Arrgh! Viola Jokes!

Fri Nov 29 21:05:05 1996

This is the "astonishing trove
of viola jokes" that Alex Beam
mentioned in his Boston Globe column
on Wednesday, November 30, 1994
(p. 65), and that John Hayward-Warburton
mentioned in his article in BBC Music.
How is lightning like a violist's fingers?
Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

How do you keep your violin from getting stolen?

Put it in a viola case.

What's the difference between a violin and a viola?

1.The viola burns longer.
2.The viola holds more beer.
3.You can tune the violin.

We all know that a viola is better than a violin because it burns longer. But why does it burn longer?

It's usually still in the case.

How do you get a viola section to play spiccato?

Write a whole note with "solo" above it.

How do you get a violist to play a passage pianissimo tremolando?

Mark it "solo." viola

What's the difference between a viola and a coffin?

The coffin has the dead person on the inside.

What do you do with a dead violist?

Move him back a desk.

What's the difference between a viola and a trampoline?

You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

What's the difference between a viola and an onion?

No one cries when you cut up a viola.

What's the definition of a minor second?

Two violists playing in unison.

What's the definiton of "perfect pitch?"

Throwing a viola into a dumpster without hitting the rim.

Why do violists stand for long periods outside people's houses?

They can't find the key and they don't know when to come in.

What's the difference between a seamstress and a violist?

The seamstress tucks up the frills.

What's the difference between a washing machine and a violist?


Why do so many people take an instant dislike to the viola?

It saves time.

How can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune?

The bow is moving.

How was the canon invented?

Two violists were trying to play the same passage together.

Why is playing the viola like peeing in your pants?

They both give you a nice warm feeling without making any sound.

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 premature ejaculation?

Because even when you know it's coming, there's nothing you can do about it. violin

Why do violists leave their instrument cases on the dashboards of their cars?

1. So they can park in "handicapped" parking places.
2. If someone mistakes them for mafia, they might get some respect.

Why don't violists play hide and seek?

Because no one will look for them.

Why do violists smile when they play?

Because ignorance is bliss and what they don't know can't hurt them.

Why shouldn't violists take up mountaineering?

Because if they get lost, it takes ages before anyone notices that they're missing.

What's the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a crushed viola in the road?

Skid marks before the skunk.

How do you get a violin to sound like a viola?

1.Sit in the back and don't play.
2.Play in the low register with a lot of wrong notes.

If you throw a violist and a soprano off a cliff, which one would hit the ground first?

1.The violist. The soprano would have to stop halfway down to ask directions.
2.Who cares?

A conductor and a violist are standing in the middle of the road. which one do you run over first, and why?

The conductor. Business before pleasure.

Why is a violist like a terrorist?

They both screw up bowings (Boeings).

What's the most popular recording of the William Walton viola concerto?

Music Minus One

What do a viola and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

What is the range of a Viola?

As far as you can kick it.

What do a SCUD missile and a viola player have in common?

They're both offensive and inaccurate.

Why are violas so large?

It's an optical illusion. It's not that the violas are large; just that the viola players' heads are so small.

What's the difference between a chain saw and a viola?

If you absolutely had to, you could use a chain saw in a string quartet.

What is the definition of a cluster chord?

A viola section playing on the C string.

Why do violists get antsy when they see the Kama Sutra?

All those positions!

If you're lost in the desert, what do you aim for? A good viola player, a bad viola player or an oasis?

The bad viola player. The other two are only figments of your imagination.

Why shouldn't you drive off a cliff in a mini with three violas in it?

You could fit in at least one more.

How many violists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None. They're not small enough to fit.

Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a violin case?

They think he's carrying a machine gun and might be about to use it.

Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a viola case?

They think he's carrying a viola and might be about to use it.

What's the difference between the first and last desk of a viola section?

1. half a measure
2. a semi-tone

Why can't you hear a viola on a digital recording?

Recording technology has reached such an advanced level of development that all extraneous noise is eliminated.

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.

Why is viola called "bratsche" in Germany?

Because that's the sound it makes when you sit down on it.

Why can't a violist play with a knife in his back?

Because he can't lean back in his chair.

What instrument do violists envy most?

