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Why do people treat the viola like dirt?

April 2, 2011 at 10:24 PM

  I love music. I always have. But why do people make viola jokes? I never made a violin joke, or a cello joke, or a bass joke. And yet all I hear are painful remarkes about the insturment I play. If you look up Beethoven, he played the viola for a couple of years to help his family as a teenager. Bach loved playing the viola, calling it the center of harmony. Paganini also played the viola. Telemann wrote a viola concerto. So did Stamitz, Hoffmeister, Schurbert, Berlioz, Bruch, Glinka, Bartok, Walton, and Vanhal. Many respected violinists also played the viola. Some of them are, Paganini, Schuppanzigh, Oistrakh, Menuhin, and Vengerov just to name a few. So why do people still make jokes about the viola? If you havent had a hurtful joke directed at you in the past, you dont know how much it hurts to be made fun of. I want to be a professional violist, and go to a good music school but these jokes are really undermining how I feel about myself as a muscian. Why do people make such hurtful remarks about my instrument? :(

From kaelyn quinn
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 10:45 PM

First up: stop having a pity party! If a joke is affecting whether you want to be a violist or not, you need to reevaluate your chosen path a bit. You'll hear violin jokes, soprano jokes, conductor jokes, and percussion jokes--just to name a few. It's humor, and poking fun at musical stereotypes. People tell viola jokes because they are funny. Geez, you'll hear jokes about "normal" college majors, blonde jokes, job professions, and anything else that is possible to be picked on. Violinists get a lot of flack too, with our big heads, bigger egos, and overinflated sense of self. See? I just picked on myself. Because being a violinist, I can very much see where that stereotype comes from :)


Basically, not to be blunt, but...get over yourself a bit, boy! Every instrument gets picked on! It's a form of humor. Feel free to participate in it. Maybe even crack a viola joke yourself. 

Feel free to peruse:

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 10:55 PM

Mozart loved the viola too.  It has a proud and honorable history.  I was a violinist first and started playing the viola as an adult, because I loved the sound of it.  Learning the viola helped me find a voice that I hadn't known I had.  

For some reason I've never minded viola jokes, even when I'm wearing the violist hat.  I think they are mostly meant with affection, and when they're not, you can always ask whether the violin is really smaller than the viola or if it's just that the violinists' heads are so much bigger . . .

From Hunter Miller
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 11:30 PM

I agree that most jokes are funny. What I ment when I posted this blog was why so many violinists cross the line with the jokes. I can take alot, I laugh at most of them, but quite often, people just dont know when to shut up.

From Hunter Miller
Posted on April 2, 2011 at 11:34 PM

Kaylen, God that website is funny!!:) the jokes just bother me when I screw up on something and they make jokes about it.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 1:49 AM

Violinists make jokes about viola because they are jealous.  Violinists can't read alto clef, the violin makes their heads look big, and their instruments don't burn as long as ours do ;)

From Jim Hastings
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Well, you won't be hearing any viola jokes from me.  As the old saying goes, "Don't knock it till you've tried it."  And I haven't tried it.  Even though I began violin-playing in elementary school, I've never picked up a viola.

But, oh, how I love the sound of the instrument.  Two of my three vintage fiddles, in particular, have a deep, dark sound to begin with; and with the right string combination, the contralto register sounds like a viola -- a real winner with me.

So -- be assured -- in the likes of me, you will have a receptive, non-joking audience.

I have hand size M and can make the stretches in violin that I need to -- even tenths; but I can't imagine being able to stretch any further.  Sometimes I wonder how you guys manage it -- let alone how cello and bass players do it.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM

What I find fascinating is that, although almost all of the really major composers who were string players preferred playing viola to violin (e.g., Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak), you have to wait until the 20th century with Hindemith before any of them wrote any serious solo music for viola.  Notwithstanding the viola jokes, . . . .

From Michael Pijoan
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 5:45 PM

Except you still seem to be taking the jokes personally. In my experience most of the viola jokes I've heard have been told to me by violists themselves! I've also heard and told a lot of violin jokes so...I don't think this is an issue at all.  You need to calm down. Perhaps you have encountered an individual who is attempting to use the viola jokes to insult you directly? If that is the case just laugh and walk away. There are bigger things for a violist to worry about than a few jokes! Like for instance, how to keep your bow moving with all that firewood under your chin!!!  Sheesh.  


...I kid I kid.  Here's a violin one to balance it out.  You know why viola jokes are usually so short? It's so the violinists can understand them.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 3, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Hi, I think everyone of us who plays classical music will get laugh at at one point of our life...

Not just violists...

Many say classical musicians are fifi (especially directed at boys in classical music).  Not that long ago in history, it was the contrary: musician girls were laugh at because music was considered a "virile" activity.  Also many say classical musicians are no life nerds etc.  Well here I'm in stereotypes but stereotypes leads to jokes.   

One must learn to make his own thing without beeing hurt by such jokes!  Whatever you will do, there will always be people laughing at you (sometimes innocently, sometimes with the intention to hurt you. Pls don't let them hurt you!   


From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on April 4, 2011 at 6:58 PM

As others have pointed out, violists know more viola jokes than the rest of the orchestra put together.  Enjoy them.  Just remember what separates the violas from the apes- the second violins!

Does anyone know any cello jokes?  I don't think I've ever heard one.

From bill platt
Posted on April 5, 2011 at 10:39 PM

People love the viola. That's why the jokes. There were lots of jokes about Ronald Reagan, too. And the Pope. And Reagan and the Pope.

From Adam Sweet
Posted on April 6, 2011 at 1:16 PM

You will find the viola jokes subside once you join a professional orchestra.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 7, 2011 at 2:30 PM

"Does anyone know any cello jokes?  I don't think I've ever heard one."

Lisa, I don't know cello jokes but I know a so funny joke told by Rostropovich (one of the greatest cellists ever).

True story:



He said, quite dissapointed, to his mom "mom, why did you give me that face!!!!"

She answered "because I gave everything to make your hands!!!" 

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