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March 18, 2011


I remember a lot of these jokes. I also remember thinking that any of them where you could replace, say, "viola", with "$INSTRUMENT", was a boring unstructured insult. So few of them were based on the particular qualities of the instruments or their players.
(And this from someone who didn't even play an instrument....)

That's true, but not all of them. There are jokes that are in a middle ground for that.
Why is lightning like a violist's fingers?
Because they never strike the same place twice.

could probably work for pianist, or any instrument that requires hand dexterity, but it wouldn't really be the same.

A girl goes out on a first date with a french horn player. The next day her friend asks her how the date went. The girl replies, "He was sort of a mediocre kisser, but boy, I loved the way he held me!"

Gillian Welch told this one while tuning her banjo:

What's the difference between a banjo and a harmonica? A harmonica only sucks on every other note.

How many harpsichordists does it take to change a light bulb?

Q: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?
A: Homeless.

Q: What's the difference between a car full of clowns and a car full of trombonists?

A: The car full of clowns might be going to a gig.

Q: What's the difference between a clarinet and an onion?

A: Nobody cries when you chop the clarinet into little pieces.

Q: What's the difference between a clarinet and a stick of licorice?

A: The licorice tastes good and is better for your hearing.

Steve Wright: I play the harmonica. The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast, and stick it out the window. I've been arrested three times for practicing.

What does it say on a blues singer's tombstone?

"I didn't wake up this morning ....


I've been arrested three times for practicing.

Probably for speeding in his apartment building.

"and stick it out the window"

The harmonica I presume.......

apologies in advance of censure

I like the various jokes, but anecdotes are what I like. Some of them have been around so long and handed down so often, they might as well be jokes. A friend told me of an orchestra that was playing some music that had one piece printed on one side and another piece printed on the other, and they started playing, but half the orchestra had one side and the other hand the other. The conductor screamed 'the other side', so everyone in the orchestra turned to music over...

Musicians also love practical jokes, and the worst are pit orchestras, because they can do everything out of sight of the audience. The last night of a musical performance, especially a musical comedy, will often see a huge number of practical jokes. When we did Kiss me Kate I think, they had one of the gangsters shoot his gun up in the air. On the last night of the performance, we got two chicken caracasses and parboiled them to get them ready and when the gangster shot the gun up in the air, one of the drummers lobbed it on stage. The second one was lobbed up after the audience had settled down and the guy was about to start. The first chicken, that's good, but it was the reaction when the second one hit that kills me.

But the best jokes are the ones that you think of on the spot. My high school band director used to record our band practices on a huge reel to reel tape recorder on headphones to figure out what to fix. One day, he hit the wrong switch and got a huge shot of feedback and ripped off the headphones. Me and my best friend (a trombonist! I'm not prejudiced!), thinking as one, ran into his office and started moving our lips like we were saying 'are you ok? What happened?' but not making any sound. Hilarity ensued.

True story: a friend of mine, a member of a professional orchestra, was able to upgrade to a larger locker at work after another member had left. Cleaning it out, he got up on a chair to see to the back of the top shelf and...found a viola in its case. It belonged to the violist who had used the locker up until a year or two earlier, when he'd retired. When phoned to ask if he was missing a viola, he answered "Oh, so that's where it got to!"

I like the various jokes, but anecdotes are what I like.

Allegedly true, although now at the status of legend....

Bad sideman to Lester Young: "Pres, when was the last time we played together?"

Lester Young to bad sideman: "Tonight!"

The answer is take your hand out of the bell and play with absolutely no class.

Love it. Remember, us trombonists LIVE for jokes about us.

Q: What's the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?

A: The bassoon burns longer.

O.k., lj, here's an anecdote:

In music history class, our tests included the instructor dropping the needle (remember those days?) on the lp in the middle of a piece (this was baroque/early classical) and we had to identify what piece and where in the piece the selection was from. My friend and I got in early to class, took the remotes for the CD player and receiver, and on the third selection or so, switched the receiver from "record player" to "CD" and took the CD we had inserted off of pause. We also cranked the volume.

