Funny Violin Stories

December 4, 2010 at 08:13 PM ·

What's your favourite violin joke / funny story? OK, I'll exclude the hackneyed ones that we're all sick of hearing, like "What do call a musician with ....etc etc", no, more like funny stories. Everyone's sense of humour is different - here's one from me, a true story. A friend, a violin maker, had a little music evening at this house. I was one of several musicians there. Later that evening, the host brought out some of his top instruments, including some old Italian violins from his display case.

One guest (who wasn't a maker or a player) took a great interest in some of these old fiddles. He began to scrutinise one, remarking on the purfling, corner bouts, scale length etc. There was someting odd about about the questions - it seemed like he was just dropping violin terms which he had picked up. He pointed at one, saying, "That's a Guadanini, yes?" The host replied, "No, it's a Klotz." He went through all the other instruments, identifying them all (but totally wrongly). Eventually the host just gave up, and the "expert" said, so what is that one?" to which the host replied jokingly, "It's a 1770 Lavatori." The expert just nodded, and said, "OK." He didn't even bat an eyelid! It was so hard not to laugh ...

Replies (27)

December 4, 2010 at 11:26 PM ·

Just something I saw one time on television -- not quite a joke, though.  Perlman was playing with what I recall was a quartet, and he snapped a string.  He stopped, looked at the violin, and immediately someone ran in from the wings to take it from him.  (He didn't keep going, but literally stopped.)  The fellow from the wings took the thing and hustled off stage with it to go change the busted string ... and Perlman turned around and quipped to the audience, "We will now attempt the world record time for changing an E string."  The whole audience chuckled while they waited ...

And Perlman kept up the patter, saying stuff like, "I can see it now, he's got the case open, the rosin's gone flying, he's found a string but oh no, it's a G ... "

And when the guy came back from the wings with the violin triumphantly held over his head the whole place burst into applause.   I would KILL to find that on YouTube.  :-)

December 5, 2010 at 02:59 AM ·

 Getting older, my memory is not what it used to be.  I now forget the violinist's name (I think it was Heifetz or Stern).  He was scheduled for a concert, but his transportation was delayed (bad weather, if I remember correctly).  The orchestra had already played the overture and was ready to start the featured concerto when he finally arrived.  He quickly took his coat off, grabbed his instrument from its case, and rushed out on stage.  After a quick tune-up, be whispered to the conductor, "By the way, what are we playing tonight?" 

December 5, 2010 at 03:46 AM ·

I've made many trips to perform casually at a local nursing home.  Many of the residents aren't used to listening to classical music, so I try to play a variety of stuff, and occasionally drag another musician along with me.  One particularly vocal resident isn't satisfied if she can't recognize the tune.  She'll often say to me "Can't you play any pieces we know?"   Well, one day a friend cranked out an incredibly intricate piece on his classical guitar and that same resident looked at him and said  "Was that really a song, or were you just doodling?"

December 5, 2010 at 03:57 AM ·

Last week, in poring rain, I though of bringing plastic bags to cover my violin case but forgot an umbrella for myself...  Guess who took the shower! It might not be that funny but I think it shows how much they control us... (our unconscious mind)

Be careful: it's like pets, do you own them or do they own you? ; ) 

December 5, 2010 at 10:20 AM ·

Another Perlman one that springs to mind after reading Janis's post. Mr Perlman was being interviewed on the South Bank Show (UK TV arts prog) and he sat there talking, all the while twirling and waving his bow. He went to demonstrate a musical point, put violin under his chin, and said "like this, for example, in the Bach E major", and promptly  burst into the Bach # 4, Dm, Gigue section. After finishing, he just said, "well, maybe it was another one!" and proceeded to explain the musical point. I don't think he could recall the correct one at the time! Mildy amusing for most people, but I just creased up laughing! Only with Perlman ... :)

December 5, 2010 at 11:25 AM ·

 Well my funniest and best experience was this -

Many years ago...I was in a junior orchestra. That orchestra was just a string orchestra primarily but there were also junior brass sections etc for when we all joined up in concerts to create a full orchestra. Each year, we went on a residential course for 5 days and basically had to learn several concert pieces well enough in those 5 days to play in a concert ON the 5th day. It used to be amazing! Each year the junior brass, woodwind, strings and percussion would join up with all of the senior sections to create a MASSIVE orchestra (of over 200 people). 

So one year, the whole massive orchestra was given a challenge to play Holst's 'Mars' from the planets. And we practised and practised away, making sure we knew the notes thoroughly. All of the practises were going well and improving and we were given pointers to practise in our own time.... 

