboglio).

In Scene 3.... Hillary and Bill are sitting in the Lincoln Bedroom talking about the revelations about Monica. Hillary sings "I Will Stand By You" (Tu jercho estuppido, io removo tu equippamento). Bill replies with "She Was the Only One" (Non conto Gennifer, Paula, piu multibimbo forgetta). They embrace!

Act IV. ... Sam Donaldson is interviewing Henry Hyde in the Capitol Building...The Chorus of Lawyers hums in the background. Hyde sings the aria "We Believe in Something" (Impeaccho hippi bastardo). Donaldson sings a recitative in answer, "We Only Want the Truth" (Toupee eslippo). The great trial begins in the Senate. Trent Lott reacts to public opinion polls showing that the President has a 76% approval rating with the public with the poignant aria "What is Right is Not Popular" (Partia repubblico commitini suicido). The Chorus of Lawyers sings the chorale "Principles Come First" (Mi adultero nonconto). With great flourish, Henry Hyde, Bill McCullom and Tom DeLay stand before the Senate to present their case. They sing the somber trio "How Can You Not Convict?" (Evidenso multiflimsioso).

Finally in a moving chorale, the Chorus of Lawyers sings "For the Good of the Nation, We Must Acquit" (Senatorios non stupido.) After the vote is announced, Henry Hyde, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, and Bill McCollum leave the Senate Chamber singing the grand quartet "We Still Know the Truth" (Wasto multi millioni) as the act ends.

Epilogue. ...President Clinton sings the contrite aria "I Am Very Sorry" (Revengo futuro furioso) as the Chorus of Media circles him, shouting their questions. They sing "Who Will Now Believe us?" (Publicca desgustanta es in media). Monica Lewinsky strolls  across the stage on the arm of her new literary agent, Ken Starr. They sing a stirring duet, "It is Still Not Over" (Publishi grande bucchi, conto multi, multi dollare millioni), as the curtain falls.


The Origins of Yodeling

Have you ever wondered where and how yodeling began?

Many years ago a man was traveling through the mountains of Switzerland. Nightfall was rapidly approaching, and he had nowhere to sleep. He went up to a farmhouse and asked the farmer if he could spend the night. The farmer told him that he could sleep in the barn.

As the story goes, the farmer's daughter came down from upstairs and asked her father, "Who is that man going into the barn?"

"That's some fellow traveling through," said the farmer. "He needs a place to stay for the night, so I said he could sleep in the barn."

The daughter said, "Perhaps he is hungry." So she prepared him a plate of food and took it out to the barn.

About an hour later, the daughter returned, her clothing disheveled and straw in her hair. Straight up to bed she went.

The farmer's wife was very observant. She then suggested that perhaps the man was thirsty. So she fetched a bottle of wine, took it out to the barn, and she, too, did not return for an hour.

When she did, her clothing was askew, her blouse buttoned incorrectly and her hair all messed up. She also headed straight to bed.

The next morning at sunrise the man in the barn got up and continued on his journey, waving to the farmer as he left.

When the daughter awoke and learned that the visitor was gone, she broke into tears. "How could he leave without even saying goodbye," she cried. "We made such passionate love last night!"

"What?" shouted the father as he angrily ran out of the house looking for the man, who by now was halfway up the mountain.

The farmer screamed up at him, "I'm going to get you! You had sex with my daughter!"

The man looked back down from the mountainside, cupped his hand next to his mouth and yelled out, "LAIDTHEOLADEETOO."

Trombone Audition

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Selection Committee
220 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois


I wish to apply immediately for the job of Second Trombone, and I already have the two trombones. Although I have not played much in an orchestra, I have played along with lots of classic (no vocal) records. I found that if I slowed them down a little that the songs automatically went into the flat keys which are much easier, but I think I could do the sharp keys in a short time.

I was a student for several years of Mr. Remington (Buck, not Emory) and then went with the circus band where my tone really got great. You don't have to worry about that I might not be to blast through on the Vogner stuff, that's for sure.

After I watched "10," I got out my horn and worked up a really great solo on "Bolero". (Do you know that there is a dance by this name, too?) I'm wondering, however: does your arrangement sound the same all the way through? I still have trouble knowing when to come in with the record, but I'll work on that tomorrow afternoon for a couple of minutes. Anyway, I know if I get the job that the people in Chicago will like my version, which is do-wop.

