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buy this book at
Bach, Beethoven and the Boys: Music History As It Ought to Be Taught by David W. Barber, Dave Donald (Illustrator). Paperback 2nd edition (September 1996)

To celebrate its 10th aniversary, Sound and Vision has prepared a special new edition, totally reformatted and updated by the author. Since its first publication a decade ago, this irreverent yet factual account of music history has become an internationally bestselling classic in the field of musical humor. Includes 35 illustrations.


Why do therapists find ministers hard to help?

Because they have altar egos!

Dictionary of Musicological Absurdities

a-b-a form: a musical convention long preferred by composers who can't "C."

adagio fromaggio: to play in a slow and cheesy manner.

a la regretto: tempo assigned to a performance by the conductor AFTER it is panned by the local music critics.

al capone: performing while standing on a neutered rooster.

al dente con tableau: in opera, chew the scenery.

allegro con brillo: the fastest way to wash pots and pans.

anDante: A musical composition that is Infernally slow.

Angus Dei: a divine, beefy tone.

antiphonal: referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall

a patella: unaccompanied knee-slapping.

appologgiatura: an ornament you regret after playing it.

approximatura: a series of notes played by a performer and not intended by the composer, especially when disguised with an air of "I meant to do that."

approximento: a musical entrance that is somewhat close to the correct pitch.

baffoon: baboon with bassoon.

barbie dolce: sweet but plastic.

bar line: what musicians form after a concert.

bass lure: a seductive refrain.

basso continuo: the act of game fishing after the legal season has ended.

basso profundo: an opera about deep sea fishing.

basso refundo: the sad but predictable consequence of the ill-fated "Three Basses" concert tour.

brake drum: The instrument most used to slow the tempo in an orchestra.

bull horn: a brass instrument that plays notes you wouldn't believe.

cacophany: composition incorporating many people with chest colds.

carmina banana: a medieval musical plantain.

concerto con carne: a piece for single instrument played in a "chili" manner.

concerto grosso: a really BAD performance.

contrababoon: the simian assistant of a Latin American revolutionary organ grinder.

Coral Symphony: (see: Beethoven -- Caribbean period).

cornetti trombosis: disastrous entanglement of brass instruments that can occur when musicians are not careful exiting the stage.

crashendo: the increasing sense of aggravation felt by band members as those trumpet players keep dropping their mutes on the hard stage floor.

d.c. al capone: you betta go back to the beginning, capiche?

dill piccolo: a wind instrument that plays only sour notes.

diminderwindo: fading of daylight at dusk, as seen from indoors.

diminuendo: the process of quieting a rumor in the orchestra pit.

eardrum: a teeny, tiny tympani.

etude brute: an early form of Roman music performed with a rapid, sharp, repetitive beat.

fermantra: a note that is held over and over and over and...

fermatahorn: an Alpine wind instrument used for playing long notes.

fermoota: a rest of indefinite length and dubious value.

fiddler crabs: grumpy string players.

flute flies: gnat-like bugs that bother musicians playing out-of-doors.

fog horn: a brass instrument that plays when the conductor's intentions are not clear.

fortississippi: with mighty, flowing strength.

frugalhorn: a sensible, inexpensive brass instrument.

fruitti tutti: a chorus singing together in an exaggerated, overripe manner.

Gaul blatter: a French horn player.

  good conductor: A person who can give an electrifying performance.

grace note: the I.O.U. you deposit in the church collection plate when you're out of cash.

gregorian champ: monk who can hold a note the longest.

ground brass: when someone in the marching band drops a sousaphone.

ground hog: someone who takes control of the repeated bass line and won't let others play it.

Herbert von Carryon: a conductor who never rides in the cargo hold.

hyperportamento: a tone that soars, bends, strains until it pierces into another dimension and leaves, ever after, a porthole to heaven.

kvetchendo: gradually getting ANNOYINGLY louder.

maestrousseau: at the pace of a wedding march.

mallade: a romantic song that's pretty awful

matterhorn: an intrument of cosmic influence designed to create something out of nothing.

molto bolto: head straight for the ending, but don't make it seemed rushed.

mucho caffinato: play loudly enough to wake up those sleeping in the audience.

oeuferture: musical composition commissioned by the National Egg Marketing Council.

oraToro: a lawn mower may be substituted for the original instrumentation at this point.

opera buffa: musical stage production at a nudists' camp.

pastorale: beverage to drink in the country when listening to Beethoven with a member of the clergy.

phollyphonic: badly arranged harmonizations.

pianorama: instrument capable of broad, sweeping musical performances.

pipe smoker: an extremely virtuosic organist.

pizzacato: the act of removing anchovies from an Italian dish with short, quick motions and tossing them to a nearby awaiting feline friend.

Placebo Domingo: faux tenor.

pollyphonic: orchestra made up of lots of parrots

poochini: When singing, to be accompanied by your dog.

Pre-Classical Conservatism: school of thought which fostered the idea, "if it ain't baroque, don't fix it"

prelude: a cue, found in some of the earlier oratorios, instructing those singing the roles of the wicked to pray in an offensive or profane manner

presto chango: quickly going from a very fast to a very slow tempo

pseudo-dolce: Nutrasweet

(The) Rights of Strings: manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bowed Instruments.

rooti tooti: use of a potato as a trumpet mute.

rubato: cross between rhubarb and a tomato.

schmaltzando: a sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band.

snacktus: Quiet, contemplative music played during the appetizer at Catholic wedding receptions

Sosaphone: a cylindrical wooden instrument used to play smash hits.

spinet: politician's order .

spritzicato: plucking of a stringed instrument to produce a bright, bubbly sound, usually accompanied by sparkling water with lemon (wine optional).

status cymbal: an instrument to be played at inaugurations and socialite balls.