When it came to the night, everyone was really hyped up and excited. The hall we were playing in was literally huge and because the orchestra was too big for one conductor, we had to have 2 people conducting us, which in itself was a huge task all round!

Te audience came in and became quiet as everyone piled onto the huge stage. The concert had started and everyone waited with anticipation. I remember we had practised using the wood of the bow (col lengo) to create a new effect I had never heard of.  When it came to the very loud bits where all the sections of the orchestra was joining in, and the percussion was playing, and everything was going perfect.... a little boy of about 9 years got up. He was really small and looked as though he was a 6 year old actually. He had the responsibility of playing the Chinese gong! 

He got up with the big drum stick in his hand, ready to strike! And when he did, the poor boy went flying to the other end of the stage in 2 seconds flat. Not only that, but he picked himself up, ran back over to the gong and struck it again, only to get flung several feet once more. 

I doubt everybody saw it at the time but I certainly did and I know the audience did too. In fact, I was laughing so much at the time that I dropped my bow and had to scrounge around to find it again! 

But that poor boy... He stays in my mind to this day... :D 

December 5, 2010 at 12:11 PM ·

Surely a funny violin story would have to be told in notes... otherwise how would it understand?

December 5, 2010 at 01:19 PM ·

My favourite one is probably when I told my sister the following joke: "Why do violinists hate going to the knife shop? Because there are so many "sharps" there" (this is a translation of the joke I told my sister as English is not my native language). My sister who plays the tuba laughed her head off and then the she told the joke to her friends in marching band but they just stared at her dumbfounded :)


December 5, 2010 at 05:14 PM ·

 Oh God, I'm slow with jokes... it has taken me hours to understand that! D: 

December 5, 2010 at 06:16 PM ·

Some of you who have seen my previous posts on various subjects will know that my hearing is poor, esp in the upper frequency bands (speech, etc, even when wearing hearing aids). This little incicdent happened some years ago - I went to the music session at my local pub, and the usual crowd was there. A new girl with a fiddle came in a bit later, but still before the music had started. She sat down a few seats away from me, said hello, intoduced herself (she was French), took out her fiddle and started to tune it. I was tuning mine too, and it was proving really difficult to hear the notes accurately, above the volume of the conversations and general pub noise.

I gave up trying to tune, and decided to wait till it was a bit quieter. The girl looked  over at me and said, "You wanna f****?" I said, "pardon?" She repeated, "You wanna f***?" I said, ",," and sheepishly turned away, trying to hide my big red face. 10 seconds later, she taps me on the shoulder, repeats the question again, this time holding up a tuning fork in front of me! The combination of my poor hearing, high backround noise and her strong French accent made me mishear. She laughed her head off when I explained later!

December 7, 2010 at 03:03 PM ·

Jim, thank you for your description of this hilarious moment.

Not as hilarious but funny, I like this story told by Perlman about how Eugène Ysaÿe taught Josef Gingold how to do a staccato

December 7, 2010 at 04:42 PM ·

The funniest violin story I have heard was from Milstein himself relating that during a concert, while performing the second movement of Prokofiev violin concerto number one, which is quite fast,  he lost for a few seconds the sensation of holding the bow, and thought that it was trown away in the audience... which of course,never happenned.

He took five minutes to relate the story, his sensation of heart beating and fear, sweathing all over and shaking for something that last only one second or a fraction of it...


Then ,he said, I finally understood the profound meaning of Einstein theory about relativity...

December 7, 2010 at 04:55 PM ·

Joel: this was Fritz Kreisler...

December 7, 2010 at 08:56 PM ·

Is a cello close enough?  I've seldom laughed so hard as at that point early in the Woody Allen movie "Take the Money and Run" where he tries to play cello in a marching band.

December 9, 2010 at 01:00 AM ·

I have another cello one but it could apply to any instrument...

True story...

Rostropovich was not happy about his face and ask to his mom:

"mom, why have you made me that face?"

Her answer

"because I gave everything for your hands!"




December 13, 2010 at 05:20 AM ·

While I was playing from the balcony for a wedding it was time for the bridesmaids to start down the aisle - so I started playing the piece we had chosen for the processional.  After a few seconds the wedding coordinator came out from the back of the church to the side aisle, looked up at me, and said in a stage whisper “Play the processional”.  I kept playing, looked over the edge of the balcony and said “ I am playing the processional”.  This happened twice and I kept playing.

After the brides maids were almost all the way down the center aisle the wedding coordinator came out again, stopped me and said in a clear voice that everyone could hear “Play the processional.”  At this point several family members looked back at me from the front the  church and I answered the wedding coordinator in a voice that everyone could hear “I AM PLAYING THE PROCESSIONAL”.

