Miscellany » Band jokes

Marching band field show plot resembling a phallus

A compilation of band jokes and musical humour I’ve heard over the years because why not. (I actually wrote a good chunk of these myself and I’m somewhat proud tbh.)

Dedicated to D. Keith Grubb, former Director of Bands at Robert C. Byrd High School. Mostly because his terribly cliché jokes never really get old.

Last updated 12 April 2018.


Q: What’s the musical definition of a minor second?
A: Two flautists reading off the same part.
Q: What’s the difference between the first and last desks of a flute section?
A: Half a bar.
Q: Why do all the other woodwind instruments envy flutes?
A: They’re the only winds eligible for the no-bell prize.
Q: Why can’t you hear a piccolo flute on a digital recording?
A: Recording technology has reached such an advanced level of development that all extraneous noise is eliminated.

Two musicians are walking down the street. One says to the other, Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night? The other replies, That was no piccolo; that was my fife.

Q: How many flautists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just one, but he’ll spend $5,000 on a sterling silver bulb.
Q: What’s the difference between a dog whistle and a piccolo flute?
A: People with dog whistles usually know how to use them.


An L.A. recording session ground to a halt yesterday when an oboe player – who was constantly sucking on her reed to keep it moist during rests and between takes – inadvertently inhaled and swallowed it. The conductor immediately called 911 and asked what he should do. Dispatch told him, “Use muted trumpet instead.”

Q: How do you get an oboist to play a sustained Ab?
A: Take the batteries out of his electric tuner.
Q: How do you keep a clarinet from being stolen?
A: Put it in an oboe case.
Q: What do you call a deaf oboist?
A: Principal.


Q: How many clarinettists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just one, but he’ll go through the whole box just to find the right one.
Q: How many second clarinettists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They can’t get up that high.
Q: How do you get a clarinettist out of a tree?
A: Cut the noose.
Q: What’s the difference between a clarinet and a mouse?
A: You can’t hear a mouse squeak over the entire band.

A third clarinettist claimed she could play demi­semi­quavers. She proved it by playing just one.

Q: What do you get when you remove half a bass clarinettist’s brain?
A: An even more gifted contrabass clarinettist.

The band’s defintion of “nerd”: someone who owns their own alto clarinet.

Q: What’s the difference between a clarinet and an onion?
A: Nobody cries when you chop up a clarinet.
Q: How many alto clarinet players can you fit in a telephone booth?
A: All of them.

Stuffed Rat

A band director went into a novelty shop, hoping for a new find for his model train collection, and something caught his fancy almost immediately. It was a stuffed rat. The man couldn’t take his eyes off it, even from over by the B&O table, and finally inquired about its cost. The clerk replied, “It’s $79.95, but if you buy it, you can’t return it for any reason.” The man thought this was a bit off, but he was really taken by the rat. He paid in full and left the shop.

As he headed down the street with the stuffed rat, several live rats started following him. He found this quite peculiar, but just kept on 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 clerk exclaimed, “I told you that you couldn’t return the rat!”

The man replied, “No, no – I don’t want to return it! I was just wondering if you had any stuffed alto clarinettists.”

(dedicated to D.K. Grubb)


Q: What’s the difference between a dead possum in the road and a crushed bassoon in the road?
A: Skid marks before the possum.
Q: What’s the difference between a bassoon and a lawnmower?
A: You pour gasoline in the lawnmower.
Q: What’s the difference between a trampoline and a bassoon?
A: You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a saxophone case? They think he’s carrying a machine gun and might be about to use it. ¶ Why do people tremble in fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a bassoon case? They think he’s carrying a bassoon and might be about to use it.


Q: How many alto saxophonists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Five. One to change it and four to contemplate how David Sanborn would have done it.

After three missed accidentals and an airy, flaccid solo, the conductor yelled to the horns, “For the love of God, can you give us the F in tune?” ¶ A nearby alto saxophonist piped up and said, “Please, can we have the F-in’ tune, too?”