Tempe Arizona: a hot passage.

tempo tantrum: what a young orchestra is having when it's not keeping time with the conductor.

timpani alley: a row of kettledrums. Term originated in New York City area.

tincanabulation: the annoying or irritating sounds made by an unmusical person using extremely cheap bells. From Poe's "The Bells" and "tin cans".

toiletto: the effect on the human voice of reverberation in small rooms with ceramic tiles.

trouble clef: any clef one can't read, e.g., the alto clef for pianists.

vesuvioso: a gradual buildup to a fiery conclusion.

woodwind: a noise in the game of golf, made by a club missing the ball on a tee shot.

A Guide to the Organ
by Cory Edwards

Cory Edwards is also a stand-up comedian. You can book him for your next event through Clean Comedians. or (1-800-354-GLAD)
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You have to love kids!

"When's the best time to visit the dentist?"

"Tooth hurty!"


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Organ Jokes!
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Don't miss "The Ten Commandments of Organ Practice."

Funny Story -- The First Family

Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even G-d's omnipotence did not extend to His own children. After creating heaven and earth, G-d created Adam and Eve. And the first thing he said was, "Don't."
"Don't what?" Adam replied.
"Don't eat the forbidden fruit," G-d said.
"Forbidden fruit? We have forbidden fruit? Hey, Eve ... we have forbidden fruit!"
"No way!"
"Yes, way!"
"Do NOT eat the fruit!" said G-d.
"Because I am your Father and I said so!" G-d replied, wondering why he hadn't stopped creation after making the elephants. A few minutes later, G-d saw His children having an apple break, and was He ticked. "Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit?" G-d, as our first parent, asked.
"Uh huh," Adam replied.
"Then why did you?" asked the Father.
"I don't know," said Eve.
"She started it!" Adam said.
"Did not!"
"Did too!"
Having had it with the two of them, G-d's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus, the pattern was set and it has never changed! But there is reassurance in this story. If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven't taken it, don't be hard on yourself. If G-d had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you.

Advice for the day: If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: "Take two Aspirin" and "Keep away from children."


Ice Fishing

A man who had his share of the bottle, decides to go ice fishing, so he gathers his gear and goes walking around until he finds a big patch of ice. He heads into the center of the ice and begins to saw a hole. All of sudden, a loud booming voice comes out of the sky. "You will find no fish under that ice."

The drunk looks around, but sees no one. He starts sawing again. Once more, the voice speaks, "As I said before, there are no fish under the ice."

The drunk looks all around, high and low, but can't see a single soul. He picks up the saw and tries one more time to finish.

Before he can even start cutting, the huge voice interrupts. "I have warned you three times now. There are no fish!"

The drunk is now flustered and somewhat scared, so he asks the voice, "How do you know there are no fish? Are you God trying to warn me?"

"No," the voice replied. "I am the manager of this hockey rink."


Church Bell Ringer

There was a church in dire need of a bell ringer as the one they had just recently passed away.

Several persons had applied for the job as bell ringer, but they were turned down, as they did not meet the criteria needed.

One day a gentleman came to the church and asked if he could fill the position as bell ringer.

The priest hiring looked at the man and said "How can you ring the bell? You have no arms to pull on the rope."

The man said to the priest, "Let me show you," so they walked up to the belfry where the big bell hung and the man with no arms took five steps back and ran towards the bell and smacked it with his face. The bell rang and the priest said, "I'm sorry but it was not loud enough for all the townspeople to hear in case of an emergency."

The man with no arms then stepped back ten paces and ran towards the bell and smacked it again with his face. The bell rang again but the priest was not satisfied and said he was sorry but could not hire him.

The man with no arms said "Please give me one more chance and I will show you that I can ring the bell loud enough for all the townspeople to hear."

The priest said "OK."

The man with no arms stepped back fifteen paces and ran as hard as he could but this time he missed the bell and fell out of the belfry to the ground to his death.

The priest ran down as fast as he could to check on the man with no arms. As the priest approached, there was already a crowd of townspeople gathered around the body.

The priest explained what happened and asked if anyone knew who the stranger with no arms was.

Several of the townspeople walked up to look and told the priest they had no idea who the man with no arms was. Then suddenly a gentleman appeared and took a good look at the man with no arms and told the priest,

"No father, I don't know who he is, but his face "RINGS A BELL!"


Organist Humor

The next story is in fact not a joke but a true story. Nevertheless, it is so funny (at least for organists) that I find it as good as a joke.

In the '60s (last century!) a well-known Dutch organist was playing a service in a small village church as a replacement for their own organist. The organ was still original and it did not have a blower yet. Instead an organ peddler had to stand in the church tower and peddle the wind for the organ. A little bell was used to tell him when to start (the Calcant).

At a given point the congregation was to sing Psalm 150. The well-known organist started to play the introduction but got carried away and played quite a long improvisation. Finally he starts with the 1st verse and the congregation started to sing. But then to his surprise the organ suddenly made a funny noise and quit playing as there was no more wind. The organist got off the the organ bench and rushed into the tower to see why the organ peddler had quit peddling. So he says to the peddler, "We are not finished yet with Psalm 150!" and the peddler responds, "Don't tell me what to do. I have been peddling this organ for more than 30 years and I know how much wind goes into Psalm 150!"

-Chris Faddegon, The Netherlands


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Click here to
buy this book at
Bach, Beethoven and the Boys: Music History As It Ought to Be Taught by David W. Barber, Dave Donald (Illustrator). Paperback 2nd edition (September 1996)

To celebrate its 10th aniversary, Sound and Vision has prepared a special new edition, totally reformatted and updated by the author. Since its first publication a decade ago, this irreverent yet factual account of music history has become an internationally bestselling classic in the field of musical humor. Includes 35 illustrations.