Seven Wonders Site of the Week, 12/05/05: "Humor & the
How this page got started:
One of our altos, Elaine Clisham, thought it
would be fun to share some of the music-related jokes that had been
circulating in the alto section. I thought it was a great idea, but
I ran it by our president, Richard Pace, just to make sure it was
appropriate and acceptable. In response to my request, Richard
wrote, "I don't see any reason why not, as long as we are well within
the bounds of good taste (ok, at least near the bounds of good
So, if you have any appropriate humor that you'd
like to share, please send an e-mail to me, Liz Simpson, at
or see me at rehearsal. The most recent submissions will always be
at the top of the list, so you don't have to scroll to the bottom to see
the new stuff.
Submitted by Marie Gangemi:
This video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska , was a school computer project intended for the other Yupiq villages in the area. Much to the villagers' shock, over a half million people have viewed it.
Submitted by Ellen Davidson: Yamaha Recalls
You should all warn any musician friends of this serious situation...
Yamaha has recalled 20,000 pianos due to a problem with the pedal sticking, causing
pianists to play faster than they normally would. This has resulted in a number of
accidentals. Several near misses have also been reported in the carpal tunnel. The sticky
pedal also makes it harder to come to a full stop at the end of a piece making it risky
for audiences and professional reputations alike.
Although there have been many accidentals, so far there have been no reported
Currently sales are flat and analysts are waiting to see if current volumes will be
sustained or dampened. Experts suggest that Yamaha's response will be the key.
Criticism of the company has been sharp, and Congress is planning hearings to find out
when Yamaha first learned about the treble.
Submitted by Karen McCahill:
Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale,
using audience participation, at the event "Notes &
Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus", from the 2009
World Science Festival, June 12, 2009.
Submitted by Susan Kern: Beethoven's Fifth (Sid Caesar and
Submitted by Susan Kern: Beethoven's Ninth
The symphony orchestra was performing Beethoven's Ninth.
In the piece, there's a long passage, about 20 minutes, during which the bass violinists have nothing to do.
Rather than sit around that whole time looking stupid, some bassists decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one.
After slamming several beers in quick succession, one of them looked at his watch and said, "Hey! We need to get back!"
"No need to panic," said a fellow bassist. "I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor's score together with string. It'll take him a few minutes to get it untangled."
A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra.
About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.
"Well, of course," said her companion. "Don't you see? It's the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded."
Submitted by Mady Buchbinder: NEW MUSICAL TERMS Some of
these are repeats from a previous submission, but there are a
few new ones!
When you're 16 measures into the piece and realize you took too fast a tempo
To play with a divinely beefy tone
Accompanied by knee-slapping
A composition that you regret playing
A series of notes not intended by the composer, yet played with an "I meant to do that" attitude
A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch
A composition incorporating many people with chest colds
A large, multi-movement work from Beethoven's Caribbean Period
An exceedingly small wind instrument that plays only sour notes
A note held over and over and over and over and . . .
A note of dubious value held for indefinite length
Grumpy string players
that bother musicians on outdoor gigs
A sensible and inexpensive brass instrument
A French horn player
The title bestowed upon the monk who can hold a note the longest
Someone who takes control of the repeated bass line and won't let anyone else play it PLACEBO DOMINGO A faux tenor SCHMALZANDO A sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band THE RIGHT OF STRINGS Manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Violists SPRITZICATO An indication to string instruments to produce a bright and bubbly sound TEMPO TANTRUM What an elementary school orchestra is having when it's not following the conductor TROUBLE CLEF Any clef one can't read: e.g., alto clef for pianists VESUVIOSO An indication to build up to a fiery conclusion VIBRATTO Child prodigy son of the concertmaster
Submitted by Ylisa
Kunze: Composer Effects The Mozart Effect
A new report now suggests that the Mozart effect may be a fraud. For
you hip urban professionals: no, playing Mozart for your designer
baby may not improve his IQ or help him get into that exclusive
pre-school. He'll just have to be admitted to Harvard some other way.