Q: What’s the difference between a baritone saxophone and a chainsaw?
A: You can tune a chainsaw.
Q: How many alto saxophonists does it take to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies?
A: Ten. One to stir the batter and nine to peel the M&Ms.

A marching bass drummer, not being smart enough to use birth control, says to her saxophonist lover, “Honey, I think you better pull out now.” ¶ He replies, “Why? Am I sharp?”

A high-school freshman walks into the band office and inquires about joining the band. The director says, “Sure; you may join the tenor saxophone section.” ¶ The student replies, “But I don’t play the saxophone!” ¶ “Well,” the director replies, “you’ll fit right in!”

Q: Why are clarinet jokes so short?
A: So saxophonists can understand them.
Q: What uses do saxophones and clarinets have in hospitals?
A: The clarinet is used to lull crying babies to sleep, and the saxophone to wake coma patients.
Q: What do you call a saxophonist with a pager?
A: An optimist.
Q: What’s the difference between Kenny G and a machine gun?
A: The machine gun repeats only ten times per second.
Q: Is the saxophone a woodwind or a brass instrument?
A: Yes.

Horns & Mellophones

Q: How do you get a horn section to play in tune?
A: I dunno; we’ve never had one.
Q: Why is the horn such a divine instrument?
A: Man blows into it, but only God knows what comes out.
Q: How do you make a trombone sound like a double horn?
A: Stick your hand in the bell, pull the trigger at inopportune times and play wrong notes.
Q: What do you call a bunch of hornists in a hot tub?
A: Vegetable soup.
Q: How is a horn solo like wetting your pants?
A: Both give you a nice, warm feeling while everyone moves away from you.


One day, a college student went out on a date with a trumpeter. When she came back, her roommate fluttered about and asked, “So, 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 tubist for a change. Upon returning, her roommate inquired, “Well, how was his kissing?”

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

Yet again, the girl was taken on a date by another musician, this time a hornist. As she entered the dorm, her roommate grudgingly asked, “Well… how was it this time?”

“Well,” the first girl replied, “his kissing was so-so, but I loved the way he held me!”

Trumpets, Cornets & Flugelhorns

Q: What’s the difference between a Boeing 747 and a trumpet?
A: About three decibels.
Q: What’s the difference between a trumpeter and a government bond?
A: One eventually matures and earns money.

Ah, there’s nothing I like better than the sound of a trumpet – unless, of course, it’s the sound of a chicken caught in a vacuum cleaner.

Q: What do you have when a group of trumpeters are up to their necks in concrete?
A: Not enough concrete.

Definition of senza sordino: a term used to remind a trumpeter he forgot to put his mute on a few bars back.

Q: What’s the difference between a trumpeter and the rear end of a horse?
A: I don’t know either.
Q: How does a trumpeter’s brain cell die?
A: Alone.
Q: Who makes the best trumpet mutes?[^]
A: Smith & Wesson.
Q: What’s the difference between a free jazz trumpeter and a fundamentalist terrorist?
A: The terrorist has sympathisers.
Q: How do you get a trumpeter to play fortissimo?
A: Write mp on his score.


Little Johnny said, “Mommy, when I grow up, I wanna be a trombone player!” His mother replied, “Now, Johnny, you know you can’t do both.”

Q: How do you make a horn sound like a trombone?
A: Take your hand out of the bell and lose all sense of taste.
Q: How do you know what kid at a playground is the child of a trombonist?
A: They don’t know how to use the slide, and they can’t swing.
Q: Why do trombonists have pea-size brains?
A: Because alcohol has swelled them.

Definition of staccato: what a trombonist did with all the ceilings in his mobile home.

Q: Who makes the best trombone mutes?[^]
A: Smith & Wesson.

The trombone: a slide whistle with delusions of grandeur.

Q: Why do people play the trombone?
A: Because they can’t move their fingers and read music at the same time.

Great Chief

A missionary on an important trip to the depths of the Congolese jungles came upon a lost civilisation, one which has a deep connection with music. Everywhere he went, he heard the constant beat of drums in the distance. He decides to try and convert these people, but the first thing he had to do was learn their language (or vice versa). After three months, most of the city can speak decent English.