December 13, 2010 at 11:48 AM ·

@Julian : 

F,C, Bb, A F#, B D Em (agitato), G, B Fm (snortissimo), A, C, H (the one 2 higher than G), mozart forty, (it. mezzo forte), G G G (tesco presto), B A D (nosa snotta) pianissimo carbonara 8ve violin is still not laughing ...:)

December 13, 2010 at 06:59 PM ·

I think I've said this somewhere before, but when I was in college many years ago, the late David Soyer gave a recital at our school. One of the pieces he played was a Prokofiev Sonata for Cello & Piano, which obviously the audience was not familiar with. At the conclusion of the last movement, no one applauded, since they didn't know it was over. Mr. Soyer looked at the audience and said (in a voice both loud and with a distinct New York accent), "Dat's da end uh-da piece." The audience then applauded.

Also, years before that, when I was in high school, I was in the audience when an excellent all-city youth orchestra was playing the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony. In the middle of the dramatic first movement, a first violinist on the outside seat of the third stand played a particularly energetic downbow, lost his grip, and the bow went flying about 5 rows into the audience. Accompanied by Tchaikovsky's Fifth, the poor guy climbed off the high stage at Chicago's Orchestra Hall, waded through a couple of rows, and retrieved his bow. He made his way back to the stage, but couldn't climb back up on the stage. So his buddy put down his own violin and bow and leaned over and pulled this kid onto the stage, and the two joined the rest of the orchestra in completing the Tchaikovsky, accompanied by applause from the audience. The dramatic emotionality of the Tchaikovsky seemed perfectly suited to the irony of it all.

December 15, 2010 at 05:43 AM ·

While playing a Haydn Quartet that was being filmed for a small university, my strings broke,  I had no alternative but to put my violin under my arm and set out the whole piece.  I was in agony.  But, upon reviewing the video everyone couldn't stop laughing how I handled the whole situation.  I certainly learned to have a good sense of humor about myself that day.



December 22, 2010 at 07:41 PM ·

Many years ago, Quincy Symphony Orchestra (Massachusetts)  performance-- first violin section, inside seat. I went to turn the page, but instead knocked the sheet music off the stand and off the stage,  onto the floor. Oops! My kind stand partner left the stage and retrieved the music from below. I now turn pages very slowly!

December 22, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

The Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland was officially opened in 1973. At the opening ceremony attended by Queen Juliana an ad hoc orchestra played the "Fireworks" by Handel.

Most orchestra members  were  local students from Rotterdam Colleges  and a few people were hired in from outside including myself from Utrecht's University. The conductor was a choire conductor with activities in Rotterdam as well as Utrecht and was known to get somewhat carried away at times.  It was told that once he swung his arms so widely that he broke his baton hitting a structure behind him.

The opening section went quite well  untill the brass section got to play. They completely drowned out  the rest of the orchestra and pretty well blew us off the stage. I looked behind and there they were, grinning and putting in their own version in  FFF.  The whole section had been hired from The Rotterdam Philharmonic and they had conspired to do this.

I don't remember what happened afterwards but can still remember the conductorat the time  trying to get them to quiet down but in vain. It was actually quite funny.

December 23, 2010 at 01:29 PM ·

 I was teaching at a summer festival.  The student was a tall Japanese boy.  At the end of the lesson, he politely asked for my email address which is  He chuckled at the name.

At that moment, a wasp flew in the window and circled his head.  The student was dipping and diving to avoid the wasp.  I help up my hand and said: "Wait!"   I took a fencing stance (in complete jest) and pretended to track the wasp carefully---and took one swish of the bow at the wasp---and with dumb luck---hit it dead out of the air .  It landed at his feet.  I kept a straight face.  He turned to me with a deep bow and said : " Ah! You ARE Bowspeed!"  :-)

December 23, 2010 at 01:54 PM ·

David - thats fabulous, how about a sequel to the Karate Kid... LOL

December 23, 2010 at 03:41 PM ·

I got backed into a corner by an elderly man in a wheelchair while playing christmas carols at a nursing home once.

December 23, 2010 at 03:47 PM ·

Emily -- Yikes!!  I'll bet you plan your escape routes in advance these days!!  ;)

December 31, 2010 at 07:40 PM ·

You know you're a first violinist when you wished you had played cello instead.

December 31, 2010 at 08:00 PM ·

I was playing Beethoven's D major cello sonata in a concert when, halfway through the first movement, the pianist turned over two pages by accident, realized her mistake after a couple of bars and turned back three pages, thereby getting completely lost.  We both stopped and restarted, the remainder of the performance being punctuated by stifled giggles from both of us.

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