• Andrei Poliakov

I was asked a question: what is the most important instrument in an orchestra?

Updated: May 27, 2020

Let’s have a little fun with this..

I would say that all instruments are equally important but in a number of different ways:

a first violin: that’s a someone who usually sits in front of everyone, acts important and makes more money vs anybody else in the band. They have silky hair, wear an expensive suit and often bang the second flutist during the tours. They pretend to lead the orchestra but actually it’s conductors. They pretend to tune the orchestra, but actually it’s the oboe…

a viola: this is typically someone who couldn’t cope with violin at school and had to downgrade. They pretend they play slowly and solemnly because they splash their souls away, but no - they just can’t play fast. Ever. We need them in the band because we need someone to jeer at and bully a little..

a cello: these are the grey cardinals of an orchestra. They often become band managers because they know everything about everyone. They have connections. First they befriend conductors because they sit nearby, and then they get to decide the next country the orchestra will be touring around

a double bass: you’d think they are the favorites of public and of their peers because they provide the bass line - the foundation of music?? Naw, it’s just because no one can tell the difference between urrrrr and eeerrr while both sound surprisingly fresh and interesting yet ambiguous…

moving to the winds

an oboe: that’s the people who tune orchestras; you’d think it’s because they have a perfectly pitched ear and a correct la precisely at 440hz??? Naw, it’s just because it’s easier to tune the whole orchestra to the oboe than the other way around! They often secretly sleep with the second flutist too by the way, when the first violin is not around

a flute: what can I say? Enough said about their private life, but I also wanted to mention a piccolo which boasts the most convenient size, so a piccolist can be a real treasure during any band party in a hotel room (no no no, not to play… they can use their piccolo to push the cork down into the bottle of wine when a corkscrew is not available)

à clarinet: these are arguably the very people who can emit any sound of any volume at any rate of notes per second at any time of the day. They also drink much more than an average aforementioned orchestra player and the clarinetists have very convenient briefcases with a great capacity to allow to stash a great amount of booze inside. Which they do. They stash a lot of booze inside indeed..

a bassoon: these guys are always hungry. Whenever they travel to Asia, for example, they always have a spoon and a fork inside their bassoon, in case some food is made available and only chopsticks are offered. Bassoon is a very important instrument if someone needs a spare set of utensils all of a sudden.

a brass section: I’m gonna cram them all together as they are all hyper important for one simple reason: they all drink twice as much as clarinetists, yet stay sober twice as longer (or rephrasing: they need twice as much booze to get drunk. Which they always have in needed quantity when they need). So whenever there’s no more alcohol in the clarinet briefcase, one can always go and borrow some vodka from a tuba player, or a bottle of whiskey from a French horn. Real saviors.

a percussion section: these are actually the future conductors or singers. As if by magic, all percussionists, once they’ve grown up and fledge out, they begin turning their quirky dry-dreams into a career. So if you wanna sing a song during the party - call a drummer. Your conductor has gone into a drinking bout and didn’t show up for a concert? There’s always a guy (with TWO sticks in his hands) who will eagerly take the lead on the platform. And will bring their bells along, and yes, their whistles too.

now, some odd characters

a piano: this is arguably the most NOT-important instrument in the orchestra. Whatever a composer couldn’t fit into another instrument’s range gets slammed on the orchestra pianist’s table (okay, le pupitre). The pianists here are usually unsatisfied with their solo career which is yet to begin, so they often nag and complain and play up. The cello player often decides to exchange pianists once a year just for the conductor’s fun and amusement, so a pianist is usually not familiar with the orchestra’s repertoire, and hence often has to sight read during the concert, also because they don’t care about rehearsals and they have other jobs. Which is not really an issue because no one can hear piano anyway in the middle of the noise, created by the crowd of drunken brass and aroused violins…

a harp: the harp is a very important instrument from logistic perspective: it’s heavier than any other orchestra property (except for a piano, but a piano can be easily left behind), and because a stereotypical harpist is a petite girl, she needs help carrying her bulky harp around. She usually gets help from an oboist, but he doesn’t get to sleep with the beautiful harpist; she goes to the merry brass guys who will always have left some booze in their trombones (and a lot will already be inside their bodies, at any time of the day).

that's how your typical orchestra works. All instruments are equally important, yet it’s the people who make all the difference, just like in any other team

I sincerely hope no one gets upset by this; in fact these are very usual stereotypes most orchestra players would have jokes about.

Music is always beautiful, and so our hearts become when we listen to it.

take care


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