Of course, we're all better off for listening to Mozart purely for the
pleasure of it. However, one wonders that if playing Mozart sonatas
for little Hillary or Jason could boost their intelligence, what
would happen if other composers were played in their developmental
time? LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never
really says anything important. BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats
himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity. WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his
sister. MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume
that he's dying. SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until
he's used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually,
people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him. BABBITT EFFECT: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually,
people stop listening to him. Child doesn't care because all his
playmates think he's cool. IVES EFFECT: the child develops a remarkable ability to carry on
several separate conversations at once. GLASS EFFECT: the child tends to repeat himself over and over and
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
and over and over and over again. STRAVINSKY EFFECT: the child is prone to savage, guttural and profane
outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool. BRAHMS EFFECT: the child is able to speak beautifully as long as his
sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc).
However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.
AND THEN OF COURSE, THE CAGE EFFECT -- CHILD SAYS NOTHING FOR 4
MINUTES, 33 SECONDS. PREFERRED BY 9 OUT OF 10 CLASSROOM TEACHERS.
Submitted by Richard
Another addition to the musical
glossary: Approximatura - singing or playing a group of notes, almost as written.
Submitted by Yvette
Anxious about the sight-reading
portion of the up-coming re-auditions? Yvette thought
this might be a jumping off place for folks (read,
Enjoy reading (or trying to read) Faerie's
Aire and Death Waltz. Click on either image to open a pdf file for easy viewing
Submitted by Mady
Buchbinder and Joyce Hawkins: These notes walk into a bar...
A C, an E-flat, and a G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, 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 and the G is out
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."
Then 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
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,
and the sopranout in the bathroom, everything has become altoo much treble;
he needs a rest, and closes the bar.
Submitted by Paul
Zorovich: The Rules for Anglican Chant
1. When you hear the organ chord, take a big breath
and start chanting. Some others may choose to enter with the organ, but all can be accommodated.
2. The first couple of words should be sung fairly
slowly, but then you can start to pick up speed. The only exception to the rule occurs when the half
verse is very long. In this instance, begin quickly and start to slow down as you approach the end of
3. Verses are often broken by commas and semicolons.
There are two schools of thought here. One school says that you must break after every punctuation mark,
even if there is only one word ("Lo!"); the other school says that we must observe the "sense of the
words." There will be different interpretations of the "sense." All of the above options must be
accommodated in the same performance.
4. As you reach the cadential figure, stop and take
A breath even if the sense of the words moves on - devotees of the "sense" school will continue
anyway. There are two schools of thought here. The "Bump and Bawl" school sings the cadential figure
slowly, metrically and loudly. The "Speech Rhythm" school tries to sing the text in speech rhythm. The
members of this group can always be identified by the way in which they roll their eyes at the B group.
The Speech Rhythm group often has difficulty agreeing How a passage should be read. They are fond of having
the choir recite the passage without music. The variety of results usually makes the B group roll
5. Always be ready for the Anglican Chant "wild
card" which consists of the dreaded marginal rubric "2nd," directing that there is an uneven number of
verses and the 1st half must be dropped. The general result is usually 80% go to the 2nd half, 20% forget
and return to the 1st half. All choir members agree that King David is at fault.
6. Singers should be ready for
Puccini-esque Touches in the organ accompaniment. The mention of a
bird In the text will often produce a twitter on a 1 2/3' Waldvogel, while the
mention of any large animal may produce a blast on the 64'
Bombarde. Smiling knowingly at these touches is considered sophisticated
in most choir circles.
7. All chanting should be concluded with the
choirmaster running his/her fingers though his/her remaining hair in despair and the choir members
sitting sheepishly with their heads bowed.
Submitted by Richard
Pace: Biography from an unidentified piano recital.
Tonight's page turner, Ruth Spelke, studied under Ivan Schmertnick at the Boris Nitsky School of Page Turning in Philadelphia. She has been turning pages here and abroad for many years for some of the world's leading pianists.
In 1988, Ms. Spelke won the Wilson Page Turning Scholarship, which sent her to Israel to study page turning from left to right. She is winner of the 1984 Rimsky Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee Prestissimo Medal, having turned 47 pages in an unprecedented 32 seconds. She was also a 1983 silver medalist at the Klutz Musical Page Pickup Competition: contestants retrieve and rearrange a musical score dropped from a Yamaha. Ms. Spelke excelled in "grace, swiftness, and especially poise."