I have a quetion. Would I have to sit real close to the violins? They never seem to play very loud, and my tone sort of cuts off if I have to play too soft. It would be best if I could sit in front of the drums, like in the circus band. Also, I'd kind of like to sit on the outside so that people could see me.

I am practicing every day for the audition and am working on a new thing called legato, but it's still a little smeary. I think you'll like it, though.

But, if your music is anything like this Rubank stuff, it will be a challenge to my teck... techininuque... tequch... ability. There is a position on trombones called 5th, but hardly any notes are there. Does your music have many of these notes, and, if so, what are they? I'd like to know all of this before I pay bus fare down to Chicago.

How much does the job pay?

I'm really looking forward to coming down, but tell me why would I have to play behind a screen in the winter?

Slide Rafferty

P.S. I have lots of music stands and probably have one like you guys use, so that would be a cost saving.

Jazz Math

If x is the number of chord changes in a tune, and y is the tempo at which it is played, then 1/xy = factor by which a guitarist will turn up his amp.

4 + 4.125 + 4 + 3.875 + 4 + (4 + or - .667) + 4 + (x, where x is unknown) = 1 chorus trading with drummer.

5/4 + 7/4 + 11/4 = drummer's gig

Jam session + eighth-note rest = missed opportunity.

Jam session + (quarter-note rest or greater) = band on break.

"Devil's Music" theorem: Smooth Jazz = square root of all evil.

"Two Americas" Buffet theorem: Fresh salmon/flaccid spanakopita + prime rib/limp egg rolls + jumbo shrimp/soggy chicken fingers = high society gig/Elks Club gig.

How much should a gig pay, based on the following conditions: drive 90 miles outside of town through pouring rain; set up one hour in advance; load in through slimy kitchen, accessed by treacherous outdoor staircase; and play four hours of continuous crappy dance favorites for drunk rich people?

Would you take it for 1/2 that much?

After you bid on the above gig for 1/3 your worth, a college student offers to play it for 1/2 as much. If you are 12 times as good as he, but 1/2 as good-looking and the client has a tin ear, why do you bother practicing?

If a bassist plays a root, a pianist superimposes a major seventh chord built on the fifth, and a saxophonist plays the 13th, will attractive women notice?

Your trio is set up in a perfect equilateral triangle. A singer sets up exactly in the middle. Will the three of you be divided against the singer, or against one another?

If (% of Americans who like jazz) < (% of Americans who like chain saw sculptures), what is America's most important indigenous art form?

Musical Terms for Country-Western Musicians

Diminished Fifth -- an empty bottle of Jack Daniels

Perfect Fifth -- a full bottle of Jack Daniels

Ritard -- there's one in every family

Relative Major -- an uncle in the Marine Corps

Relative Minor -- a girlfriend

Big Band -- when the bar pays enough to bring two banjo players

Pianissimo -- "Refill this beer bottle"

Repeat -- what you do until they just expel you

Treble -- women ain't nothin' but

Bass -- the things you run around in softball

Portamento -- a foreign country you've always wanted to see

Conductor -- the man who punches your ticket to Birmingham

Arpeggio -- "Ain't he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?"

Tempo -- good choice for a used car

A 440 -- the highway that runs around Nashville

Transpositions -- men who wear dresses

Cut Time -- parole

Order of Sharps -- what a wimp gets at the bar

Passing Tone -- frequently heard near the baked beans at family barbecues

Middle C -- the only fruit drink you can afford when food stamps are low

Perfect Pitch -- the smooth coating on a freshly paved road

Tuba -- compound word: "Hey, woman! Fetch me another tuba Bryll Cream!"

Cadenza -- that ugly thing your wife always vacuums dog hair off of when company comes

Whole Note -- what's due after failing to pay the mortgage for a year

Clef -- what you try never to fall off of

Bass Clef -- where you wind up if you do fall off

Altos -- not to be confused with "Tom's toes," "Bubba's toes" or "Dori-toes"

Minor Third -- your approximate age and grade at the completion of formal schooling

Melodic Minor -- Loretta Lynn's singing dad

12-Tone Scale -- the thing the State Police weigh your tractor trailer truck with

Quarter Tone -- what most standard pickups can haul

Sonata -- what you get from a bad cold or hay fever

Clarinet -- name used on your second daughter if you've already used Betty Jo

Cello -- the proper way to answer the phone

Bassoon -- typical response when asked what you hope to catch, and when

French Horn -- your wife says you smell like a cheap one when you come in at 4 a.m.