To sate his curiosity, he musters some courage to finally approach the chief and ask, “Great Chief, everywhere I go I hear drum beats. Why do you constantly play the drums?”

The Great Chief replies, “If drums stop, terrible disaster occur.”

The missionary, somewhat puzzled, asks, “Do you think there will be a flood, an earthquake, or disease or famine?”

The Great Chief shakes his head and solemnly replies, “Even worse. If drums ever stop, big trombone solo!”

Baritone Horns & Euphoniums

Q: How do you call a baritone player?
A: Euphonium.
Q: Why are there so few jokes about baritone horns and euphoniums?
A: No one’s ever heard or seen one to know what they’re like.

Tubas & Basses

Q: How do you know a tubist is at your door?
A: They don’t know where to enter or what key to use.

A tubist claimed he could play semi­quavers. He proved it by playing just one.

Q: How many string bass players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None; the pianist can do that with her left hand.
Q: What’s half a tuba called?
A: A one-ba.
Q: How do you make a bass guitar sound in tune?
A: Chop it up and make it into a xylophone.

Two tubists walk past a bar… well, it could happen!

Q: How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 1… 5… 1… (1… 4… 5… 5… 1…)

After stopping the band, the conductor says, “Back to bar one.” The tubist replies, “My part doesn’t have numbers.”


Q: What do a percussionist and a philosopher have in common?
A: They both perceive time as an abstract concept.
Q: What’s the difference between a percussionist and a vacuum cleaner?
A: You have to plug one of them in before it sucks.
Q: How do you get a tenor drums player to perform an accelerando?
A: Ask her to play crotchets at q=120.

Heard backstage: “Will the musicians and the drummer please come to the stage!”

Q: How many percussionists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Nineteen. One to hold the bulb and eighteen to drink till the room spins.
† In other words, however many are in the drumline or percussion section of the ensemble in question.
Q: How do you reduce wind drag on a drummer’s car?
A: Take the Papa John’s sign off the roof.
Q: What do you call someone who hans out with a bunch of musicians?
A: A drummer.
Q: How do you know a stage is level?
A: Drool is coming out of both sides of the drummer’s mouth.

A percussionist, tired of all the percussion jokes, decides to change instruments. He walks into a music shop and says, “I’ll take that red trumpet over there—oh, and that accordion.” After a bit of thought, the shop assistant says, “Okay, you can have the fire extinguisher, but the radiator stays.”

Drummer in Baghdad

In New York City, an out-of-work jazz drummer named Ed was considering throwing himself off a bridge. On his way to do the deed, he ran into a former booking agent who told him about the fantastic opportunities for drummers in Iraq. The agent said, “If you can find your way over there, just take my card and look up the bandleader named Faisal—he’s the large guy with the beard, wearing gold pyjamas and shoes that curl up at the toes.” Ed hit up everyone he knew and borrowed enough money to buy transport to Iraq. It took several days to arrange for passport, visas, flights and the shipping of his equipment, but he was finally on his way.

Ed arrived in Baghdad and immediately started searching for Faisal. He found in guys in pyjamas of every colour but gold. Finally, in a small coffeehouse, he saw a huge man with a beard—wearing gold pyjamas and shoes that curled up at the toes! Ed approached him and asked if he was Faisal; he was. Ed gave him the agent’s card and Faisal’s face brightened into a huge smile.

“You’re just in time—I need you for a gig tonight. Meet me at the market mear the mosque at 19:30 with your equipment.”

“But,” gasped Ed, “what about a rehearsal?”

“No time—don’t worry.” And with that, Faisal disappeared.

Ed arrived in the market at 19:00 to set up his gear. He introduced himself to the other musicians, all of whom were playing instruments he’d never seen in his life. At 19:30 sharp, Faisal appeared and hopped on the bandstand, his gilded pyjamas glittering in the twilight. Without a word to the musicians, he lifted his arm for the downbeat.

“Wait!” shouted Ed. “What are we playing?”

Faisal shot him a look of frustration and shouted back, “Fake it! Just give me heavy afterbeats on 7 and 13.”

