Viola Jokes

The Ultimate Collection

Updated 01/14/2023

"It's far better to play a little sharp
than to play out of tune."

Kent Reedwell , violist Putzburgh Phil.         

I first remember them going around at New York recording sessions years back. Some of the Viola players knew more than anyone: Some just looked at the floor a lot.  Many of these I made up but most came from other musicians.  Some I found on the internet.  Sometimes I found my originals out there.  That's the way it works.

1/14/23  I hadn't edited this page for a long time, but was recently reminded of a personal Viola story.

Years ago in New York City, during the height of the Viola Joke Era, I was hired to score a ballet for full orchestra.  My client booked the London Symphony for a 6-hour session at Abbey Road Studio.  How cool is that?!?  My client was conducting and there was no producer, so I was in the control room following the score, giving info and suggestions to the engineer, the conductor and others in the orchestra. Probably due to something my client said, but somehow the word got around that The Yank in the control room was responsible for that Viola Joke collection, not overlooking the text in the next paragraph below saying, "If you're a Viola player, I owe you a beer." Did you know that there's a pub right in Abbey Road Studio?  I didn't.  When the orchestra took a break between the 3-hour sessions I got collared by the viola players, who led me to the pub where I bought a round of pints for the viola section of the LSO.  There was a lot of laughter in the room!  What can I tell you?  It was worth it!

Thanks to everyone for the responses to the page, especially to the many Violists who have written and added to the collection.  And just for the record, I don't hate Violas or Violists.  Its a beautiful instrument - I write for it all the time.  This page is about humor, not Viola hate.  Anybody who doesn't see that ... sorry, I can't help you.  Still, I'm the guy collecting the jokes.   On that account, Guilty as charged.  If you're a Viola player, I owe you a beer.

Wasting more time department:  Our internet friend Brian, a dedicated (if misguided) scholar of music, Viola phenomena and the occult, has uncovered some truly amazing HIDDEN ANAGRAMATIC MEANINGS hidden within the names of famous composers.  Read the results of his highly questionable research.

Oversight department: Our thanks to Melinda Bargreen, the eloquent music critic for the Seattle Times, for calling our attention to several grievous omissions from the VIOLA PLAYERS' WALL OF FAME.


» The emails below are several years old, but they're real.  I got lots of mail when this page first posted, both pro and con Viola humor.  Much of the con mail is an attempt to get me to put it on the page.  Please don't bother.  I stopped posting mail here long ago.

» The photo of the Viola, California road sign is real too.  It's near Lassen National Park.  I took it myself.

» I don't hate Violists or the Viola.  The Viola is a beautiful instrument with tremendous potential.  On that subject, I need only mention the Turtle Island String Quartet.  Check out what Danny Seidenberg is doing with a Viola.  'Nuff said about that!


  petesig2.gif (1636 bytes)

If it'll make you feel any better, Hit Counter other fun-seekers
have wasted time here.  Yikes!

Latest additions 01/14/23


11/21/20 message from Pete

There haven't been any updates to this page in a long time.  However our friend Steve spotted this on - Definitely deserving of an update.

According to Wiki, the well-trodden genre of the viola joke could have been around since as far back as 1714. A story from 1700s Italy is thought to be the origin of all viola jokes we know and love today. A Martin Butler has said he spotted this in a concert programme note:

“The violinist Francesco Geminiani arrived in London in 1714, one of the many expatriate musicians who settled in England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
“As a young man Geminiani was appointed head of the orchestra in Naples, where according to English music historian Charles Burney he was ‘so wild and unsteady a timist, that instead of regulating and conducting the band, he threw it into confusion’, and was demoted to playing the viola.”


Photo Gallery

Sighted, in Northern California

where Viola players go to get away from it all

Viola Roadkill

Here's some actual stuff from Pete's mailbox.

Subject: Viola Jokes

Dear Mr. Levin
Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed your viola joke collection, and you owe me a large beer ... I am a viola player from London and after my lesson this Friday my teacher said she'd heard that there was a page for viola jokes on the net. It was well worth looking up!
Subject: Viola Jokes

We had heard about the viola joke collection and were glad to find them. I hope you don't mind, I've posted them on the orchestra bulletin board.
Add this to your collection:
Q: How can you tell if the stage is level?
A: The viola players are dribbling out of both sides of their mouths.
Still laughing.
Reply to:
That's not a Viola joke - its a drummer joke. Only drummers drool (dribble).
Thanks anyway.
Subject: viola jokes

i am a viola player, and i was very offended when i read your viola jokes. I am guessing that you don't play the viola, because all viola players i've ever met, including myself, have a lot more intelligence than you. Could you please inform about how to make a homepage so that i can write jokes about you. It will be intitled, Shallow moronic jerks that think they're funny jokes. Do you watch Seinfeld? This is a quote from george, "the jerk store called and said that they're fresh out of you!"
- a viola player
Subject: Ignorance

To Mr Pete:
Let me tell you something mr Petey. How dare you speak like that about viola players. i bet you' ve got a big beer belly siiting in your lousy computer telling these low life jokes about viola players. there is no way to be ashamed of beign a viola player, and theres no need to get mad about youre silly jokes, why dont you ever try to play a viola, then i might just laugh at you because then youll be a mediocre musician. Ill tell you a joke now if youre still reading this letter.....What did a Viola player say to mr Pete about his jokes? your jokes sound like fantasies with a fermata.