For techniques, Ms. Spelke performs both the finger-licking and the bent-page corner methods. She works from a standard left bench position, and is the originator of the dipped-elbow page snatch, a style used to avoid obscuring the pianist's view of the music. She is page turner in residence in Fairfield Iowa, where she occupies the coveted Alfred Hitchcock Chair at the Fairfield Page Turning Institute.
Ms. Spelke is married, and has a nice house on a lake.
Submitted by Paul Zorovich :
New Members' Aptitude Test
this was written with a church choir in mind, it should give
people a chuckle.)
In order to measure your level of
proficiency as a member of a choral group, the following test
has been carefully developed by experts. Read and reflect on
each situation, then select the option that will enhance the
quality of the performance.
1) You are in a choir processional and suddenly trip on your
robe and fall down. You should:
a) Assume a kneeling position and break into fervent
b) Pretend that you've had a heart attack.
c) Crawl into the nearest pew.
d) Begin speaking in tongues.
2) You are a soprano and count incorrectly. As a result you
boom out a high C a measure too soon. You should:
a) Slide into an inspired "O For A Thousand
Tongues To Sing."
b) Look triumphant and hold that note.
c) Stop abruptly in mid-squawk but keep your lips
d) Sink to the floor in shame.
3) You are conducting choir and orchestra in a very important
performance when suddenly you lose your grip and hurl the
baton into the audience. You should:
a) Grab a cellist's bow and proceed with aplomb.
b) Without acknowledging the loss, coolly continue and
occasionally flex the invisible baton to drive everybody mad.
c) Inform the impaled individual that you have a piece
of the rock.
d) Signal for the engineer to turn on the house lights
while you crawl about in search of the baton.
4) After all those long, hard rehearsals you show up twenty
minutes late. You should:
a) Climb into the back row from the baptistry.
b) Read Sister M. Stephen's pamphlet "Techniques
for Tardy Appearances."
c) Slash your wrists in the choir room.
d) Enter pretending to be a sound technician checking
cables, then subtly move into the choir.
5) The person sharing your music in rehearsal had a garlic
tamale for lunch. You should:
a) Complain of lack of air, grab your throat, fall
convulsed on the floor, and mutter "garlic, ugh,
b) Pass the offender a hymnal opened to "Purify
c) Sing without inhaling.
d) Say "I detect garlic tamale on your breath. Do
you have a recipe for that?"
6) While singing, you discover that the librarian has provided
only one page of a two-page hymn. You should:
a) Hum for your life.
b) Sing "Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon."
c) Improvise a descant on "ooo."
d) Try to get a hymnal out of the chair rack with your
7) Inevitably, the dreaded big sneeze occurs toward the end of
"God Be In My Head." You should:
a) As you sneeze, stomp down on your neighbor's instep
to cause a diversion.
b) Cram your stole into your mouth to muffle the noise.
c) Try to sneeze in harmony.
d) It doesn't really matter -- the director will kill
Submitted by Lyndon
Choir Singing is Healthy
article is actually not meant to be a joke, but it will make
you smile anyway.
Submitted by Ylisa
THE REHEARSAL POLICE
[ - Name of offender - ]
VOCAL OFFENSES - schedule of fines:
Obtrusive Vocal Technique$20.00
Unsuccessful Pitch Approximation$10.00
Any Hint of Countertenor Singing$15.00
Snoring while Singing$50.00
EERIE VOCAL SIMILARITY TO:
Death Screams (not in score)$50.00
Obstruction of Diction$25.00
Ungodly Noises (Musical)$25.00
Failure to Negotiate Register Breaks$15.00
Grotesque Facial Expressions While Singing$30.00
IMPERSONATING A PROFESSIONAL:
Really Stupid Questions $25.00
Really Stupid Questions Which Increase Rehearsal Length
PRESUMPTUOUS FIRST YEAR BEHAVIOR:
Use of Tape Recorder$25.00
Endless Diction Questions$100.00
Raising Hand after Neighbor's Mistake$25.00
Obtrusive Foot Tapping$10.00
Insane Cackling at Conductors' Bad Jokes$50.00
Unwarranted Beatific Smiling While Singing$40.00
Conspicuous Professional Reading (e.g. Opera News, etc.)