The harp. You only ever have to play pizzicato on open strings.

What's another name for viola auditions?

Scratch lottery.

What is the difference between a violist and a prostitute?

1. A prostitute knows more than two positions.
2. Prostitutes have a better sense of rhythm.

What is the similarity between a violist and a prostitute?

Both are paid to fake climaxes.

How do you get a dozen violists to play in tune?

1. Shoot 11 of them.
2. Shoot all of them.
3. Who the hell wants a dozen violists?

What's the latest crime wave in New York City?

Drive-by viola recitals.

How does a violist's brain cell die?


What do you call a violist with two brain cells?


Why do violists have pea-sized brains?

Because alcohol has swelled them.

How many violists does it take to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies?

Ten. One to stir the batter and nine to peel the M & M's.

What's the similarity between the Beatles and the viola section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?

Neither has played together since 1970.

What is the longest viola joke?

Harold in Italy

What do you call a bunch of violists in a hot tub?

Vegetable soup.

Did you hear about the violist who played in tune?

Neither did I.

What is the main reqirement at the "International Viola Competition?"

Hold the viola from memory.

Why did the violist marry the accordion player?

Upward mobility.

How do you transcribe a violin piece for viola?

Divide the metronome marking by 2.

Why do you always bury a viola player three feet under?

Because deep down they are all very nice people.

How do you keep a violist from drowning?

Take your foot off his head.

Note: the following joke is very funny in German, but doesn't translate well into English. Was sind die drei Lagen auf der Bratsche?

Erste Lage, Notlage, und Niederlage. (What are the three positions of the viola? First position, emergency, and defeat.)

Conductor: "Start three measures before the da capo."
Principal violist: "Hold on! We don't have measure numbers."

At a rehearsal, the conductor stops and shouts to the bass section: "You are out of tune. Check it, please!" The first bassist pulls all his strings, says, "Our tuning is correct: all the strings are equally tight." The first violist turns around and shouts, "You bloody idiot! It's not the tension. The pegs have to be parallel!"

Radio presenter, Tim Pollard, on BBC Radio Jersey, when introducing a piece of music by the well-known British composer, Eric Coates, said: "All Eric Coates ever wanted to do was to write music to entertain. But for a while he was a professional viola player."

After his retirement the violist arrived home carrying his viola case. His wife saw the case and asked "What's that?" (In Germany it is a standing joke that some players leave their instruments in their lockers, removing them only for rehearsals and performances.)

A violist and a 'cellist were standing on a sinking ship. "Help!" cried the 'cellist, "I can't swim!" "Don't worry," said the violist, "just fake it."

A violist came home and found his house burned to the ground. When he asked what happened, the police told him "Well, apparently the conductor came to your house, and ..." The violist's eyes lit up and he interrupted excitedly, "The conductor? Came to my house?"

A 'cellist and three violists walked into a restaurant. Presently a waiter came over to serve them. "Good Evening, sir," he said to the 'cellist. "And what would like tonight?" "I'd like a rump steak, medium rare," replied the 'cellist. "Would you like anything with that?" "What do you have?" "Salad?" suggested the waiter. "No, thank you," said the cellist. "Potatoes?" "Ah, no." "Vegetables?" "Oh, they'll have what I'm having."

A viola player went to a piano recital. After the performance he went up to the pianist and said, "You know, I particularly liked that piece you played last--the one that started with a long trill." The pianist said, "Huh? I didn't play any pieces that started with trills." The viola player said, "You know--[he hums the opening bars of Für Elise.]"

A violist in an orchestra was crying and screaming at the oboe player sitting directly behind him. The conductor asked, "What are you so upset about?" The violist replied "The oboist reached over and turned one of the pegs on my viola and now it's all out of tune!" The conductor asked "Don't you think you're overreacting?" The violist replied "I'm not overreacting! He won't tell me which one!"

A violinist noticed at the end of each rehearsal break, one of the violists would look at the inside flap of his jacket before he sat down to resume rehearsal. This continued for several decades, and the violinist became quite curious about it. One day, during hot weather, the violist took off his jacket and went off on break. The violinist waited until everyone was off the platform, looked around, and sneaked over to the jacket. He pulled back the flap and saw a little note pinned on the inside. It read: "viola left hand, bow right."