Q & A


Why do so many people take an instant dislike to Viola players?
Why wait; It saves so much time.

What do you call someone who hangs around musicians a lot?
A Viola player.

What do you call a Viola player with half a brain?

What do you call a Violist with more than one brain cell?

Why are Violist's ears sought after for transplants?
They've never been used.

Why do Violists get antsy when they see the Kama Sutra?
They can't handle any subject reference to "more than one position".

What do a SCUD missile and a Viola player have in common?
They're both offensive and inaccurate.

Why do Violists make effective rapists?
It's hard to fight back when you've got your hands over your ears.

What's the most effective male birth control method?
Tell the girl he plays the Viola.

Why don't Violists play hide and seek?
Because no one will look for them.

Why shouldn't Violists take up mountain climbing?
If they get lost, no one will look for them.

What do you get when you cross a Viola player with a sheep?
A sheep that plays out of tune and has lousy time.

What's the ideal weight for a professional Viola player?
About 20 ounces - not counting the urn.

Why are some Violists taking up the Accordion?
Upward mobility.

Why are so many Violists dating drummers
It makes them feel superior.

How do you get a Viola player out of a tree?
Cut the rope!

Why are Viola jokes so short?
So Drummers can remember them.




What's the difference between a Viola and fingernails scraping on a blackboard?

What's the difference between a Viola player and a dressmaker?
The dressmaker gets paid to tuck up the frills: A Viola player ...
Figure it out.

What's the difference between a Viola player and Doctor Scholl's Footpads?
Doctor Scholl's bucks up the feet: A Viola player ...
OK, we're not going to go there.  This website has a family rating.

What's the difference between a Violist and a dog?
The dog knows when to stop scratching.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
You can tune the lawnmower.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
The neighbors get pissed if you don't return their lawnmower.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
If you show the lawnmower on the Home Shopping Network, you have a chance of selling it.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
The exhaust smells different.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
The Viola doesn't have covers for the F-holes, and the gasoline will spill out.

What's the difference between a Viola and a lawnmower?
You don't pour gasoline ON the lawnmower.

What's the difference between a Viola and a Macaw?
One makes obnoxious, irritating, non-musical noises;  The other is a bird.

What's the difference between a Viola and a coffin?
The coffin has the corpse inside.

Why is a Violist like a terrorist?
They both mangle the bowings. (Bowings/Boeings ... Get it?)

What's the difference between a Violist and a terrorist?
A few people actually like terrorists; Their mothers ...

Why is a Viola like a lawsuit?
Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

Why are Violas larger than Violins?
They're not; It's an optical illusion. Viola players have small heads.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
A chainsaw has a better chance at blending in a string quartet.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
In the "Texas Viola Massacre", the killer was wearing a tuxedo.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
After you put gasoline in the chainsaw, people don't throw lit matches at you.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
The Viola is always sharp.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
The person holding the chainsaw can probably read music.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
The law doesn't require a DANGER: MAY CAUSE INJURY warning label on a viola.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
You can't fake cutting down a tree.

What's the difference between a chainsaw and a Viola?
You can tune up a chainsaw.

How is a chainsaw like a Viola?
When either is in use, anyone nearby should wear earplugs.

How is a chainsaw like a Viola?
When being used, they both start out very sharp but don't stay that way.

What's the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a Viola?
A vacuum cleaner has to be plugged in before it sucks.

What's the difference between an Oboist and a Violist?
The oboe player sustained brain damage AFTER taking up the instrument.

What's the difference between a Violist and a prostitute?
A prostitute knows more than one position.

What's the difference between a Violist and a prostitute?
A prostitute keeps better tempo.

What's the difference between a Violist and a prostitute?
Prostitutes have a useful purpose.

Yes, but how is a Violist LIKE a prostitute?
Both get paid to fake climaxes.

What's the difference between a Viola and an onion?
Nobody cries when they chop up a Viola.

What's the difference between a Viola and a TV dinner?
The Viola doesn't fit in a Microwave oven. (Unless you break the neck off)

What's the difference between a Violist and a puppy?
The puppy will stop whining eventually.

What's the difference between a Violin and a Viola?
The viola holds more beer.

What's the difference between a Violin and a Viola?
A Viola burns longer.

And do you know WHY the Viola burns longer?
It's usually still in the case.




Why do some Violin players double on Viola?
So they can get less work.

How does a Viola player make his car faster?
Take the Dominos' Pizza sign off the roof.

How do you get rid of a Viola player at your front door?
Pay for the Pizza.

What approach does a door-to-door Viola salesman use?

What approach does a door-to-door Viola salesman use?
"Hello. I'm working my way through kindergarten."

What kind of calendar does a Viola player use to keep track of his gigs?

If a Cellist plays a Cello and a Violinist plays a Violin, who plays a Viola?
An idiot

What's the usual orchestration of a string quartet?
A good violinist, a bad violinist, someone who used to be a violinist (Viola player), and someone who hates violinists.