Stultifyingly Minute Vocal Technique Questions$75.00
Conversations with Conductor in Language other than English
Conspicuous Score Marking$15.00
Violent Nodding $25.00
Obvious, Insipid Score Studying During Breaks$50.00
Affected Artfulness in Rhythmic Reading$60.00
Obsequiously Erect Posture$50.00
Warming up during Rehearsal$35.00
Singing Full Voice in the Front Row$50.00
Raising Hand after Making Mistake$40.00
References to Obscure Recordings/Performances$90.00
Pretending to Understand Absurd Metaphor$15.00
Actually Understanding Absurd Metaphor$25.00 ANNOYING BEHAVIOR BY VETERANS:
Singing High Notes Louder than Possible$25.00
Holding Same 1/4 beat Longer than Everyone Else$200.00
Failing to Mark $30.00
Marking All but High Notes$50.00
Singing Unassigned Solo Parts (sotto voce)$25.00
Singing Unassigned Solo Parts (fortissimo)$100.00
Obvious Use of Beverages for Vocal Purposes$75.00
Discussing Vocal Technique during Rehearsal$100.00
Discussing Vocal Technique during break $500.00
Feigning European Birth by "Lapsing" into Foreign
Tiresome Time-Consuming Anecdotes$30.00
Bringing the Full Score $25.00
Naming Yourself after an Opera$900.00
CRIMINAL BAD TASTE:
Selling Amway Products$500.00
Absurd Fashion Statements$50.00
Having Entirely Too Much Fun$10.00
Submitted by Ylisa
SOPRANO I-Q TEST
1) When making a 1:30 appointment for a coaching, the
correct time to arrive is at?
d) not at all
2) The aria "Vissi d'arte" from Puccini's opera
Tosca is from which opera?
3) When told you are singing behind the beat, that means
a) sing faster
b) step to the side
c) show how historically sopranos did this
4) Which would be the correct choice for a sexual partner?
a) the conductor
b) the married baritone
c) a stagehand
d) all of the above
5) Most sopranos begin with the following when studying a
6) When preparing for an important rehearsal, one must...?
a) warm up
b) have the music learned
c) have the text translated
d) look great
7) A soprano must possess which of the following for a career
a) good technique
b) good musical instincts
c) good dramatic instincts
d) a fur coat
8) When switching from the lyric soprano rep to spinto, one
a) sing louder
b) sing slower
c) gain weight
9) Name a famous soprano who lived in the past.
a) Rosa Ponselle
b) Lily Pons
c) Kirstin Flagstad
d) Aprile Millo
e) all of the above
10 Unscramble these operas, if you can:
a) La raviataT
b) The Magic luteF
c) The Marriage of Gifaro
Submitted by Paul Zorovich:
THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE CHORUS
chorus, there are four voice parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and
bass. Sometimes these 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, contralto, mezzo soprano, etc., but these are
mostly used by people who are either soloists, or belong to
some excessively hotshot 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, so we will ignore them for now. Each voice part sings
in a different range, and each one has a very different
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. However, this is beside the point; the fact remains
that the four voice parts can be easily distinguished, and I
will now explain 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, and 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 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 the stratosphere showing off. To
sopranos, basses are the scum of the earth - they sing too
damn loud, 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, anyway (although while they
swoon while the Tenors sing, they still end up going home with
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 loud (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. They 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 loud.
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 are always 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 being a sadist and making
them sing so damn 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 loud enough to drown the tenors out. 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 of
anybody. 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 of anybody and often sing the same note (or in
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 which 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. author unknown
Submitted by Elaine Boxer:
Boxer has been taking notes - saving, for posterity, some of
the more amusing things that Lyndon says to us during
rehearsal. Try to picture (or maybe you actually
remember) Lyndon saying the following:
- Some of you are very eager to sing
- I HOPE no one comes in there. It'll
cost you $10 an entrance.
- (after a long silent pause) ...Do
you know where we are?
- I would like to have an electrical
connection - during the performance - so I can buzz you
whenever I want you to look at me.
- Well, that is sounding, um, as we
say down south: "it gets soggier & soggier."
