Comic Relief for the Stressed Musician
May 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM***Disclaimer: I do not actually believe any of this stuff...it's just for fun!***
Let me explain to you the hierarchy of the orchestra. I’ll start with the brass section. Brass players are notoriously stuck up and snobby. They think they are so great just because their instruments are loud and they will take every opportunity they get to prove just how earsplitting and deafening they can be. It is because of this simple fact that brass players are placed in the back of the orchestra. If possible, try your best not to wander into their section during a rehearsal, as you may find yourself stepping into a puddle of saliva. Spit valves are one of the dumbest things ever invented, by the way, because of where they are positioned on the instrument. The spit never actually ends up back on the brass player (where it belongs) but, instead, on the floor where other innocent people could possibly step on it. Or, in many cases, it may end up on the back of a woodwind player.
The woodwinds sit right in front of the brass section. I don’t know what they did to deserve such a horrible punishment, but it must have been pretty bad. Honestly, most woodwind players are pretty cool and enjoyable to be around, except for those oboe players. Don’t get me wrong, oboists are very nice people but that instrument is just obnoxious. I don’t think I have ever actually heard a good oboe player in my life, and I’ve heard a lot of them. I seriously think that someone in the renaissance invented the oboe as a joke, but the baroque musicians didn’t get the joke and decided to include it in the orchestra anyway. To top it all off, why would they put such a horrible instrument in charge of tuning the orchestra? It is questions like this that I ponder late in the night for hours on end.
What do you call a person who hangs out with musicians? A Percussionist. My initial reaction when I heard this was to laugh at the joke. Then I realized how true it actually is and, well I’m not gonna lie, I just kept laughing. The percussion section is in the absolute back of the orchestra. Personally, I think the woodwinds hired percussionists to get revenge on the brass players. Boy, that plan sure backfired, didn’t it? The percussion section consists of instruments that can be struck to produce vibrations. So basically, it’s a bunch of people running around with sticks and banging on things. What amazes me is the “skill level required to play the part” to “number of times the percussionist messes up” ratio. I mean, I’ve been in orchestra where this number was like 1:47.
The strings are a very interesting section because there are so many of them in the orchestra. The strings sit in the front because they are the most important; at least, that’s what they think. For the most part, violinist and cellists are pretty normal. It’s the bassist and violists that you have to look out for. Bass players think they can get away with not practicing just because their instruments are so low that no one can tell if they are playing out of tune or not, which is true, but it’s still not very courteous of them. The violists require a completely separate paragraph, which I will start below.
If you don’t understand why people hate violists, you’ve probably never actually had a conversation with one. Honestly, the only good viola players are the ones who played violin first. They switched because they realized that they could get much better seats as violists since the real viola players all stink. One of the biggest problems is that viola music is written in the alto clef, which means that other musicians have a hard time reading it. Unfortunately, this also means that the violists can’t read it either.
Speaking of people who can’t read music, the conductor is the person who stands in front of the orchestra waving their arms. Basically, he or she is in charge of making sure everyone is at the same place in the music at the same time. The conductor uses a series of beat pattern to express each measure of music. However, when they get lost (which accounts for about 50% of the time), they will resort to flailing their arms around and making odd hand gestures. Often times when a section gets lost, the conductor sings their part to try and get them back to the right spot. This is counterproductive, however, because not only are the musicians still trying to find where they are in the music, but now they have to cover their ears too. But in the end, no matter what happens during a performance, the conductor gets all the recognition. If you don’t believe me, take a look at CD covers. They say something like “Beethoven’s Fifth: conducted by Leonard Bernstein” not “Beethoven’s Fifth: with John Smith playing the third trumpet part”. Isn’t it ironic, that the one person not playing an instrument gets all the credit?
Occasionally you will get the privilege..... I mean, be forced to work with vocalists. This can be a rather traumatic event for both the instrumentalists and the audience. In situations like this, earplugs are the best way to go. The problem with vocalists is that they can practice their instrument anywhere, whether they are walking through the grocery store or sitting in calc class. And they take full advantage of this ability by singing random sentences or attempting to have a conversation while singing. Really, the only instrumentalists who have this privilege are the percussionists because you can practice tapping a rhythm anywhere. (But we all know that this would never happen since percussionists don’t practice.) One would think that since a vocalist gets so much extra practice they would be a really good singer. This, however, is not true. We instrumentalists just have to realize that vocalists will be vocalists and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.
Despite all of the faults possessed by each section of the orchestra, somehow when everyone joins together to make music, it all works out. It’s as if everyone’s flaws cancel each other out to create a harmonic equilibrium. Well, everyone except the trumpet players, that is.
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