Definition of an optimist:
A Viola player with a pager.

Definition of a big optimist:
A Viola player with a mortgage.

Definition of a gentleman:
A man who knows how to play the viola ... but doesn't.

What does a Viola player say when he gets to his gig?
"Would you like fries with that, sir?"

Why don't you see MIDI Violas being used in rock bands anymore?
Mattel stopped making them.

What kind of microphone works best live on a Viola with a rock band?
A Sony wireless mini-condenser with a dead battery.

What's the most famous TV show to feature a Viola?
A Popiel infomercial; The Viola was used to make crinkle-cut fries.

How can you tell for sure that the concert stage is level?
The Violists are drooling out of both sides of their mouths.

How can a professional Violinist best keep his Violin from getting stolen?
Keep it in a Viola case.

What's the difference between a Viola player driving into town and a
plumber driving into town?
The plumber is going to a gig.

What's the difference between a dead Viola player lying in the road
and a dead Accordion player lying in the road.
The Accordion player was probably going to a gig.

What do you get when you cross a Viola player with a roadie?
A Viola player with a gig.




What's the difference between a dead Viola player lying in the road and a dead snake lying in the road.
Skid marks in front of the snake.

What's the difference between a dead Viola player lying in the road and a dead Accordion player lying in the road.
A crowd of sympathetic people trying to put the Accordion back together.

What's the difference between a dead Viola player lying in the road and a dead skunk lying in the road.
Vultures will eventually eat the skunk.

What's the difference between a Viola lying in the road and a used Tampax lying in the road.
Eventually someone will pick up the Tampax.

A conductor and a violist are walking on the road, and you are driving. Which one should you hit first?
The violist. (Business before pleasure)

What would you say if you saw a Viola player at the beach, covered neck-deep in the sand?
"Can we get some more sand over here?"

What's the only thing separating Violists from the apes?
The 2nd Violin section.

What would you say to a Viola player in a 3-piece suit?
"Will the defendant please rise?"

Why do people get nervous when someone walks into a bank carrying a Viola case?
It might actually contain a Viola - and he might take it out and play it.

Why do Viola players keep their cases on their car dashboard?
So they can park in handicapped spaces.

What famous stand-up comedian quipped, "Take my Viola ... please"?
None of them did; They all knew it wouldn't be funny.

How do you drown a Viola player?
Line the bottom of his bathtub with scratch 'n sniffs.

What's the best way to disable a Violist?
Stab him in the back. If he can't lean back in his chair, he can't play.

How do you get a Viola player to play softer?
Put WD-40 in his rosin.

What's the latest new crime wave in New York?
Drive-by Viola recitals.

What do you call 50 Violists at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start. (The lawyers are down there too.)

What do you call 50 Violists skydiving out of a plane?

If a tree falls on a Viola in the forest and nobody hears it, is there a sound?
Yes. The sound of applause (as soon as the word gets around).

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get away from a Viola recital.

There's a terrorist driving east and a Viola player walking west.
What can be surmised from this?
The Viola player is probably lost (as usual).
The terrorist is probably on his way to a gig

How do you keep a violist from drowning?
Take your foot off his head.

A Violist and a Soprano are trapped in a burning building and you can only save one. What's the real spiritual dilemma here?
Should you go to lunch or to a movie?

If a Violist and a Soprano fall off a cliff, who would land first?
Oh really ... who cares!




Why should you never try to drive a roofing nail with a Viola?
You might bend the nail.

Why is a Viola called "Bratsche" in Germany?
That's the sound it makes when you sit on it.

Why do Viola players prefer to use the lighter, soft "gig bag" instrument cases?
They love to hear that sound .... "bratsche, bratsche"

If a tree falls on a Viola in the forest and nobody hears it, is there a sound?
Absolutely: A very loud "Bratsche".

What's the difference between a Viola and a trampoline?
You really should take your shoes off before you jump on a trampoline.

What's the ideal length for a Viola case?
About 6 inches, from the base to the lid of the urn.

How is the Viola defined in physics textbooks?
A friction-driven, vibrating, manually-operated, musical pitch-approximator.

Why should you never leave your Viola sitting in a parked car?
A nearsighted thief may think its a violin and break a window.




What's the most popular recording of the Walton Viola concerto?
Music Minus One

What's worse than a Viola ensemble performing Bach transcriptions?
Not much.
Okay, how about 200 2nd graders with Accordions accompanying a 75-year-old retired wrestler on Bagpipes, performing a Phillip Glass arrangement of Variations on the Brady Bunch theme song.
That's worse.

Why don't orchestrators indicate Scordatura in Viola parts?
The instrument is already detuned; It would just confuse the player.

What is the longest Viola joke?
Harold in Italy

How do you go about transcribing a Violin piece for Viola?
Divide the metronome marking by 2.
Then change all 16th notes to 8ths, and take out all the 32nd notes.

What do you call the cadenza in a Viola concerto?
Comic relief.

What inspired Bach to write his first canon?
He heard two violists trying to play unison.

Why are Viola parts written in Alto Clef?
Harder to prove that wrong notes weren't copying errors.

What's the difference between Alto clef and classic Greek manuscript?
Some Viola players can actually read Greek.

