Funny compliments

Edited: July 26, 2020, 12:53 PM · Today I performed two Bach pieces. My brother-in-law afterwards told me that "my violin sounds like a really expensive one". I took it as a compliment :-) It would be fun to hear about funny compliments you have received once!

Replies (27)

July 26, 2020, 1:17 PM · I've got 2.
After a concert a person said to Nathan Milstein, " You play so beautifully. Who bought your violin for you?" You can imagine the response, since of course he bought his own violins. This one is a true story. It was after a recital in Greencastle Indiana, my home town and I was there.

Another was comment to my father, Herman Berg, after a recital also in Greencastle IN. The person said something like, "I loved the way you played the Debussy Sonata. I actually fell asleep during it."

July 26, 2020, 3:51 PM · "I know nothing about music, but you looked really good!"
July 26, 2020, 5:31 PM · In my 20s, after playing a violin solo at church: “That was really good – you should consider becoming a professional musician.“

In their defense, I did look young and was sometimes taken for a high school student.

July 26, 2020, 5:39 PM · "If I could play like you, I would practice ALL the time!"
Edited: July 26, 2020, 10:13 PM · After a community orchestra concert in which I had a big principal viola solo: "You played the cello solo beautifully."

(There was no principal cello solo at any time in the concert, and I still had my viola in my hand.)

Incredibly, that was the second time in less than a month that I'd been complimented on my "cello" playing. The other was on a video I'd posted to a Facebook group.

July 26, 2020, 10:30 PM · First rehearsal with a community orchestra I had just joined, at age 30. Sitting inside, I played a lower line without being prompted, and wrote a fingering in under the staff as per convention. My 89-year-old stand partner: "You must be vastly experienced in orchestras for your age."
Edited: July 27, 2020, 1:18 AM · “What a beast you are!! I can’t do that!! I don’t want to imagine the score for that!!”

(My little cousin a few years ago when he saw me playing Bach at the piano).


“You’d better play the piano...”

(The same diplomatic kid when he saw me playing the violin).

July 27, 2020, 4:36 AM · Some 7-8 years ago, i recorded a piece of solo violin of an north-italian traditional dance music, which needs to ben strongly dynamic and characterized, as usually it needs to be.
A professional violinist, a typical "italian conservatory product" type of player, listened to it remotely on the internet, and he observed "you are playing alone, yet i also hear a 'percussionist' together with you".

It was amusing at the time, yet it helped giving me some exact measure of what the (at least in italy) formal training gives you and what it lacks.

July 27, 2020, 8:10 AM · Andrew, you write about somebody complimenting you on your "'cello solo".
Years ago, in freelance days, somebody had booked a freelance orchestra for a concert. It started with the William Tell overture. We could tell what we were in for when he exploded at the orchestra "Violas! Why aren't you ready".
Come the show, we finished up with things like a singer, Ivor Emmanuel, conducting behind his back so we had something to follow.
Surprpise, surprise - we were slow getting paid. I think the fixer had to take extra steps to get the money.
July 27, 2020, 8:26 AM · About 6 years ago, after a show, "you appear to be somewhat proficient on the fiddle."

Still think about that one.

Edited: July 27, 2020, 9:13 AM · I once complimented a friend's singing by telling him he made it sound difficult.
July 27, 2020, 9:01 AM · @gordon


July 27, 2020, 12:24 PM · I have a couple!

Aged 11, High school: My teacher said to me, "You are an excellent mime M, but it would be lovely to hear some sound from you". I was a mimer in orchestra at the time, thought I could get away with it, but clearly not!

Aged 15, High school, overheard: (Context, opening night of Sweeney Todd). "That wasn't quite a west end production, but I enjoyed it somewhat". This came from some chap, directed towards our musical director. I am not sure it was a compliment!

July 27, 2020, 7:32 PM · “That was really good – you should consider becoming a professional musician.“

I wouldn't complain - nobody's asked me if I've considered being an amateur violinist, and yes, I'd probably take that as a compliment.

Edited: July 27, 2020, 8:45 PM · Is it just me, or do some of these sound more like backhanded compliments than anything else?

Here's one: "That was so good, I actually stayed awake for the whole thing."

Edited: July 27, 2020, 10:46 PM · We had a client looking for an investment instrument. She is a fine player and she and her husband had 500k that would be matched by a donor for long term loan and investment. We had 2 Strads, both with issues (this was 1995, so it was possible...), a Guad, a lovely Storioni and a couple of others. The man I was learning from, violin making after school, let me loose with them to look and learn. after playing all of them, Mike said,"Boy, you sure have a knack for making everything sound the same"!
July 27, 2020, 11:27 PM · I'm not proud of this one, but back in the day in community orchestra, we had a high school senior play a really great Sibelius, and she had a little hitch during the cadenza and a little memory slip, but got back on track and finished out strong. She was a very good player, the performance was great, and I doubt the audience even noticed. Instead of just complimenting her on a great performance, I was sure (projection) that she would have focused completely on the slip (projection) and I said something like, "Wow, I was really impressed by how you got right back on track after that slip". So, if anyone is curious about what NOT to say, that would be a candidate.
Edited: July 28, 2020, 12:41 PM · Then there is the standard one, "What a lovely performance. What do you do for a living?"
July 28, 2020, 1:57 PM · Aged 11 high school?
July 28, 2020, 5:24 PM · @Xuanyuan, high school (secondary school) starts at age 11 for most children in the UK. We start year 7 at this age.
Edited: July 28, 2020, 6:05 PM · Of course there is the old Heifetz retort ... someone said to him, "Your violin sounds so beautiful," so he held it up to his ear and said, "That's funny. I don't hear anything."

As far as "what do you do for a living" that works both ways because many a time have I seen the look of surprise on a student's face when they walk into a nice restaurant and their chemistry professor is seated at the piano.

Edited: July 28, 2020, 6:45 PM · I'm not sure whether this comes under the heading of “funny compliments”, but here goes. This happened a long time ago when I was having classical guitar lessons from a teacher who was also the proprietor of an up-market classical guitar store down town.
One afternoon, after a lesson, I was talking to my teacher in the store's show room when we noticed a customer going round the shop plucking the strings of the expensive instruments hanging on the walls, complaining loudly to the world in general, "I can't play these, they're not in tune", or words to that effect that I cannot reproduce here.
My teacher went up to the "customer", spoke some magic words quietly in his ear, which I didn't quite catch, and the "customer" forthwith left the store rather faster than when he entered.
July 28, 2020, 6:56 PM · My mother (a pianist/Organist) when she was still in secondary school was practicing when a teacher walked in, and said “that’s lovely dear. What is it?”
My mother nervously replied “God Save the King” .
This was our national anthem at the time.
July 30, 2020, 5:51 PM · May I add one as a beginner? I was into my 4th month of lessons. One day my sister approached me after I finished my daily practice, and said "You're improving a lot! I can hear actual /notes/ coming out of your violin now."
I took it as a huge compliment. My cat, on the other hand, doesn't agree with that statement at all.
July 31, 2020, 7:37 PM · I took it as a compliment when my cats stopped hissing and running under the bed every time the violin came out.
August 1, 2020, 12:04 PM · Years ago I recall reading an anecdote about Johannes Brahms. He was in the audience for a performance of one of his chamber music compositions. At the conclusion of the performance, one of the musicians (I think it was the violist), in an apparent attempt to "butter up" the composer, asked him, "Maestro, did you like our tempo." Brahms (who was not always any easy person to deal with) replied, "Yes, especially yours."

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