Looking for humorous music

May 19, 2006 at 01:39 AM · I am trying to plan a violin recital of humorus music. Has anyone heard of a piece/pieces for violin or violin and piano by P.D.Q. Bach, or in general any funny violin music?

Replies (43)

May 19, 2006 at 02:17 AM · Hot Canary.

May 19, 2006 at 03:27 AM · I second the canary.

also, while they aren't really laugh-out-loud, joke funny, a lot of

kreisler pieces can be humorous if played with the right sort of viennese schmaltz, charm and wit.

May 19, 2006 at 04:07 AM · If one takes the time to arrange songs for solo violin, there are a lot of fabulous funny pieces that one can do in a recital.

"The Syncopated Clock" by Leroy Anderson is the classic example. Though it's basically forgotten today in the digital era, the melody is so catchy and the beat so insistent that it'll bring a smile to just about anybody over the age of 50.

"Flight of the Bumblebee" in any transcription can crack people up. I'll harrass audience members by getting real close to them and "threatening" them with my bow tip while I'm playing. The kids love to avoid being "stung" by a buzzing bow.

Ferde Grofe's "The Grand Canyon Suite" has "On the Trail" which depicts an mule or donkey going along a dirt trail with the occasional mule bray built into the song. That tune pleases people that don't even know it.

I arranged Suzuki's "Twinkle" in Book One for solo violin, which means that you play both the harmony and melody at the same time in double stops. You can play all of the variations and the original melody that way without having to pay a pianist! That can be done with the entire Suzuki Book 1 and about half of Book 2.

At the Arizona Opry, my boss got the idea of sticking artificial bird feathers in the ceiling. When I'd play the harmonics in Monti's "Czardas", he'd press the bird call button on his keyboard and chirping would be heard coming from up high. After 2 of these calls, our guitarist would draw out his "pistol" and shoot the "bird". The feathers would then be blown down onto me, causing me to flail hopelessly in a storm of falling feathers.

May 19, 2006 at 05:19 AM · Kreisler "Syncopation" is cool....

May 19, 2006 at 05:27 AM · Most guitar players are packing a pistol.

May 19, 2006 at 06:43 AM · Shchedrin's Balalaika.

May 19, 2006 at 07:24 AM · Definitely The Hot Canary!

May 19, 2006 at 07:48 AM · There's a piece by PDQ Bach which is "The Only Duet ever written for Violin and Tuba" - I don't know what it sounds like, but it's hilarious if only for the combination.

May 19, 2006 at 12:50 PM · Yeah, I definitely second the Hot Canary idea. Also, try Fiddle and Banjo by William Kroll. Not exactly "humorous" but really fun.

May 19, 2006 at 01:19 PM · Anything I play by Bach is humorous.

But also, the famous Kreutzer etude always parodied by the late Jack Benny. An older crowd will recognize that immediately. Play the first line of it slow and out of tune first. They will laugh. Then play the whole thing fast, the way it's supposed to be.

Another thing you can do with that Kreutzer (and I am sorry to say that I have done it) is to start playing it slowly and with the music. But play it backwards and upside down. Then, as if realizing you had the music upside down on the stand, make a show out of turning it rightside up, then play it the way it should be.

Also, you can play the famous "Moustrap Sonata." Announce it first. Make a big deal out of it. Then set your fingers. Then, in rapid succession, one left-hand pizzicato followed by a squeak with the bow. Then take a deep bow and say "thank you."


May 19, 2006 at 02:13 PM · I second the Balalaika. On Vengerov's live recording you can hear the audience giggling through most of it...then again, maybe he was just making funny faces again. :)

May 19, 2006 at 02:24 PM · Vieuxtemps "Yankee Doodle Varations"

Itzhak Perlman's transcriptions of Joplin rags

May 19, 2006 at 02:29 PM · I'll be glad to play for you at the concert. People say my playing is "funny."

May 20, 2006 at 03:38 AM · I just started learning "The Hot Canary" today!

That's the perfect piece for our vaudeville inspired show at the Arizona Opry. Besides, the patrons have been pressuring me to do it for months.

I'm playing that song with a jazzy swing beat with a flexible rhythm within the steady pulse of the meter. I could play it "straight", but I'm just not hearing it in my head that way.

The B sections is all single harmonics. I'm trying to add double harmonic extensions, some of which are a bit strange. I'm doing the C section with a very bluesy feel with slides and all. They featured the flatted 3 that's classic of blues songs. I'm reminded of Leroy Anderson's "Syncopated Clock's" blues licks when I hear that C section in "Canary".

I just hope our guitarist doesn't take a gun and shoot me at the end of the song, thus making me into a big chicken McNugget.

May 20, 2006 at 04:50 AM · The Yankee Doodle Variations are a blast to do...

May 20, 2006 at 10:57 AM · Hindemith wrote a set of humorous variations on "A Frog He Went a Courtin'" for cello and piano. I don't know if they've been transcribed for violin.

I think it's an idea with legs (bad-a-bing).

May 20, 2006 at 03:45 PM · As long as you don't croak. (bad-a-boom)

May 20, 2006 at 05:15 PM · Croak, croak. Sorry, can't say anymore. I just croaked.

May 20, 2006 at 06:28 PM · You might have fun putting in a set/series of fiddle tunes with animal names:

"Flop-eared mule" (put in the E slides and you can really make the mule sound!

"Old Gray Cat" Slow slides this time make a wonderful and recognizable cat sound.