Where did Alto Clef originate?
Bach took a bribe from a wealthy Viola player.




Why is a viola solo like a bomb?
By the time you hear it, it's too late to do anything about it.

Why is a viola solo like a death?
You know its coming ... but you can't do anything about it.

Why is a viola solo like premature ejaculation?
You know its coming ... but you can't do anything about it.

Why is playing a Viola solo like wetting your pants?
Both give you a nice warm feeling.

What does "subito piano" mean?
There's about to be a 4th desk Viola solo.

Why is playing a Viola solo like wetting your pants?
Everybody moves as far away from you as possible.




How long does a Viola generally stay in tune?
3 or 4 weeks - or until someone starts to play it; Whichever comes first.

What's the most common tuning system for Violas in Western music?

What are the two most common dynamic markings used by composers for Viola parts?
PP & PDP (Pianissimo & Please Don't Play)

When do Viola players usually replace their strings?
Right after they finish eating the Crackerjacks.

Why do Viola players keep a rag between their chin and the Viola?
To absorb the drool.

How do you get a Violist to play a tremolando?
Mark the passage "SOLO."

How do make a violist perform a flying spiccatto?
Mark on a whole note "upbow, solo."

How does an orchestrator create an orchestral glissando effect?
Write a 16th note run for the Violas.

How can you tell if a Viola is out of tune?
The bow is moving.

What's the definition of perfect pitch?
When you throw a Viola into a dumpster without hitting the rim.

What's the famous Viola players' credo?
"It's far better to play a little sharp than to play out of tune."

Who makes the best Viola mutes?
Smith & Wesson.

Who makes the best Viola bows?
Sears/Craftsman. Deluxe model comes with extra hacksaw blades.

Did you hear about the Violist who always played in tune?
You wanna hear about it?
Listen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.
6 easy payments of $39.95.

Did you hear about the Violist who played so out of tune even the rest of the Viola section could tell?
(Just kidding. That could never happen.)

What's the first requirement at the "International Viola Competition?"
Hold the Viola from memory.

What's the range of a Viola?
35 yards if you've got a good arm.

How can you make a Violin sound more like a Viola?
Play only on the G string and miss a lot of notes.

How do you get a Viola to play in tune?
Chop it up and use the pieces to make a xylophone.

How can you make a Violin sound more like a Viola?
Sit in the back row and just pretend to play.

Why can't you hear the Violas on the newer digital orchestral recordings?
The current generation of 24-bit direct-to-disk recording systems eliminate all unwanted noise.




Why do symphony orchestras use so many Violas?
To make the custodial staff feel superior.
(It also helps with the homeless problem.)

How do get a Viola section to play softer?
Give them the music.

What's the difference between a Viola section and the PLO?
You can negotiate with the PLO.

Why are orchestral concert intermissions only 15 minutes long?
So the Violists won't forget where the stage is.

What the first sound you hear after the conductor yells, "Bratsche"?
The Concertmaster saying, "Gesundheit".

How do you get two Viola players to play in tune?
Shoot one of them.

What's the definition of a minor 2nd?
Two Viola players playing in unison.

What do you call two Viola players playing in unison?

What's the difference between the first and last desk of a Viola section?
Usually not more than a couple of beats.

In an orchestra, what's traditionally done when a Viola player dies?
He gets moved back one desk.

How can you tell that a Viola player has died?
You'll see the other Violists staring at his chair.

How can you tell that a Viola player has died?
The Violinists have hopeful looks on their faces.

How can you tell that a Viola player has died?
He drops his bow - but doesn't pick it up.

How can you tell that a Viola player has died?
The Brass players invent a new batch of Viola jokes.

What does a Viola section sound like under water?
A good idea.

What's the last thing a Violist does before walking on stage for a concert?
Looks for his instrument.

How is a symphony Viola section like the Beatles?
Neither has played together for years.

When did the Leningrad Viola Ensemble originate?
It was formed in 1956, right after the Leningrad Symphony toured the United States.

How do you know there's a group of Viola players at your door?
None of them can find the key: None of them knows where to come in.

What do you call a Viola section in a hot tub?
Vegetable soup.

What's the difference between a class of deaf students and a symphony Viola section?
The Violists have a pension plan.