- The sopranos are all alone there.
Anyone else who comes in there is a Total Nerd.
- That was basically wretched.
- It has dawned on me how few
rehearsals we have between now and the concert, and so I've
- You sang a C there with great
authority, and nothing to back it up.
- You sound like you need more
- Let's see if the tenors have any
memory at all.
- Do it again. I don't trust you.
- The performance is Thursday. It
would be nice to see you there.
- There are three kinds of tenors in
the world. And I'll tell you about them if you ask me
- You'd be surprised at what I'm
thinking up here.
- Basses: when you go for that nice
comfortable low note, don't drop your whole package down
there. Um...wait...that didn't come out how I meant it.
- Here is a tip: if you sounded like
a chicken, you goofed.
- When I look at you, I see mules
wearing blinders, to keep you from being distracted by any
- Come on, tenors. Sound like men.
- This is a total, total autocracy.
And I am the autocrat.
Submitted by Kathleen Flaherty:
A Glossary of Choral Music Terms
A smooth liquid generally enjoyed over ice after choir
In a choral relationship, usually the soprano.
Delicate surgery for altos involving the implantation of
Like a regular motif, but less filling.
Basses 8, Tenors 0.
What happens when someone takes your choir robe.
An alto who has been convicted of a felony.
Six parrots singing "Exultate Justi".
Music composed by the random selection of pitches and rhythms.
Frequently found in the performance of the choir anthem.
When the conductor can't get the fools to stop singing.
The highest male voice (some alteration
What comes right before the Beatitudes.
An accordion concert.
What directly precedes the highest note in the soprano part.
We HATE this anthem.
Theme and Variations:
We HATE this anthem, the composer and all his/her family.
The "All-you-can-eat" buffet at Luciano's.
When the conductor loses his place.
Throwing an accordion into a dumpster without hitting the
A singer in good physical condition (as opposed to
Screening all your calls.
A choral singer over 65.
Small choir get-togethers that are frequently interrupted by
An alto in a leather choir robe.
Cornetti trombosis: Disastrous entanglement of brass
instruments that can occur when musicians are not careful exiting the
D.C. al Capone: You betta go back to the beginning, capiche?
Dill piccolo: A wind instrument that plays only sour
Diminuendo: The process of quieting a rumor in the orchestra
Eardrum: A teeny, tiny tympani.
Fermantra: A note that is held over and over and over and...
Fermoota: A rest of indefinite length and dubious value.
Fiddler crabs: Grumpy string players.
Flute flies: Gnat-like bugs that bother musicians
Brasso continuo: A brass instrument that plays when
the conductor's intentions are not clear.
Frugalhorn: A sensible, inexpensive brass instrument.
Gaul blatter: A French horn player.
Good conductor: A person who can give an electrifying
Gregorian champ: Monk who can hold a note the longest.
Herbert von Carryon: A conductor who never
rides in the cargo hold.
Kvetchendo: Gradually getting annoyingly louder.
Mallade: A romantic song that's pretty awful.
Molto bolto: Head straight for the ending, but don't
make it seemed rushed.
Opera buffa: Musical stage production at a nudist
Pipe smoker: An extremely virtuosic(k) organist.
Poochini: When singing, to be accompanied by your dog.
Pre-Classical Conservatism: School of thought which fostered
the idea, "if it ain't baroque, don't fix it".
(The) Right of Strings: Manifesto of the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Bowed Instruments.
Spinet: Politician's order.
Spritzicato: Plucking of a stringed instrument to produce a
bright, bubbly sound, usually accompanied by sparkling water with
lemon (wine optional).
Status cymbal: An instrument to be played at
inaugurations and socialite balls.
Tempo tantrum: What a young orchestra is having when
it's not keeping time with the conductor.
Timpani Alley: A row of kettledrums.
Tincanabulation: The annoying or irritating sounds made by an
unmusical person using extremely cheap bells.
Vesuvioso: A gradual buildup to a fiery conclusion.
Submitted by Richard Pace:
A Player's Guide for Keeping Conductors in Line
Never be satisfied with the tuning note. Fussing about
the pitch takes attention away from the podium and puts it on you, where
When raising the music stand, be sure the top comes off
and spills the music on the floor.
Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room,
the lighting, crowded space, or a draft. It's best to do this when the
conductor is under pressure.
Look the other way just before cues.
Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or
extra reeds. Percussion players must NEVER have all their equipment.
Ask for a re- audition or seating change. Ask often.
Give the impression you're about to quit. Let the conductor know you're
there as a personal favor.
Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every
possible opportunity, especially when the conductor is giving
instructions. Brass players: drop mutes. Percussionists have a wide
variety of dropable items, but cymbals are unquestionably the best
because they roll around for several seconds.
Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses (Horn,
oboe, and clarinet players are trained to do this from birth).
Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if
your C# was in tune. This is especially effective if you had no C# or
were not playing at the time. (If he catches you, pretend to be
correcting a note in your part.)
At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is
emoting) be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound
empty and disappointing.
Wait until well into a rehearsal before letting the
conductor know you don't have the music.
Look at your watch frequently. Shake it in disbelief
Tell the conductor, "I can't find the beat."
Conductors are always sensitive about their "stick technique,"
so challenge it frequently.
Ask the conductor if he has listened to the Bernstein
recording of the piece. Imply that he could learn a thing or two from
it. Also good: ask "Is this the first time you've conducted this
When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face
and shake your head indicating that you'll never be able to play it.
Don't say anything: make him wonder.
If your articulation differs from that of others playing
the same phrase, stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is
correct until backstage just before the concert.
Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early
so that others will become restless and start to pack up and fidget.
During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at
all. Better yet, nonchalantly put away your instrument. Make the
conductor feel he is keeping you from doing something really important.
Submitted by Kathleen Flaherty:
These are stories and test questions accumulated by music
teachers in the state of Missouri, circa 1989. Source: Missouri
School Music Newsletter.
It is important to be able to reach the brakes on any piano.
Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a
pleasant sound once the animal is removed.
It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the
neck and shake him in rhythm.
My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play, people
hardly ever play it. That is why I like the bassoon the best.
I would like for you teach me to play the cello. Would
tomorrow or Friday be best?
The plural form of musical instrument is known as orchestra.
Tubas are a bit too much.
A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only the opposite.
The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.
The flute is a skinny-shape-high-sounded instrument.
Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word used by many player-types.
Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time gets
to be the conductor.
The main trouble with a French horn is it's too tangled up.
For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every
line of flute music. You just watch.
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.
Question: Is the saxophone a brass or a woodwind instrument?
Last month I found out how a clarinet works by taking it
apart. I both found out and got in trouble.
A bassoon looks like nothing I have ever heard.
Cymbals are found, metal CLANGS!
Question: What are kettle drums called?
Answer: Kettle drums.
When electric currents go through them, guitars start making
sounds. So would anybody.
The double bass is also called the bass viol, string bass, and bass
fiddle. It has so many names because it is so huge.
While trombones have tubes, trumpets prefer to wear valves.
A trumpet is an instrument when it is not an elephant sound.
Another name for kettle drums is timpani. Or else you can just
stick with the first name and learn it good.
Instruments come in many sizes, shapes and orchestras.
You should always say 'chili' when you mean there are two or more
A tuba is much larger than its name.
A harp is a nude piano.
My favorite composer is Opus.
My very best like piece of music is the Bronze Lullaby.
Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields
and the McCoys.
Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago.
Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people were
A good orchestra is always ready to play if the conductor steps on
Caruso was at first an Italian. Then someone heard is voice
and said he would go a long way. So that's why he came to
I know what a sextet is but I'm not allowed to say.
Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.
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
In the last scene of Pagliacci, Canio stabs Nedda who is the one he
really loves. Pretty soon Silvio also gets stabbed, and the all
live happily every after.
An opera is a song of bigly size.
Aaron Copland is one of your most famous contemporary
composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most
composers do not live until they are dead.
Henry Purcell is a well known composer few people have ever heard
Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf
he wrote lout 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.
Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was
John Sebastian Bach died from 1750 to the present.
A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.
Refrain means don't do it. A refrain in music is the part you
better not try to sing.
Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music.
Submitted by Kathleen Flaherty:
While not music related, they're still quite amusing.
Plays on words:
Dyslexics have more fnu.
Clones are people, two.
