Bum Notes


 The Mad Tromobonist

(August 1998, Uruguay) In a misplaced moment of inspiration, Paolo Esperanza, bass-trombonist with the Symphonica Maya de Uruguay, decided to make his own contribution to the cannon shots fired during a performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at an outdoor children's concert.

In complete disregard of common sense, he dropped a large lit firecracker, equivalent in strength to a quarter stick of dynamite, into his aluminum straight mute, and then stuck the mute into the bell of his new Yamaha in-line double-valve bass trombone.

Later from his hospital bed he explained to a reporter through a mask of bandages, "I thought the bell of my trombone would shield me from the explosion and focus the energy of the blast outwards and away from me, propelling the mute high above the orchestra like a rocket."

However Paolo was not to speed on his propulsion physics, nor was he qualified to wield high-powered artillery. Despite his haste to raise the horn before the firecracker exploded, he failed to lift the bell of the horn high enough for the airborne mute's arc to clear the orchestra. What happened should serve as a lesson to us all during our own delirious moments of divine inspiration.

First, because he failed to sufficiently elevate the bell of his horn, the blast propelled the mute between rows of musicians in the woodwind and viola section, where it bypassed the players and rammed straight into the stomach of the conductor, driving him backwards off the podium and directly into the front row of the audience.

Fortunately, the audience was sitting in folding chairs and thus they protected from serious injury. The chairs collapsed under the first row, and passed the energy from the impact of the flying conductor backwards into the people sitting behind them, who in turn were driven back into the people in the third row and so on, like a row of dominos. The sound of collapsing wooden chairs and grunts of people falling on their behinds increased geometrically, adding to the overall commotion of cannons and brass playing the closing measures of the Overture.

Meanwhile, unplanned audience choreography notwithstanding, Paolo Esperanza's Waterloo was still unfolding back on stage. According to Paolo, "As I heard the sound of the firecracker blast, time seemed to stand still. Right before I lost consciousness, I heard an Austrian accent say, "Fur every akshon zer iz un eekval unt opposeet reakshon!" This comes as no surprise, for Paolo was about to become a textbook demonstration of this fundamental law of physics.

Having failed to plug the lead pipe of his trombone, he paved the way for the energy of the blast to send a superheated jet of gas backwards through the mouthpiece, which slammed into his face like the hand of fate, burning his lips and face and knocking him mercifully unconscious.

The pyrotechnic ballet wasn't over yet. The force of the blast was so great it split the bell of his shiny new Yamaha trombone right down the middle, turning it inside out while propelling Paolo backwards off the riser. For the grand finale, as Paolo fell to the ground, his limp hands lost their grip on the slide of the trombone, allowing the pressure of the hot gases to propel the slide like a golden spear into the head of the third clarinetist, knocking him senseless.

The moral of the story? The next time a trombonist hollers "Watch this!" you'd better duck! 


A Player's Guide for Keeping Conductors in Line... 

If there were a basic training manual for orchestra players, it might include ways to practice not only music, but one-upmanship. It seems as if many young players take pride in getting the conductor's goat. The following rules are intended as a guide to the development of habits that will irritate the conductor. (Variations and additional methods depend upon the imagination and skill of the player).

1. Never be satisfied with the tuning note. Fussing about the pitch takes attention away from the podium and puts it on you, where it belongs!

2. When raising the music stand, be sure the top comes off and spills the music on the floor!

3. Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space, or a draft. It's best to do this when the conductor is under pressure!

4. Look the other way just before cues!

5. Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or extra reeds... Percussion players must never have all their equipment!

6. Ask for a re-audition or seating change! Ask often! Give the impression you're about to quit! Let the conductor know you're there as a personal favor!

7. Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every opportunity, especially when the conductor is giving instructions! Brass players: drop mutes! Percussionists have a wide variety of droppable items, but cymbals are unquestionably the best because they roll around for several seconds!

8. Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses (Horn, Oboe and Clarinet players are trained to do this from birth).

9. Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune. This is especially effective if you had no C# or were not playing at the time! (If he catches you, pretend to be correcting a note in your part!)

10. At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is emoting) be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing!

11. Wait until well into a rehearsal before letting the conductor know you don't have the music!

12. Look at your watch frequently! Shake it in disbelief occasionally!

13. Tell the conductor, "I can't find the beat!" Conductors are always sensitive about their "stick technique", so challenge it frequently!

14. Ask the conductor if he has listened to the Bernstein recording of the piece! Imply that he could learn a thing or two from it! Also good: ask "Is this the first time you've conducted this piece?"

15. When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face and shake your head indicating that you'll never be able to play it! Don't say anything: make him wonder!

16. If your articulation differs from that of others playing the same phrase, stick to your guns! Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert!

17. Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others will become restless and start to pack up and fidget!

18. During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at all! Better yet... nonchalantly put away your instrument! Make the conductor feel he is keeping you from doing something really important!


A violist is sitting in the front row, crying hysterically. The conductor asks the violist. "what's wrong?" The violist answers, "The second oboe loosened one of my tuning pegs." The conductor replied, " I admit, that seems a little childish, but nothing to get so upset about. Why are you crying?" To which the violist replied, "He won't tell me which one!!"