Kenny Kudditt

E. Scott Noklew Skip DeRunze
Willie Showup Lou Sterplace Wendy Giggover
Wanda B. Drumma Frank Lee Suggs Beau Drawpt
Hugh Kent Tell Euster Praktiss Lois Steam
Arthur Iddick Wanda Hallover Paige Turner
D. Morey Skroosup Yassir Heezbad Arnie Yoffel
Sir Tendus Astor Walt Addis Astor Ivan Noffeleer
Phillip DeHolz Chaim Lostalott Rex N. Tinayshin
Carrie DiPitzas Sinbad Tayste Seamus Bedeff
Eubie Hynd Juan Hientre Izzy Joost
Sammy Kowalafide Otto Retire Dusty Pegwerk
Mike Soff Swoozie Kidding Heywood Shustop
Howie Bluffs Too Ning Lo Ewell B. Fired
Luke Bizzie Juno Howe Ella Fynoe
Wayne Bach Carrie Oki Juan Moretyme
Ima Fiddler Fay King Beau Spadley
Anita Lessin Goetz B. Hynde Moe Clinkers
Bjorn Deff Lou Scannon Dewey Needaplay
Gladys Overwith Noh Won So Lo Euripedes Music
Izzy Reading Peg Stuck Kent Reedwell
Howard Ino Noah Lewsions Les Saithnotz
Cy F. Relief Hyman Trubble Eustace Mewt
Manny Musstakes Nat Kownting Bea Tabahind
Leif DeBowholm D. Wong Song Otto B. Sheddin
Lotta Klamz Buster Bridges Manny Soffle
Maida Blunder Woody M. Proove Megan Noise
Hugh R. Fagin Zbigniew Axxe Donna Day Evertune
Sheila Fendiu Sue deTeecher C. Shirley Blewitt
Ron Fordedors Noah Billity Miles Agoufs
  Sheila Paulus Anne Adder-Quitt
Frank Lee Tairbull Arnie Aloozer Kent C. DeMusic
Otto DeLoop Gladys Overwith Isiah Prayre
Candace Goslower Wilma Chekcleer Seymour Wrests



Contributed by Brian

While searching for anagrams with a musical theme, Brian uncovered the following hidden messages - undoubtedly of great significance.


Heitor Villa- Lobos

contains the hidden message

Viola thrills oboe

and also

He boos viola trill


Claudio Monteverdi

contains the hidden message

Viola introduced me.


Nicolai Rimsky- Korsakov

contains the hidden message

OK man, rock viola is risky!


Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky

contains the hidden message

Check viola key: triply shit!


Ludwig Van Beethoven

contains the hidden message

Viola?  Venn wet bed ... Ugh!


Giovanni Gabrieli

contains the hidden message

Being a Viola, I grin!




Courtesy of Paula Bishop
From the journal of The American Recorder Society.
Paula's a Viol player, which is a very old Viola.

violrules2.gif (23714 bytes)


Stop me if you've heard this one department


  The entertainment chairman of the local Elks club is looking for a band for New Years Eve. Not knowing where to turn he asks his neighbor, a Viola player. The Viola player puts together a pretty good dance combo for the gig, and a good time is had by all.

At the end of the night, the entertainment chairman tells the Viola player how much everyone enjoyed the band. "If you're available" he says, "we'd love to have you for our New Years party next year too."

The Viola player checks his date book.

"Its OK, I'm available" he says. "Listen, would it be OK if I left my instrument here until then?"


  A salesman in a music store leans over the counter to a customer. "Hey, I just heard a great new Viola joke" he tells him. Its a pisser!"

The customer looks him straight in the eye and replies, "Hold on a minute. I happen to be a professional Viola player, and I find Viola jokes offensive; You hear what I'm saying? And by the way, the guy next to me - 6'4", 225 pounds - is also a Viola player. And the guy over there looking through the sheet music - first chair Violist with the Boston Symphony - is a 2nd degree black belt. Now, do you still want to tell that Viola joke?"

"Nah, I guess not, replied the salesman. "I don't want to have to explain it three times."


  Did you hear the story about the Violin player who locked his keys in his car?

It took the police an hour to break in and let the Viola player out.


  A lawyer dies and goes to hell.  The Devil personally leads him down a long corridor to his eternal room.

As they move along the hallway they pass many windows through which the lawyer can see fire pits, various torture devices, and the like. Suddenly they pass a window through which he sees a luxurious bedroom in which a long-haired tuxedoed musician is playing a Viola, serenading two voluptuous blondes - clearly twins - who sit naked on either side of him on a velvet sofa. The women are taking turns kissing and caressing him while he plays his Viola.

"Wow" says the lawyer, "hold on a second!  Is my room going to be anything like that?"

"Oh please, I do have SOME standards" replies the Devil.  "You were only a crooked lawyer;  The Madison Sisters were serial killers!"


  After majoring in Viola at Juilliard, Murray auditioned for the Boston Symphony and got the gig. He and his new bride moved to Boston. After 40 years with the BSO Murray decided it was time to retire. When his last concert was over, the orchestra threw him a party backstage. There was champagne, toasts, testimonials ... and a few Viola jokes. After the party, Murray cleaned out his locker and went home.

When he walked in the house carrying his Viola, his wife snapped, "Where the hell have you been? Its almost 1am! Have you been drinking? And what's that thing you're carrying?"


  You're crawling through the desert - dying of thirst.

Suddenly you see a good Viola player, a bad Viola player, and Santa Claus.  Which one should you ask for water?

The bad Viola player: the other two are mirages.


  A Viola player returns home to find his house a pile of smoldering rubble. Police, fire and EMS vehicles are everywhere. A Police Lieutenant takes him aside and gently relates the sordid story: The symphony conductor was having an affair with the Violist's wife. Apparently an S&M session had turned violent when their 6 year old came home from school early. The conductor beat both of them badly and in a fit of rage set the house on fire. Mother and daughter have been taken to the hospital and the conductor is under arrest.

Dumbfounded, the Violist exclaims, "I can't believe it: The Maestro came to MY house?"