Entropy isn't what it used to be.
Microbiology Lab: Staph Only!
Santa's elves are just a bunch of subordinate
186,000 miles/sec: Not just a good idea, it's the
Air Pollution is a mis-demeanor.
Anything free is worth what you pay for it.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
COLE'S LAW: Thinly sliced cabbage.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
Editing is a rewording activity.
Help stamp out and eradicate superfluous
I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not
My reality check just bounced.
Rap is to music what Etch-a-Sketch is to art.
What is there were not hypothetical questions?
Energizer bunny arrested, charged with battery.
No sense being pessimistic, it probably wouldn't
Boycott shampoo... Demand REAL poo!
After eating, do amphibians have to wait one
hour before getting out of the water?
How can there be self-help groups?
If white wine goes with fish, do white grapes go
If a mute swears, doe his mother make him wash
his hands with soap?
If someone has a mid-life crisis while
playing hide & seek, does he automatically
lose because he can't find
If someone with multiple personalities threatens
to kill himself, is it considered a
Instead of talking to your plants, if you yelled
at them would they still grow, but only be
troubled and insecure?
Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what
they do "practice"?
Just before someone gets nervous, does he
experience cocoons in his stomach?
When sign makers go on strike, is anything
written on their picket signs?
When you pet bird sees you reading the newspaper,
does he wonder why you're just
sitting there, staring at the carpeting?
Where do forest rangers go to "get away from
Why do they report power outages on TV?
Why are builders afraid to have a 13th floor but
book publishers aren't afraid to have
a Chapter 11?
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
And some riddles:
Q: How do crazy people go through the
A: They take the psycho path.
Q: How do you get holy water?
A: Boil the hell out of it.
Q: What did the fish say when he hit a
Q: What to Eskimos get from sitting on the
ice too long?
Q: What to prisoners use to call each
A: Cell phones.
Q: What do you call a boomerang that
A: A stick.
Q: What do you call cheese that isn't
A: Nacho Cheese.
Q: What do you call Santa's helpers?
A: Subordinate Clauses.
Q: What do you call four bull fighters in
A: Quatro sinko.
Q: What do you get from a pampered cow?
A: Spoiled milk.
Q: What do you get when you cross a
snowman with a vampire?
Q: What has four legs, is big, green,
fuzzy, and if it fell out of a tree would kill you?
A: A pool table.
Q: What is a zebra?
A: 26 sizes larger than an "A"
Q: What lies at the bottom of the ocean
A: A nervous wreck.
Q: What's the difference between an oral
thermometer and a rectal thermometer?
A: The taste.
Q: What's the difference between roast
beef and pea soup?
A: Anyone can roast beef.
Q: Where do find a no-legged dog?
A: Right where you left him.
Q: Where do you get virgin wool from?
A: Ugly sheep.
Q: Why do bagpipers walk when they play?
A: They're trying to get away from the
Q: Why do gorillas have big nostrils?
A: Because they have big fingers.
Q: What kind of coffee was served on the
Submitted by Kathleen Flaherty:
Golden Rules for Ensemble Singing
Everyone should sing the same piece.
Take your time turning pages.
Do not worry if you do not have perfect pitch - you may find singing
less stressful without it!
The right note at the wrong time is the wrong note.
The wrong note at the right time is still a wrong note.
A wrong note sung timidly is still a wrong note.
A wrong note sung with authority is an interpretation.
A true interpretation is realized when not one note of the original
If you happen to sing a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your
If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.
If you are completely lost, stop everyone and start an argument
about repeat marks.
Strive to achieve the maximum notes per second - that way you at
least gain the admiration of the totally incompetent.
If a passage is difficult, slow it down. If it is easy, speed it up.
Everything will work itself out in the end.
Markings for slurs, dynamics, ornaments and breathing should be
ignored. They are only there to embellish the score.
When everyone else has finished singing, you should not sing any
notes you may still have left.
Submitted by Elaine Clisham:
Q: How many altos does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All of them. One to change the bulb, and the rest to
complain about how high it is.
Q: Did you hear about the two basses who walked into a building,
out in California?
A: You'd think one of them would have seen it!
Submitted by Richard Pace:
Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one. She holds it up, and the world revolves around