Instead of whatever selection he wanted, the Tonight Show Theme came blasting out. After about three seconds of shock, the class and instructor were rolling. We were busted when we asked if we got extra credit for naming both composers. (And no, my friend was not a trombone player)

Not so much a musical instrument joke..

In the early 70's I was at a Kris and Rita concert at Moody Coliseum in Dallas. It was SMU's basketball arena and a horrible music venue.

After the first song Kris asked the audience if they could heaar well in the back.

After a chorus of no's he calmly replied:

"That's a dammed shame, that was a right pretty song" and counted off the next one, which I missed the first few lines of from laughing.

What's the difference between a scalpel and a trumpet?

The scalpel is not always sharp.

I like that one.

What is the definition of a quarter-tone?

Two oboes playing in unison.

What is the definition of an oboe?

An ill wind that nobody plays good.

Nice to have an escapist thread. We're all up to our eyeballs in information about crises we can mostly do nothing to affect. arg.

thanks Slarti. I like the oboe ones too, DrNgo, but must say that I actually enjoy the way 2 oboes 'phase' with each other, and have - along with countless other composers - used that detuning phenom to good effect. Sharp trumpets are another story.

I heard Randy Brecker several years ago in Japan for 3 concerts. The most wonderful part of his technique was the vast amount of air he through his trumpet, two results of which were, a.) his playing in tune just about all the time, and b.) his trumpet sounding like a flugelhorn with a high range, very warm and mellow. He's the exception to the rule.

I saw Randy Brecker play when I was an undergrad. He came on and the band started up immediately, and played perfectly in tune. As they were getting ready for the next tune, I saw him move his slide what seemed like at least an inch! Unbelievable.

One thing that bothers me now about a lot of performances is that folks often play sharp just to make them stand out. They say that you won't kicked out for playing sharp, but play flat and they will show you the door. On the other hand, I also find it annoying when they use autotuning on pop music recordings to get everything in tune and then hear a live version (usually on youtube, I don't get to many concerts) and hear it all out of tune. If I just heard the autotuned version, I might not have a problem, but it really highlights the intonation misses when you hear it live.

Autotune tops my current list of pet peeves. I can't hardly stand to listen to currently popular music.

Itzhak Perlman and Peter Schickele

All those drummer jokes should have a few caveats to the effect that they don't even remotely apply to e.g. Steve Gadd & some cadre of other we're-not-worthy drummers.

Much like CGI, the autotune everyone notices is the bad stuff. When done correctly, it's practically unnoticeable.

Way back in high school marching band days (something you had to put up with to play in concert band, or to have a chance at playing in orchestra if you played a wind or percussion), we weren't a hit at football games. When either team did something really boneheaded, we'd launch into the Mickey Mouse theme or else play a random chord (everyone pick a note, any note, and play it as loud as possible).

Now our team wasn't too hot, but one fine Saturday afternoon we were on the wrong end of a really embarrassing 63-3 score. During a stoppage in play in the last minute, a lone trumpet stood up and played "Taps". The band/orchestra director put up with our fooling around pretty well, but the trumpeter got a public chewing out at Monday's practice over that one.

what happened when the drummer locked his keys in the car?

he had to break the window to get the bass player out.

A trio is playing on the Titanic in the dance hall, basic dance music, boom chika boom chika boom. Suddenly, the ship hits the iceberg. One of the ship's officers approaches the trio and says 'Please keep playing, we don't want to have any panic.' So the trio keeps playing, boom chika boom chika boom as they escort the women and children out. boom chika boom chika boom And then, all the men file out. boom chika boom chika boom. Then, the water starts entering the ballroom. At that moment, the piano player, bass player and drummer look at each other. The piano player says 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' The bass player says 'Hell yeah, let's go into four'...

Q: What's the difference between a bull and an orchestra?

A: The bull has horns in front and an asshole in back...


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