Other instruments

Banjos are to music as Spam is to food.

Q: How many guitarrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Thirteen. One to change it and twelve to stand around and say, “Pfft, I can do that!”

Jacques Thibault was once handed an autograph book by a fan whilst in the greenroom after a concert. “There’s not much room on this page,” he said. “What shall I write?” Another violinist, standing by, offered the following helpful hint: “Write your repertoire.”

Definition of relative minor: a guitarrist’s girlfriend.

Q: What do a violist and a terrorist have in common?
A: They both screw up bowings.

One string bass player was so bad, even his section noticed.

Q: Why are viola parts written in alto clef?
A: It’s harder to prove wrong notes weren’t copying errors.
Q: How do you get a guitarrist to play softly?
A: Put a piece of sheet music in front of her.
Q: Why are orchestra intermissions limited to twenty minutes?
A: So you don’t have to re-train the cellists.
Q: What’s the difference between a violist and a prostitute?
A: A prostitute knows more than three positions.

I can’t seem to understand why people keep dropping money in my coffee when I’m rehearsing piano.

A group of terrorists hijacked a plane transporting a major symphony orchestra to Boston. They called down to ground control with their list of demands, and added that if their stipulations weren’t met, they would release one cellist every hour.

Back Desk Violist

A new, budding violist had been in the back desk of a small town’s orchestra for the couple months she’d been there. One day, she found a genie and was granted three wishes. For her first wish, she wanted to be five times better a musician than she already was. By the next rehearsal, she was principal of the violists. After some time, she thought, “I could do better.” So, she asked the genie to be ten times better a violist than she already was. The next day, she arrived as principal violist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A few months later, she thought, “You know, I think I wanna be even better.” She asked the genie one last time to be fifteen times better of a musician. The next Monday, she found herself back in her small town’s orchestra in the very back of the violin section.


Q: How do you know a singer is at your door?
A: They don’t know where to enter or what key to use.

Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of bleeding, he sings.

Q: What’s the difference between a soprano and a Porsche?
A: Most musicians have never been inside a Porsche.
Q: Why can’t voice majors get colostomies?
A: They can’t find shoes to match the bag.
Q: What’s the difference between a coloratura soprano and a seamstress?
A: A seamstress tucks between frills, and a soprano…
Q: What’s a countertenor’s favourite computer operating system?
Q: What do pirates and sopranos have in common?
A: They both murder on the high Cs.
Q: How many soprani does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. She just holds on and the world revolves around her.
Q: What’s the difference between a Wagnerian soprano and a baby elephant?
A: About eleven kilograms.


I’m indebted to a London paper for its excellent headline-like summaries of various operas:

Autumn Leaves

A pianist and a singer are rehearsing Autumn Leaves for a concert. The pianist says to the singer, “Okay. We’ll start in G minor, and on the third bar, modulate to B major and go into 5/4. When you get to the bridge, modulate back down to F# minor and alternate a 4/4 bar with a 7/4 bar. On the last ‘;A’ section, go into double-time and slowly modulate back to G minor.

The singer says, “Wow, I don’t think I can remember all that.”

The pianist replies, “Well, that’s what you did last time.”

Conductors, Directors & Composers

Arnold Schönberg walks into a bar. “I’ll have a gin, please, but but no tonic.”

Q: What’s the difference between a bull and a concert band?
A: The bull has the horns in the front and the asshole in the back.
Q: Why are band directors’ hearts so coveted for transplants?
A: They’ve had such little use.
Q: What’s brown and sits on a piano bench?
A: Beethoven’s last movement.

A Martian walks into a record store and says, “Take me to your Lieder.”

Q: How is a conductor like a condom?
A: It’s safer with one but more fun without.

What do you do with a wind player who can’t play? Give him two sticks, put him in the back and call him a percussionist. ¶ What do you do if he can’t do that? Take away one of the sticks, put him up front and call him a conductor.