A woman and her friend are walking down the sidewalk when they come upon a frog. The frog looks up at them and says, "Please help me, I'm a jazz saxophonist and a witch put a horrible spell on me and turned me into a frog. If one of you picks me up and kisses me, the spell will be broken and I'll turn back into a jazz saxophonist... I'll marry you, play you the most beautiful songs all the time, take you to all my gigs if you want, and we'll live happily ever after." The woman picks up the frog, puts it in her handbag and starts walking away very quickly. Her friend runs to catch up to her & asks, "Aren't you going to kiss the frog?!?!?" The woman replies, "Hell NO! A talking frog is worth a hell of lot more than a jazz saxophonist!"


Women are like pianos.....If they're not upright, they're grand!!!


A scientific expedition disembarks from its plane at the final outpost of civilization in the deepest Amazon rain forest. They immediately notice the ceaseless thrumming of native drums. As they venture further into the bush, the drums never stop, day or night, for weeks. The lead scientist asks one of the natives about this, and the native's only reply is "Drums good. Drums never stop. Very BAD if drums stop." The drumming continues, night and day, until one night, six weeks into the trip, when the jungle is suddenly silent. Immediately the natives run screaming from their huts, covering their ears. The scientists grab one boy and demand "What is it? The drums have stopped!" The terror-stricken youth replies "Yes! Drums stop! VERY BAD!" The scientists ask "Why? Why? What will happen?" Wild-eyed, the boy responds, " . . . BASS SOLO!!!"


"Madam, you have an instrument between your legs that could bring pleasure to thousands, yet you insist on sitting there and scratching it!" -- Sir Thomas Beechum, conductor, to a cellist with whose performance he was displeased!


What do you call a person who hangs out with musicians?

A drummer!


Female vocalist asks her keyboard player, "I'd like to do 'My Funny Valentine' tonight... but can you think of a way to 'jazz' it up?" Keyboard player replies, "Sure, we can do the first chorus in G minor, then modulate to G#minor for the second chorus in 5/4 time, then modulate to A minor in 3/4 time for the bridge, then cut off the last 3 bars!" She claims, "that might be too complicated to do without a rehearsal!" Keyboard player responds, "Well, that's how you did it last night!"


Researchers wanted to determine if dogs took on the characteristics of their masters. So they set up an experiment in their lab with three dog owners and their dogs. The first owner was a mathematician, the second a chemist, the third a musician! The first dog, owned by the mathematician, was quite impressive, and when thrown a bunch of milk bones onto the floor, used her paws to begin arranging them into elaborate mathematical equations! "Pretty good!" said the researchers, "but not conclusive!" The second dog, owned by the chemist, when thrown a bunch of milk bones on the floor, began to arrange them to display complex chemical formulas! "Not bad!" said the researchers, "but still not conclusive enough!" However, the results of the third dog WERE very convincing in proving that dogs DO take on characteristics of their owners... for the musician's dog... came late, ate all the bones, made it with the other two dogs, then left early!


 A drummer, tired from being ridiculed by his peers, decided to learn how to play some "real" musical instruments. He went to a music store, walked in, approached the store clerk, and said, "I'll take that red trumpet over there and that accordion." The store clerk looked at him a bit funny, and replied "OK, you can have the fire extinguisher but the radiator's got to stay."


 Ludwig van Beethoven to a fellow composer:  "I liked your opera. I think I will set it to music."


So the new conductor addresses the orchestra. He tells them that things are going to change, that everyone will be expected to be on time and that they will work for many long hours. The timpanist, expressing his displeasure at the turn of events, belts out on the drums BOOM-BOOM- BOOM-BOOM. The conductor, whirling around furiously, says, "Alright, who did that?!"


 A girl went out on a date with a trumpet player, and when she came back her roommate asked, "Well, how was it? Did his embouchure make him a great kisser?"

"Nah," the first girl replied. "That dry, tight, tiny little pucker; it was no fun at all."

The next night she went out with a tuba player, and when she came back her roommate asked, "Well, how was his kissing?"

"Ugh!" the first girl exclaimed. "Those huge, rubbery, blubbery, slobbering slabs of meat; oh, it was just gross!"

The next night she went out with a French horn player, and when she came back her roommate asked, "Well, how was his kissing?"

"Well," the first girl replied, "his kissing was just so-so; but I loved the way he held me!"


"There are more bad musicians than there is bad music."



Mr Alfred Brindley, a tool fitter from Leicestershire, returned home from work yesterday to find that, due to a typing error, his house had been bugled. This is the latest in a spate of particularly nasty typing errors to be reported in the Midlands during the last few weeks. Forensic experts believe that the buglers broke into Mr Brindley’s house through an unsecured upstairs window, then proceeded to play their instruments loudly and recklessly until they were disturbed by a meter reader. They then fled, leaving several pages of discarded sheet music behind them. Detectives believe that the same buglers are also responsible for other attacks in the area, although they cannot rule out the possibility that a number of trombonists were also involved.

In a statement to the press, Leicestershire Constabulary has promised that more resources will be diverted into the attempt to get these vicious typing errors stopped. In the meantime, they offer their sincerest condolences to the unfortunate victims. "These attacks are irritating and unpleasant, but we must remember that it could be a lot worse," commented Chief Inspector John Quigley, who was himself buggered only last month.


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