  The orchestra is warming up backstage when suddenly the conductor is taken ill and rushed to the hospital. The scheduled program was to be all very difficult Berg pieces. No conductors are available on this short notice and the orchestra manager is at his wit's end since the alternative is to send the audience home. Suddenly he remembers that one of the viola players did a thesis on Berg in college. Desperate, he asks the man if he would be willing to conduct the program. The violist tells him frankly that he has never conducted before, but is willing to give it a try.

Sparing the details, he conducts; The orchestra comes through in the clutch, and the audience is wildly appreciative - giving the substitute conductor a long standing ovation.

The next morning, at rehearsal, the violist's stand mate turns to him and asks, "Hey ... where were you last night? We had a great concert."


  Did you hear about the Violist who bragged that he could play 32nd notes?
The rest of the orchestra didn't believe him, so he proved it by playing one.


  A Viola player, fed up with the bad jokes and lack of appreciation, decides to change instruments. He goes into a shop, and says, "I want to buy a violin."

The man behind the counter looks at him for a moment, and then says, "You must be a Viola player."

The Viola player is astonished.  "That's right; I am. But how did you know?"

"Well sir, for one thing, this is hardware store."


  A Violinist with the Tel Aviv Philharmonic was walking on the beach and discovered an old oil lamp.  He brought it home and - expecting nothing - rubbed it and was amazed when a grateful genie emerged and offered to grant him any wish.

The Violinist declares that he has his health and isn't much interested in material things, but his deepest desire is to see peace come to the Middle East.

The genie points out that he has been imprisoned in the lamp for more than two thousand years and has no familiarity with the 20th century cultures, or even the current names of the countries around them.  The Violinist takes out the world atlas to show him, but the genie is clearly overwhelmed by the complexities and politics of the region.

"You know, if you just wanted riches or beautiful women or power" he said, "I could handle that in a second.  I'll keep my promise, but I've got to tell you;  Racial problems are very complex.  At the very least, it could take months just to work out the right spell ... and then, it might not work.  Isn't there something a little simpler I could do for you?  Really, anything else at all?  Just name it!"

The Violinist thinks for a minute.

"Well, there's one other thing.  I really love my job with the symphony, but that damned Viola section is always out of tune and losing the beat, and when they're not playing they're making us crazy with their whining.  Could you maybe cast a spell or something that would make them more like the Violin section?"

The genie thinks this over and finally responds;
"Uh, Violas?  Just let me take another look at that atlas, would you?"


  A Violist was out walking on a deserted beach and discovered an old oil lamp. He rubbed it (of course) and a grateful genie emerged and offered to grant him three wishes.

The Violist thought about it and finally decided;
"You know, "he said, "I seem to be stuck as the last chair Viola in the Danbury Symphony.  Just one wish: I want to be a better musician with a better gig."

"No problem", said the genie.  He waved his hand and the Violist suddenly found himself the first chair Viola in the Danbury Symphony.

"Well, that was pretty easy" said the Violist.  "But I really wanted to be a better musician with a MUCH better gig.   Can you do that?"

"No problem", said the genie.  He waved his hand and the Violist suddenly found himself the first chair Viola in the New York Philharmonic.

The Violist is thrilled, and is about to walk away when the genie reminds him that he still has one more wish.

"What the hell" said the Violist, "lets go for it.  Make me an even BETTER musician with an even BETTER gig!"

"No problem", said the genie.  He waved his hand and the Violist suddenly found himself the last chair Violin in the Danbury Symphony.


  A group of terrorists hijacked a plane full of Viola players. They called down to ground control with their list of demands, threatening that if their demands weren't met, they would release one Violist every hour.


  Last night, during intermission, the Philharmonic's personnel manager had to break up a fight between an Oboist and a Violist. The Oboist complained that the Violist had knocked his reeds all over the floor. The Violist in turn cried, "He turned one of my pegs, and now he won't tell me which one!"


  Browsing a pawn shop, a Violin player noticed an unusual statue of a golden rat. Fascinated with its ugliness, he bought it.

Walking along with the golden rat under his arm, the Violinist heard noises behind him. Turning around, he found that he was being followed by a group of rats.  Live ones!  Nasty looking!  As he walked more and more rats joined the parade. He began to run; the rats came on faster. The herd swelled in size. Traffic ground to a halt. People were screaming and running every which way. Lost, the man suddenly found himself at the waterfront. He was heading onto a pier and would soon be trapped. He reached the end, and stumbled to a halt. In his panic he dropped the golden rat, which tumbled off the end of the pier into the river. As he watched in amazement, all of the pursuing rats rushed past him, dived into the river, and drowned.

Later that day, he found his way back to the pawn shop. Recognizing his former customer, the owner said immediately that he hoped the Violinist didn't intend to return the rat statue,  indicating a sign that said "All Sales Final".

"Oh no", said the Violinist; "There's no problem at all. I was just wondering if you had any statues of Viola players?"


  The Violist in the back of the orchestra section turned to his desk partner when the page was filled with sixteenth notes and said,
"You'd better take this. I have a wife and kids."


  Ten-year old Susie comes home from her first day of school all excited.

"Mommy, mommy; the music teacher is going to give me music lessons at school. And look ... he gave me a Viola to play. See? Isn't it pretty?"