Q: Why did J.S. Bach have twenty children?
A: His organ didn’t have any stops.
Q: What’s the difference between a conductor and Dr Scholl’s products?
A: Dr Scholl’s bucks up the feet, and a conductor…

Knock knock, who’s there? Philip Glass. Knock knock, who’s there? Philip Glass. Knock knock, who’s there? Philip Glass.

Q: What’s the difference between an orchestra conductor and God?
A: God doesn’t think he’s a conductor.
Q: Why couldn’t the string quartet find their composer?
A: Because he was Hadyn.
Q: Why was the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic always first off the plane?
A: He only had Karajan luggage.
Q: Why did Sibelius live such a long life?
A: He didn’t want to Finnish.

In the obituary section of today’s newspaper: Local blues musician didn’t wake up this morning

Hadyn’s Chopin Liszt


Rock is when a guy plays four chords for 30,000 people. Jazz is when a guy plays 30,000 chords for four people.

Q: How many folk singers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One to change it and four to sing about how good the old one was.

Musical styles

Jazz: Five men on the same stage all playing different tunes.

Blues: Played exclusively by people who woke up this morning.

World music: A dozen different types of percussion all going at once

Opera: People singing when they should be talking.

Rap: People talking when they should be singing.

Classical: Discover the other 45 minutes they left out of the TV advert.

Folk: Endless songs about shipwrecks in the nineteenth century.

Big band: Twenty men who take it in turns to stand up plus a drummer.

Heavy metal: Codpiece and chaps.

House: Okay as long as it’s not the house next door.


Q: Have you heard about the new radio station around, WPMS?
A: They play three weeks of blues and one week of ragtime.
Q: What’s the difference between a professional musician and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Two back-desk orchestral musicians go fishing and one falls out of the boat. He screams, Help, I don’t know how to swim! His partner replies, Just fake it!


A few outrageous musical arrangements I’ve seen within my life:

  1. Concerto for Typewriter and Orchestra in C# minor. The following is an excerpt from the 3rd movement cadenza:
    " k i wdehfq eweme f2e34f[0 932ru 2l/m,3mr
    f`2o3ru8`293dn d
    2efo k jed1eflyrther
    h2e33 f r ey
    9234`j323e923845`2332 9
    13er13 w 2qergqergerggrt
    er q wwkdjfwediueoijeo e e e
    ~#^~^%&)((~*^(&%#*# @~&*!*[email protected]#
    [email protected]#&%#~*&#^~)((!)_()*#)_(&3````````` "
  2. Sonata for Cymbals and Lute in Bb major. (I think the melodic line should be assigned to the clash cymbals.)
  3. Total Entropy, a tone poem for eighty-five bagpipes and solo violoncello.
  4. Modern quintet in Fb minor for air conditioner, trumpet, quasinart, viola and hair dryer.
  5. Schumschimeinwumderzendlieder, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and tenor accompanied by twelve idling tractor engines gently revved from time-to-time.
  6. Hallelujah, a re-arrangement of George Ferederick Handel’s work for reed instruments alone – to be performed by ten thousand mouth-organs at Piccadily Circus, London on Christmas Eve.

You might be a musician if…


A C, an Eb and a G go into a bar. The bartender says, Sorry, but we don’t serve minors. So, the Eb leaves, and the C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished; the G is out flat. An F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough.

A D enters the bar and heads straight for the restroom, saying, Excuse me; I’ll just be a second. An A comes into the bar, but the bartender isn’t convinced this relative of C isn’t a minor. Then the bartender notices a Bb hiding at the end of the bar and exclaims, Get out now! You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight!

The Eb, not easily deflated, comes back to the bar the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, You’re looking sharp tonight; come on in! This could be a major development. This proves to be the case, as the Eb takes off the suit—and everything else—and stands there au naturale.

Eventually, the C sobers up, and realises in horror he’s under a rest. The C is brought to trial, is found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to ten years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility. On appeal, however, the C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless.

Test questions

The following are stories and answers to test questions accumulated by music teachers in the state of Missouri (which are, quite sadly, 100 per-cent real):

Source: Missouri School Music Newsletter, collected by Harold Dunn via Dr. M.N. Hayes-Gehrke.