A man went into a novelty shop and saw an item that caught his fancy almost immediately. It was a stuffed rat. The man couldn't take his eyes off it, and finally asked how much it cost. The answer was "$79.95, but if you buy it, you can't return it for any reason." The man thought this was a bit odd, but he was really taken by the stuffed rat so he bought it. As he headed down the street with the stuffed rat, several live rats started following him. He thought this was really odd, but he kept walking. Within a few blocks, he had a huge pack of rats behind him. When he got to the river, he threw the stuffed rat into the river, and all the live rats jumped into the river and drowned. The man returned to the shop. As soon as he walked in, the owner said "I told you you couldn't return the stuffed rat!" The man said "No! I don't want to return it! I was wondering if you had any stuffed violists."

A viola player decides that he's had enough of being a viola player--unappreciated, all those silly jokes. So he 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, and says, "Well, yes, I am. But how did you know?" "Well, sir, this is a fish-and-chip shop."

An American orchestra had just arrived in Europe for a two-week tour. One hour before the first concert, the conductor became very ill and was unable to conduct, and the orchestra suddenly had to find a substitute. The orchestra manager asked everyone in the orchestra whether they could step in and conduct, and the only person who was willing was the last chair violist. The manager was very nervous about this. "We can't audition you," he said. "No problem," replied the violist. "There's no time to rehearse. You'll have to do the concert cold." "I know. It'll be all right." The violist conducted the concert and it was a smashing success. Since the conductor remained ill for the duration of the tour, the violist conducted all of the concerts, getting rave reviews and standing ovations at each one. At the next rehearsal, the conductor had recovered, and the violist took his place at the back of the viola section. As he sat down, his stand partner asked him "Where've you been for the last two weeks?"

Once there was a violist playing in the Winnipeg Symphony. He wasn't that wonderful a player, so he sat at the back of the section. One day he was cleaning out his attic and discovered an old lamp. He gave it a rub and out popped a genie. "For letting me out of my lamp I'll grant you three wishes!" he said. The violist thought for a moment and replied, "Make me a far better musician than I am now." The genie told him that this would be done. He was to go to sleep, and in the morning he would be a much better musician. The next day he woke up to find himself the principal violist of the Symphony. Well, this was just great, he thought! But he knew he could do better. He rubbed the lamp again, and out popped the genie. "You have two more wishes!" he said. "I want you to make me a better musician than I am even now!" Once again, the genie told him to go to bed, and when he woke up it would be so. When the violist awoke, he found he was now the principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic. Well, the violist thought this was pretty grand, but knew he could do better yet. He rubbed on the lamp again, and once more out came the genie. "This is your last wish." the genie said. "I want you to make me yet a better musician still!" Yet again, he was told to go to sleep. The next morning, he woke up to find himself back in Winnipeg, sitting in the last desk of the second violin section.

A musician from the Chicago Symphony one day ran across an old lamp at a garage sale, took it home, washed it up, and out popped at genie. "Thank you kind sir for releasing me from this old lamp. I regret to say that you have encountered a poor, less powerful genie, and I can only grant you one wish, but wish away." said the genie. "Oh that's wonderful. I think I would really like to make a difference in the world with my one wish.", said the musician. He thought for a moment and then reached for his atlas. "Here's a map of the Middle East. The people who live there have been fighting for years and years. For my one wish, I would like to to bring peace to this land." The genie, a little caught off gaurd, said "Oh, well, ah... that's a little bit too much for even this old master to handle. Aah, ya see, these people... they're involved in that touchy religious stuff, and aah, the kids, aah, they begin fighting when they're just teenagers. I'm afraid you're going to have to make another wish." "Well, okay." said the musician. "For my one wish, I would just once like to hear the Chicago Symphony viola section play in tune." The genie quickly thought for a moment and replied, "Um, let me take a look at those maps again."