"That's very nice, dear.  I'm sure you'll love it."

The next day Susie comes home from school full of excitement.

"Mommy, Mr. Jackson showed me how to play 4 notes in first position on the C string!"

"That's nice, dear. Wash your hands, its time for dinner."

And the next day Susie comes home from school, again full of excitement.

"Mommy, Mr. Jackson showed me how to play 4 more notes ... on the G string!"

"That's very nice, dear. Wash your hands, its time for dinner."

On the 4th day, by 5 o'clock Susie hasn't come home. 6 o'clock passes. 7 o'clock. Her mother is frantic. She calls the police, Susie's friends ... No word at all. Finally, at 11:30 Susie comes home - carrying her Viola case, exhausted, with a somewhat vacant look on her face.

"Susie, where have you been? Daddy and I have been worried sick. Are you OK?"

"I'm sorry mom. I know I should have phoned you, but I got a last minute call to sub with the Philharmonic.


  A Violist parked his car on 42nd street - leaving his Viola on the back seat - while he ran into a store. Not a smart thing to do in New York City!

When he came out he found the side window was smashed, his car stereo ripped out of the dash, his cellular phone was gone ... and there were two Violas on the back seat.


The first chair bassist in a small symphony was late to rehearsal one day.   As he hurriedly unpacked his bass the conductor asked him if he needed a minute to tune up.

Knowing that the rest of the orchestra would like to pick back up where they had stopped, he quickly plucked his strings and replied, "No, all the strings have the right tension."

The first chair violist turned around and looked at the bassist, rolled his eyes and snickered, "You idiot!  It isn't the tension that matters. All the pegs have to be parallel!"



FOR SALE: Viola, German, 19th century, 405mm. Excellent condition.
Recently tuned.

ESTABLISHED STRING QUARTET looking for two Violinists and a 'Cellist.

VIOLIST AVAILABLE to sub in symphony or small ensemble.  Please give 2 days warning before date so I can rent an instrument.

THEY LAUGHED when I said anyone can have perfect pitch.  I can teach you in just 3 weeks.  My home study course includes CD, manual and VHS tape.  $29.95 + s&h.  Results guaranteed.  (Except Viola players)

CLAMSBURGH SYMPHONY announces a section Viola vacancy.  8 week season.  Off-season employment placement arrangement with Bag-'O-Chicken.  Auditions by appointment only.  Candidates will be expected to hold the Viola from memory.  Contact personnel mgr. at

YOU'VE HEARD of Tai Bo ... now try, VIOLA BOW.  America's latest fitness craze.  For information,


In a discussion group the subject of the little-known ALTO VIOLA (in Eb) came up, and inevitably the Hindemith concerto in F# for Alto Viola. The following discussion excerpts - from 2 participating musicologists - contain valuable clarification on these two topics.

"This is in fact a legend only. The existence of the instrument itself has been questioned by most string authorities and the (Hindemith) score, if it existed, is presumed lost."
courtesy Thom Gandet

"The work is lost, however it was written in F# and not in Gb as the majority now believe. Here is, briefly, what is known about it.
"The work is referred to as "Der Vauscherdrier Viola Concerto" and was written as a follow-up work to the "Four Temperaments". Also cast in four movements, it was a cyclical work with movements entitled "Varm-Varm", "Varm-Cold", "Cold-Cold" and "Spin". The premiere took place in an old, poorly heated New England concert hall on a sub-zero evening. During the final movement a frozen water pipe burst flooding the concert hall. The wet and agitated crowd resigned immediately to a neighboring coffee shop to dry out and have a cigarette. Hindemith interpreted this as a bad omen and withdrew the work."
courtesy Paul S. Johnson

Mr. Gandet replied:
"The work described here is, in reality, the mythidentified concerto for violin in G, composed by a 20th-Century Boston-area dilettante of German/Burmese extraction who had perfect pitch, but in G. .... He frequently thought alternately in German and then in English, often in mid-sentence, hence his errors in the titles to the Concerto, which should read: "Varm-varm", "Varm-Kalt", "Kalt-kalt", and "Schpinnen"."

(The Magic Viola

by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

It has come to our attention that several people believe Mozart wrote, in addition to "The Magic Flute," an opera called "The Magic Viola." This is incorrect, and apparently the rumor is due to a coincidence of sounds. In German, The Magic Flute is "Die Zauberflöte," while The Magic Viola would be "Die Auberbratsche." In fact, Mozart's little known viola opera is called "Die Sauerbratschen," and it is verified by several unimpeachable sources that he wrote it in the space of one evening during dinner in a really dingy restaurant. Mozart wrote the libretto on napkins and the score on the tablecloth -- an example of what is called Tafelmusik. The work was actually performed in Salzburg along with "The Constipation of the House Special Overture," which also was composed in the same restaurant. The similarity to English speakers of the pronunciation of the German "Sauer" and "Zauber" has led to the Magic Viola misconception.

The opera was not successful, since it seems to have never been performed again. It has no Köchel number and the tablecloth was apparently laundered by mistake, removing the entire score (but leaving most of the stains).  Only a few napkins remain in the collections of various private individuals and the summary of the opera given below, based only on those that could be tracked down and deciphered, cannot be regarded as definitive.