Cymbal -- what they use on deer-crossing signs so you know what to sight-in your pistol with

Bossa Nova -- the car your foreman drives

Time Signature -- what you need from your boss if you forget to clock in

First Inversion -- Grandpa's battle group at Normandy

Staccato -- how you did all the ceilings in your mobile home

Major Scale -- what you say after chasing wild game up a mountain: "Darn! That was a major scale!"

Aeolian Mode -- how you like Mama to serve the cherry pie

Bach Chorale -- the place behind the barn where you keep the horses

The Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra

attributed to Garrison Keillor

To each person, God gives some talent such as comedy, just to name one, or the ability to suffer. To some persons, God has given musical talent, though not to as many as think so.

So, for a young Lutheran considering an orchestral career, the first question to ask yourself is, "Do I have a genuine God-given talent, or do I only seem talented compared to other young Lutherans?"

Because most Lutherans aren't musicians, they're choir members. Mostly altos and basses. And they can be sure that their gift is God-given because who else but God would be interested?

Nobody goes into choir music for the wrong reasons. But orchestra... do you know what you're getting into?

You're getting into opera for one thing. Don Juan and Mephistopheles, pagan goddesses screeching and being strangled and thrown off balconies.

And even if you stick to concert music, where are the Christian composers? Modern ones are existentialists, the romantics were secular humanists, the 18th century was rationalist, and the 17th were Italian except for Bach. And you can't make a living playing Bach.

In the Bible, we read about people singing and playing musical instruments, including the harp, the last trump, the cymbal, and the psaltery. But in the Bible, music was in praise of the Lord, not for amusement. We don't read that our Lord Himself ever played an instrument or enjoyed hearing other people play theirs. The apostles did not attend concerts. They weren't in the arts--maybe there's a reason for that.

If you play in an orchestra, you're going to be devoting your life to music that sort of swirls around in spiritual mystery. Searching for answers that people could find in the Epistle to the Romans if somebody just showed them where it is.

Which instrument is best?

But if you're determined to play in an orchestra, then you ought to ask yourself, "Which instrument is the best one for a Lutheran to play?" Which instrument would our Lord have chosen, assuming He played an instrument? And assuming He was Lutheran.

Wind Section


Should a Lutheran play the bassoon? Not if you want to be taken seriously, I don't think so. The name kind of says it all: bassoon. It's an instrument that isn't playing with a full deck of marbles. Maybe it's something you'd do for a hobby ("Hey, honey, let's go bassooning this weekend!"), but not as your life's work. Some bassoonists filling out applications for home loans just say "orthodontist."


Many Lutherans start out playing clarinets in marching band and think of it as a pretty good instrument and kind of sociable. You pick up a clarinet, and you feel like getting together with other people and forming an "M." But the symphonic clarinet is different: clever, sarcastic, kind of snooty. It's a nice small town instrument that went to college, and, after that you can't get a simple answer out of them. It is a French instrument, you know. Ever wonder why there are no French Lutherans? Probably the wine wasn't good enough for them.


The oboe is the sensualist of the woodwind section, and if there is one wind instrument Lutherans should avoid, it's probably this one. In movie soundtracks, you tend to hear the oboe when the woman is taking her clothes off. Also a little later when she asks the man for a cigarette. You start playing the oboe, you're going to get in trouble. Take my word for it.

English horn

The English horn sounds Christian, maybe because we think of it as the Anglican horn, but it's so mournful, so plaintive. And so are English horn players. They all have deep complicated problems. They're all down in the dumps, especially at night, which is when most concerts are. Maybe because they want what oboists have. I don't know.


The flute is the show-off of the wind section, the big shot: Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway - - both millionaires. (How many millionaire bassoonists can you name real fast?) Well, that's fine. Everybody knows the flute is the hardest, blowing across a tiny hole with your head tilted all your life. It's like soloing on a pop bottle. The problem with the flute is that it vibrates your brain, and you start wearing big white caftans and smocks and eat roots and berries. You become a pantheist and sit in meadows, and you believe that all is one and God is everything - - even that God is a column of air vibrating - - and you know that's not right.


