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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 dropable 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.As 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.

It is time that players reminded their conductors of the facts of life: just who do conductors think they are, anyway?

How do you put down a tenor saxophone?

Confuse it with a bass clarinet.

Late one day a local pub saw six guys walk in, obviously in pairs of two, sit down and order their favorite after-work drinks.

The first two to seat themselves and be served by the bartender were two guys working at a major university whose I.Q.s were so high they could hardly be measured! They began discussing from Quantum Mechanics to the fine points of Particle Physics, either one as brilliantly as the other.

The bartender then went over to the next pair who were “regular guys” with ordinary jobs, withaverage I.Q.s, schmoozing about how hard it was today to keep up with bill payments, how hightaxes were, how corrupt politicians were and all the day-to-day struggles most everyone has.

The last two the bartender served were two very badly educated, ill-mannered dolts with very low I.Q.s that could barely be measured on any I.Q. test. As soon as they’d ordered the bartender overheard one say to the other, “Oh, hey, I meant to ask ya, d’you use flatwound or roundwound on your bass?”

C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors,” and E-flat leaves. C and G have an open fifth between them and after a few drinks, G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, “Excuse me, I’ll just be a second.”

A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor and sends him out. Then the bartender notices a B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and shouts, “Get out now. You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight.”

Next night, E-flat, not easily deflated, comes into the bar in a 3-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender (who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized) says: “You’re looking pretty sharp tonight. Come on in. This could be a major development.” And in fact, E-flat takes off his suit and everything else and stands there au naturel. Eventually, C, who had passed out under the bar the night before, begins to sober up and realizes in horror that he’s under a rest.

So, C goes to trial, is convicted of contributing to the diminution of a minor and sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an up scale correctional facility. The conviction is overturned on appeal, however, and C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.

The bartender decides, however, that since he’s only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest and closes the bar.

One day Timmy came home from school very excited… “Mommy, Mommy, guess what? Today in English I got all the way to the end of the alphabet, and everyone else got messed up around ‘P’!” His mother said, “Very good, dear. That’s because you’re a bari player.”

The next day, Timmy was even more excited. “Mommy, Mommy, guess what! Today in math I counted all the way to ten, but everyone else got messed up around seven!”

“Very good, dear,” his mother replied. “That’s because you’re a bari player.”

On the third day, Timmy was beside himself. “Mommy, Mommy, today we measured ourselves and I’m the tallest one in my class! Is that because I’m a bari player?”

“No dear,” she said. “That’s because you’re 27 years old.”



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