A violist was hiking in the mountains, and he came upon a shepherd who was tending a large herd of sheep that were grazing in the alpine meadow. The violist took a fancy to the sheep, and asked the shepherd: "If I can guess how many sheep you have, can I have one?" The shepherd thought this was an odd request, but thought that there was little chance that the man would guess the exact number of sheep, so he said "Sure." The violist guessed "You have 287 sheep," to the shepherd's astonishment, since this was exactly how many sheep he had. The violist got all excited and asked "Can I pick out my sheep now?" and the shepherd grudgingly gave his permission. The violist selected his sheep, bent over, and swung the sheep over his shoulders, to carry home with him. The shepherd then got an idea and asked "If I guess what your occupation is, can I have my sheep back?" The violist was a bit surprised by this, but figured that it was unlikely that the shepherd would be able to guess his occupation, and went along with the deal. The shepherd then guessed "You're a violist, aren't you?" The violist was very surprised and asked, "How did you know?" The shepherd responded, "Put the dog down and we'll talk about it."

When "Oetzi," the famous glacier-mummy, was found in the Alps, archeologists and anthropologists were mystified by the riddle of "Oetzi's" nature, the chief question being: "How did he get under the ice-fields?" Thanks to a joint venture operation by leading music-anthropologists the mystery has found its solution: "Oetzi" must have been a violist. How else could the glacier have caught up with him?

In order to save money, the musicians decided to build their Union Hall themselves. As they proceeded to do the job, gradually the hierarchy of the musicians was reflected in the jobs that they did. The violists found themselves at the bottom of a ditch doing the nastiest of the digging. Above them, supervising, was a trumpet player. One violist turned to another and asked, "How come we're working down here and he's working up there?" The other responded, "I don't know, but I'll go up there and ask." The violist crawled up to the top of the ditch. "Why are we down there digging while you're up here supervising?" the violist asked the trumpeter. "Because I'm smarter than you," was the reply. "Huh, I don't understand," the confused violist said. "Allow me to demonstrate," said the trumpeter. He walked up to the nearest tree, put out his open hand in front of the tree and said to the violist, "Hit my hand!" The violist reared back with his fist and shot a punch at the trumpeter's open hand. At the last instant, the trumpeter moved his hand out of the way so that the violist's fist went slamming into the tree. "OW!," cried the violist, "I see what you mean." He then returned to the ditch and his friend waiting below. "Well," said the other violist, "did you find out why he's up there and we're down here?" "Yes," said the violist, whose hand was still throbbing, "it's because he's smarter than us." "I don't understand," said his friend. "Let me explain it to you," said the violist. He then took his open hand and placed it in front of his own face. "Now," he said, "hit my hand with your shovel!"

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

Once upon a time there was a hospital where they made brain transplantations. A client asked about the prices. The doctor said, " Well, this Ph.D. brain costs $10,000...this brain belonged to a NASA top scientist and costs $15,000...oh yes, here we a violist's brain as well. It costs $50000." The client asked, "What? How's that possible?" The doctor replied, "You see, it's totally unused."

A noted bon vivant and comic was recently flying to Berlin. He decided to strike up a conversation with his seat mate. "I've got a great violist joke. Would you like to hear it?" "I should let you know first that I am a violist". "That's OK. I'll tell it real slow!"

A psychiartrist walks into a brain shop, and says to the propriator "Hello. I am here to do some reasearch on human brains. What do you have in stock?" "Well," propriator began, "We have some Harvard MBA brains at $10 a pound. We also have a few NASA brains going for about $100 a pound. And, just in today, we have some fresh violist brains." "How much are they?" the scientist inquired. "$1000 a pound." "Wow! That's expensive! Every orchestra has them. Why are they so expesive? Are they really high quality?" "Well, no, they're about average. But, do you know how many violists you have to kill to get a pound of brains?"

A violist and a percussionist were walking in a park. The percussionist saw a dead crow and said to the violist, "Look, a dead crow." The violist looked up and asked, "Where?"

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 violist." 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 violist." 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 violist?" "No dear," she said. "That's because you're 26 years old."

Two years ago an orchestra was on tour in France. One evening they decided to go find some snails so they could have escargot for dinner. Everybody was given a bag and send into the vineyards. Gradually everybody came back with their bags filled with snails. All sections were there except the violists, who returned several hours later. The concertmaster asked, "Were have you been for so long and why are your bags empty?" "Well," they said, "I don't know how you managed, but It was a disaster. We saw a lot of snails, but they were quick! Just as we went to get them, rush...and they were gone!"