The last member of the woodwind family is the flakiest and that's the piccolo. It's never in tune. Never has been, never will be. All you can play with it is the blues. Which, being a Lutheran, we don't have, anyway.

String Section


We come now to the string section. Strings are mentioned in Scripture, and some young Christians are tempted to become string players. But you want to be careful. Bass, for example. A very deliberate instrument, the plow horse of the orchestra. Bass players do tend to be more methodical, not so spontaneous or witty or brilliant necessarily, but reliable. Which makes the instrument appealing to German Lutherans. And yet bass notes do have a certain texture and a tone, a darkness, a depth that - - my gosh - - when you see those guys pick up their bows back there, doesn't it make you think the same thing that I do? And if we do, just imagine what they're thinking about.


The cello section seems pleasant, and cellists seem like such nice people. The way they put their arms around their instruments, they look like parents at a day care center zipping up snowsuits. They seem like us: comfortable, mid-range, able to see both sides of things. And yet, there's something about the cello that's hard to put your fingers on. It just doesn't seem right. Maybe, it's the way they hold the instrument the way they do. Why can't they hold it across their laps? Or beside themselves? I'm only asking.


The viola section is no place for a Lutheran, and here you have to take my word for it because I know violists and they're okay until late at night, when they like to build a fire in a vacant lot and drink red wine and roast a chicken on a clothes hanger and talk about going to Mexico with somebody named Rita. Violists have this dark, moody, gypsy streak, especially when they get older and they realize that their instrument for some reason cannot be heard beyond the stage. You think you hear the violas, but it's really the second violins.

First violin

The first violin is a problem for a Christian because it's a solo virtuoso instrument, and we Christians are humble and decent people. The first violins see the maestro look to them first, and most of them believe that he secretly takes his cue from watching their bows go up and down. The maestro, who has a great nimbus of hair and is here on a temporary work permit, is hypnotized by listening to the violins and forgets which page he's on and looks to the violins to find out what's going on - - this is what most violinists believe in their hearts. That if the maestro dropped dead, the orchestra would just follow the violins while his body was carried off into the wings, and nobody in the audience would notice any difference except that now they would have an unobstructed view of the violin section. Is this a place for a Lutheran to be? Did our Lord say "Blessed are they who stand up in front and take deep bows, for they shall receive bigger fees?" No, He did not.

Second violin

The second violin section is attractive to Lutherans because these people are steady, supportive, and helpful, but look who it is they help - - they help out the first violins. You want to play second fiddle to that crowd? (I hope not.) One thing you may not know about second violins is that the parts are so easy they never practice, and they wind up staying out late in singles bars on the freeway near the airport and dancing with software and fertilizer salespeople. But I guess that's their way.

Brass Section


Let's be clear about one thing about the brass section. The rest of the orchestra wishes the brass were playing in another room. So does the conductor. His back is toward you so that you can't see what he's saying to them but what he's saying is, "Would you mind taking that thing outside?" The brass section is made up of men who were at one time in the construction trades. They went into music because the hours are better, and there's less dust. They're heavy dudes, and that's why composers wrote so few notes for them. Because after they play, you can't hear for a while. The tuba player is normally a stocky, bearded guy whose hobby is plumbing. The only member of the orchestra who bowls over 250 and gets his deer every year and changes his own oil. In his locker downstairs, he keeps a pair of lederhosen for free-lance jobs. Anyway, there's only one tuba in the bunch, and he's it.


The trombonist is a humorist, sort of the brother-in-law of the orchestra. He carries a water spray gun to keep his slide moist and often uses it against his neighbors. That's why they duck down back there. He's nobody you'd ever want to see become artistic director. And you just hope he doesn't sit right behind you.

French Horn

Probably not a French horn because the French horn takes too much of a person's life. French horn players hardly have time to marry and have children. The French horn is practically a religious belief all by itself. In some orchestras, the horn players are required to be celibate - - sometimes by their spouses. Because they think about the horn all the time, anyway.


The trumpet is the brass instrument you imagine as a Christian instrument, thinking of Gideon and Gabriel, and then you meet one in real life and you realize how driven these people are. They don't want to wear a black tie; they want to wear capes and swords and tassels. They want to play as loudly as they can and see mallards drop from the ceiling. Of the people who've keeled over dead at orchestra concerts, most of them were killed by a long trumpet passage. And most of them were glad to go.