The king and queen of a fairy-tale like kingdom are devoted patrons of music and loved by their subjects. The sad fact is that the couple is childless and both they and the population want an heir to carry on the royal line. After many years when it appears most unlikely, the queen becomes pregnant through the ministrations of an in vitro alchemist. The royal couple throw a great feast when the baby, a girl prophetically named Violetta, is born. Among those they invite are the various music fairies; the violin fairy, the cello fairy, the flute fairy etc.

Conspicuously absent is the viola fairy, a terrible harridan, whose intonation is so bad that musicians and audiences fall to the ground as if struck down. Not for nothing is she known as The Trampler. After each fairy performs on her instrument and sings about the joy of playing it, the group is about to play a chamber work together when the viola fairy herself appears from the bowels of the earth along with a smell of sulfur and brimstone. The crowd shrinks away from her as she takes center stage.  To everyone's horror The Trampler places a curse on the baby, to the effect that before her sixteenth birthday, she will develop an obsession with the viola and play it to the exclusion of all other activities. Then the Viola Fairy departs as she came with a maniacal laugh. The queen is inconsolable and faints dead away. The act ends with general confusion and despair and a lot of bodies on the floor.



By royal proclamation, the king and queen ban every viola in the land. They are collected and destroyed in a huge bonfire which is a precursor of the Immolation scene in Die Götterdamerung, except here it is known as the Violation scene. String quartets now consist of two violins, a cello, and a banjo. The alto clef is outlawed. In this way they hope to thwart The Trampler's curse. The ruling is appealed by the court jesters, Ping, Pang and Pong, who say that without viola jokes they have lost most of their material. They sing a trio, called Die Bratschenwurst, consisting almost entirely of viola jokes.

[*  The viola jokes are the best preserved part of the opera; although less than 5% of the libretto, they account for almost 50% of the napkins on which the libretto is preserved. Musical historians have not found any evidence of viola jokes predating these, and it is probable that Mozart is the source of this rich body of musical humor.   Ed.]

Die Bratschenwurst Trio

Ping: What's the definition of a minor second?
Pang: Two violists playing in unison.
Pong: Two violists playing in unison.

Pong: What do you do with a dead violist?
Pang: Move him back a chair.
Ping: Move him back, move him back.

Ping: How do you get a dozen violists to play in tune?
Pang: Kill eleven of them?
Pong: Eleven must die;  Oh my!

Pong: How can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune?
Pang: The bow is moving.
Ping & Pong: See how the bow is moving.

Ping: What do you call a violist with two brain cells?
Pang: Pregnant.
Pong: That's not very nice.

Pong: What's the range of a viola?
Pang: As far as you can kick it.
Ping: Or 35 yards with your good arm - as you please.

Ping: What is the longest viola joke?
Pang: Harold in Italy.
Ping, Pang & Pong: Long, long in Italy.

The king, although greatly amused, refuses to lift the ban and the comedians depart disconsolately. But unknown to them, the language teacher Don Blanco is a closet violist. This is not to say that he plays the viola secretly, but in fact plays what is called a closet viola. It has a hinged back and opens to hold a change of clothes and other necessities, since violists often have to leave town suddenly. Don Blanco, a recent visitor to the country, is unaware of the royal decree and continues to play it. Since he rarely has  visitors, apart from his friend the pizza entrepreneur PapaGino, no one is the wiser. We meet Don Blanco together with PapaGino, who is bragging about his pizza franchises throughout Europe. PapaGino sings about the numbers of different toppings one can find in different lands:
200 in France
300 in Spain
and 1003 in Italy!

Meanwhile, the princess Violetta is sent to Don Blanco to study German. Inevitably, she hears him playing and becomes enraptured. Instead of coming a few hours each week, Violetta practically becomes a house guest and makes incessant demands on Don Blanco that he teach her to play the viola. Don Blanco, thinking that no one in her right mind would want this, naturally assumes that Violetta is enamored of him.

The fact that the princess is a virgin, makes her even more desirable. At one point, when he is alone with her, he takes a cigar from his pocket and sings a piece Mozart later recycled in his better known “Exultate Jubilate;” the aria entitled “Tu Virginum Corona.”



The king and queen make a great celebration when Violetta turns sixteen. They mistakenly think they have defeated the Viola Fairy, since they know nothing about Don Blanco. With all the guests assembled, Violetta makes an entrance with Don Blanco, and to the horror of all comes in playing a viola! She has not really mastered the instrument (who could?) and makes quite a hash out of Harold in Italy.  The guests cover their ears with their hands, pillows, mince pies, and anything else they can find to muffle the sound. Don Blanco, upset by this reaction, takes the viola from the princess to show how it should be played, but the guests still refuse to listen.

Suddenly the Viola Fairy appears through a fiery gap that opens in the floor. She is about to gloat over her triumph when she becomes aware of Don Blanco's playing. Instantly, she falls in love with him. Transformed by love, she sings “O Viola D'Amore” and lifts the curse from Violetta. As the act - and the opera - ends, she carries the violently resisting Don Blanco off with her into the pit and to the infernal regions.

The last vocal sound is Don Blanco's anguished "aaaah!"