A man (call him Horace) went on a safari in darkest Africa with a bunch of other people and some native guides. They traveled on foot, going deep into the jungle where they could hear the screeching of birds and howling of wild cats and other fierce wild animals. After a few days of travel, Horace came to notice that there was a constant drumming noise in the background. He asked the leader of the guides what the drumming was. He got no answer, just a stony silence. The drumming continued all day and all night for the next several days. In fact, as they traveled deeper into the jungle the drumming got even louder. Horace tried again to find out what the drumming meant by asking the other native guides, but he still got no answer. Finally one morning, after days of marching to this drumming (which by now was sounding quite ominous), the drums suddenly stopped. The native guides screamed and ran into the jungle to hide in the undergrowth. The leader remained behind with his charges, but he was trembling with fear. Horace asked "What is wrong? Why have the drums stopped?" The native guide replied "Very bad." "What?" asked Horace, who was expecting the worst. The guide answered "When drum stops, very bad--next comes viola solo!"


For sale: Viola, German, 19th century, 405mm. Excellent condition. Recently tuned.

Established string quartet requires two violinists and a 'cellist.

Entry Exam For The BBC Symphony Orchestra

Viola Players: The pass mark is 10% but be careful--over 45% and you are overqualified.

  1. Who wrote the following: a) Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 b) Fauré's Requiem c) Wagner's Ring Cycle [5 pts.]
  2. Tschaikovsky wrote 6 symphonies including Symphony no. 4. Name the other five. [5 pts.]
  3. Explain "counterpoint" or write your name on the reverse of the paper. [10 pts.]
  4. Which of the following would you tuck under you chin? a) a timpani b) an organ c) a 'cello d) a viola [1 pt.]
  5. Can you explain "sonata form"? (Answer yes or no.) [5 pts.]
  6. Which of the following literary works was made the subject of a Verdi opera? a) First among Equals -- Jeffrey Archer b) Macbeth -- William Shakespeare c) Noddy and Big Ears -- Enid Blyton [5 pts.]
  7. Domenico Scarlatti wrote 555 harpsichord sonatas for which instrument? [5 pts.]
  8. Arrange the following movements in order of speed, starting with the slowest first. a) Quickly b) Slowly c) Very Quickly d) At a Moderate Pace [4 pts.]
  9. Where would you normally expect to find the conductor during a performance? [5 pts.]
  10. Which of the following wrote incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream? a) Des O'Connor b) Mickey Mouse c) Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy d) Terry Wogan [5 pts.]
  11. Which of the following is the odd one out? a) Sir Colin Davis b) Andrew Davis c) Sir Peter Maxwell Davies d) Desmond Lynham [5 pts.]
  12. Arrange the following words into the name of a well known Puccini opera. Bohème, La [5 pts.]
  13. Within five minutes, how long is Chopin's Minute Waltz? [5 pts.]
  14. From which of the following countries did Richard Strauss come? a) Venezuela b) Sri Lanka c) Germany d) Japan [5 pts.]
  15. For what town were Haydn's "Paris" Symphonies written? [5 pts.]
  16. Which is the odd one out? a) Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet -- Tchaikovsky b) Romeo and Juliet -- Berlioz c) Romeo and Juliet Ballet -- Prokofiev d) Ten Green Bottles -- anon. [5 pts.]
  17. From which song do the following lines come? "God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen." [5 pts.]
  18. Spell the following musical terms. allegro rallentando crotchet pizzicato intermezzo [5 pts.]
  19. Tosca is a character found in which Puccini opera? [5 pts.]
  20. Arrange the following letters to form the abbreviation for a well known British broadcasting corporation. C, B, B. [5 pts.]

Can't find your favorite joke here?

Maybe it's on my other instrument jokes page.

Research about Viola Jokes

Carl Rahkonen presented his paper: No Laughing Matter: The Viola Joke as Musician's Folklore at the National Meeting of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 21, 1994.


If you don't see your favorite viola joke here, check the list of other instrument jokes. If you don't see your joke there either, please email it to Unless I already have a similar joke on the page, I'll add it. (All jokes appear in the form in which I first heard them.)

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