Other Instruments


There are two places in the orchestra for a Lutheran and one is the percussion section. It's the most Christian instrument there is. Percussionists are endlessly patient because they hardly ever get to play. Pages and pages of music go by when the violins are sawing away and the winds are tooting and the brass are blasting, and the percussionist sits there and counts the bars like a hunter in the blind waiting for a grouse to appear. A percussionist may have to wait for twenty minutes just to play a few beats, but those beats have to be exact, and they have to be passionate, climactic - - all that the Epistles of Paul say a Christian should be - - faithful, waiting, trusting, filled with fervor - - those are the qualities of the good percussionist.


The other Lutheran instrument, of course, is the harp. It's a good instrument for any Christian because it keeps you humble and keeps you at home. You can't run around with a harp because it's hard to get them in and out of cars. It takes fourteen hours to tune a harp, and it remains in tune for about twenty minutes or until somebody opens the door. It's an instrument for a saint. If a harpist could find a good percussionist, they wouldn't need anybody else. They could settle down and make perfectly good music, just the two of them.

Fly Lutheran Air

If you are traveling soon, consider Lutheran Air, the no-frills airline.
You're all in the same boat on Lutheran Air, where flying is an uplifting experience.

"This is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard. Take any seat. There is no First Class on any Lutheran Air flight.

"Meals are potluck. Rows 1-6, bring rolls; 7-15 bring a salad, 16-21 a hot dish, and 22-30 a dessert.

"Basses and tenors, please sit in the rear of the aircraft.

"Everyone is responsible for his or her own luggage.

"All fares are by freewill offering, and the plane will not land until the budget is met.

"Pay attention to your flight attendant, who will acquaint you with the safety system aboard this Lutheran Air flight 599."

"Okay, then. Listen up. I'm only gonna say this once.

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, I am frankly going to be real surprised, and so will Captain Olson because we fly right at around 2000 feet, so loss of cabin pressure would probably indicate the Second Coming or something of that nature.

"Also, I wouldn't bother with these little masks on the rubber tubes. You're gonna have bigger things to worry about than that. Just stuff those back up in their little holes. Probably the masks fell out because of turbulence which, to be honest with you, we're going to have quite a bit of it at 2000 feet, sort of like driving across a plowed field, but after a while you get used to it.

"In the event of a water landing, I'd say forget it. Start saying the Lord's Prayer and just hope to gosh you get to the part about forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, which some people say "trespass" against us, which isn't right, but what can you do? The "debtors" are even stranger....

"The use of cell phones on the plane is strictly forbidden, not because they may interfere with the plane's navigational system, which is seat of the pants all the way, but, no, it's because cell phones are a pain in the wazoo. If God meant you to use a cell phone, He would've put your mouth on the side of your head.

"We're going to start lunch right about noon, and it's buffet style. The coffee pot is up front.

"Then we'll have the hymn sing - - hymnals in the seat pocket in front of you. Don't take yours with you when you go, or I am going to be real upset - - and I am not kidding.

"Right now I'll say grace: 'God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for the food. Father, Son and, Holy Ghost, may we land in Dallas or pretty close. Amen.' "

Music Theory Humor

A C, an E-flat, and a G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, but we don't serve minors."

So, the E-flat leaves, and the C and the G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished; the G is out flat.

An F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough.

A D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me. I'll just be a second."

An A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor.

Then the bartender notices a B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and exclaims, "Get out now! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight."

The E-flat, not easily deflated, comes back to the bar the next night in a 3-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender (who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized) says, "You're looking sharp tonight, come on in! This could be a major development." This proves to be the case, as the E-flat takes off the suit - and everything else - and stands there au natural.

Eventually, the C sobers up, and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. The C is brought to trial, is found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an upscale correctional facility. On appeal, however, the C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.

The bartender decides, however, that since he's only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom, and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest -- and closes the bar.

Humorous statements from my students during lessons and recitals.

You will enjoy the variety of music humor on this site, I feel sure:

And on this site:; are other sorts of humorous things; click back to the index page

Humorous mis-statements from student papers.

copyright 1998-2010, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me about reprint permission about the my studio humor. The rest of this is either author unknown or public domain.

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