"Cluck Old Hen" Plucks and chops will put your audience in the barnyard! :)

Well... I do tend to lean toward fiddle tunes... but you could really have fun with this set! And play one right after the other.

Enjoy your music! :)


May 20, 2006 at 06:46 PM · We're getting into the Saint-Saens realm here. How about the "mules" section of Carnival of the Animals?

May 20, 2006 at 11:29 PM · Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter"...played with a real typewriter.

May 21, 2006 at 10:49 PM · What is your skill level? I have a short piece that I've been playing over the years and always gets lots of laughs from violinists and non-violinists alike. Drop me a line if you are still looking!


May 21, 2006 at 11:37 PM · Greetings,

Kevin , I play the syncopated clock ` the typewrite and Waltzing Cats many times a year. veyr popular in Japan. I think Anderson is ahighly skilful composer. Of course, had he written a prune cocnerto he would have been up with the elite.. There are some very nasty little technical detials in for example, the typewriter (articial harmoics coming out of nowhere at speed) that can be real tricky,



May 22, 2006 at 06:14 AM · Yes, Hot Canary (Poliakin), that Shchedrin piece that Vengerov did and Vieuxtemps Yankee Doodle Variations - all really great.

Do try out the piece by a UK composer Alan Ridout called Ferdinand the Bull for speaker & violin too. Real fun.

Gary Karr (dble-bass) used to play a piece called Failing (not sure who the composer was - also very funny).

May 22, 2006 at 06:41 PM · The Prune Concerto.

I like it.

I should write something of the sort, sometime.

Something very gooey, but dark. Maybe a tough texture on the outside, but once you really sink your teeth into the piece, you'll see that it really is sweet and even pleasant.

Good idea!

May 22, 2006 at 06:44 PM · No, wait. Do you get a prune concerto if you leave a plum concerto out in the sun for too long?

May 22, 2006 at 09:18 PM · I understand that the Prune Concerto has some spectacular runs that leave the audience flushed with excitement. When performing it, you have to make sure to loosen your grip on the bow so you can achieve a flowing tone. I believe it contains musical quotations from Sewer Angelica, La Merde, Handel's Water Music, and the famous Die Aria from Tosca.


May 22, 2006 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

Sander, have you ever played Buttock`s Concerto for orchestra? It`s notoriously difficult.



May 22, 2006 at 10:49 PM · Guys,



May 22, 2006 at 11:06 PM · there is a piece for violin and piano called ukelele serenade (yes he spells ukulele wrong) that was rather funny to me.

May 23, 2006 at 12:57 AM · Banjo and Fiddle by William Kroll!

May 23, 2006 at 01:26 AM · http://www.hallschoolofmusic.com/ferdinand_pp.htm

Ferdinand the Bull - a great piece for kids. And it is really fun!

May 23, 2006 at 01:56 AM · Trancribe Tom Johnson's Failing (a very difficult piece for double bass) for violin (on the G string) & try this out in your recital.

May 23, 2006 at 03:47 AM · haha...is it possible to talk while playing the violin, Cheng? I have a recording of that piece and it's a riot!

May 23, 2006 at 03:48 AM ·

May 23, 2006 at 12:21 PM · Kelsey - Hire a great narrator and perform Ridout's Ferdinand the Bull and Tom Johnson's Failing one after the other.

May 23, 2006 at 01:20 PM · So Kelsey, tell us what's on the recital program thus far.

Have you run any of these suggestions by your teacher? Where and when is this recital going to be held, as I'm sure that quite a few of us would like to attend. Yankee Doodle and Banjo and Fiddle are excellent songs for any violin recital, though I am not sure I'm understanding why "Banjo and Fiddle" is funny because I play the banjo and American fiddle and that song doesn't remind me of either instrument in the least.

Something I must make extremely clear is that the art of violin humor is an extremely serious art form to me and is something I routinely practice in private so that I can perform it on stage when needed. Just as professional comic standup people hone their acts in private in front of the mirror and friends, I work on stuff that I hope will work on audiences. Nobody denigrates the skill level of Robin Williams for being a professional funny guy, and nobody should denigrate the skill level of a concert violinist for doing pretty much the same thing. That's why I frown darkly on anybody who thinks that being funny on the violin is being a lousy player or disrespectful to the genre.

May 23, 2006 at 08:04 PM · Buri: No, I haven't played the Buttocks Concerto. Do you think an amateur like me should take a crack at it?


May 23, 2006 at 08:34 PM · *Groan*.....stop, before you make an ass of yourself!

May 24, 2006 at 02:38 AM · Hi Everyone,

Thanks for your endless suggestions, I will run some of them by my teachers and try to put together a humorus program.

I have already picked out some funny piano music, and now that I have a list of funny violin music, this will be a two instrument recital.

I will have to practice being a clown as well. This shouldn't really be a problem though, just ask my teachers...

Kelsey W.

May 24, 2006 at 06:22 PM · Any scherzo should do the trick. Scherzo means "joke."

May 25, 2006 at 12:06 AM · Here's a link to the song I mentioned. http://4stringdreams.com/song/dogwalking.mp3

Best when played with a 6 in. bow. I think you can still buy these at some violin shops although check to make sure they actually have real horse hair on them before you buy one.

This one's a learn-by-ear tune and snippets are borrowed from other anonymous tunes, so feel free to pick it up and have fun!

— J

May 27, 2006 at 05:22 AM · Thanks, Jeff!

Kelsey W.

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