I knew I was using it yesterday

I guess I understand the main joke correctly — putting your right hand into the instrument’s bell is a technique used with the horn (French horn), and this guy has carried over the habit into his playing the trombone. But why is he at a doctor’s? Because it got stuck? Did he do that while playing? No, you couldn’t reach — so it was from the minute he picked it up? Weren’t there resources to go to before a doctor? The players in the low brass section of whatever ensemble he plays with?

Anyhow, let’s not let the horn theme pass without checking in with Flanders and Swann:



  1. The funniest thing about the cartoon is trying to visualize how the guy got all of his regular clothes off (maybe even formal tux etc. if he was in an orchestra) and a hospital gown on, all the while with his hand stuck in the trombone.

  2. I agree with Shrug; the obvious answer is the right one: he got his hand stuck in the bell out of force of habit, and is hoping that the doctor will have some magical remedy to extract it. Personally, I would have told him to go to a hardware store for some WD-40.

  3. WD-40 is not a (good) lubricant. It’s designed to displace water, not make things slippery. Though the WD-40 company does make lubricants as well.

  4. Thanks to Powers for the correction. In that case he should go to a grocery store for some olive oil, or to a pharmacy for some “personal lubricant”.

    P.S. Either way, cleaning the instrument afterwards will be an unpleasant job, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if his hand had gotten stuck in his old French horn.

  5. @ Mitch – I thought that process was gross and disgusting back when I was in junior high school orchestra, and would rather not risk watching that video just before eating.

  6. The video is pretty mild, we don’t actually see anything getting shaken out, just how the slides come off and which way to rotate the whole body. (Think of it as your steering wheel and make a right turn.)

  7. Of course, they make mutes for trombones that can, to some extent, mimic the function that using one’s hand in the bell of a french horn achieves. As one of my era’s worst middle school trombone players, I’m surprised I was never given one.

  8. Old musician joke:
    How do you make a trombone sound like a French horn?
    Stick your hand in the bell and miss a lot of notes.

    How do you make a French horn sound like a trombone?
    Take your hand out of the bell and miss a lot of rehearsals.

  9. Mark (or anybody with an opinion), what do you make of the remarks that the (French) horn can for some purposes be considered along with the woodwind family, as much as or more than brass? Technically of course they must go with brass (made of metal [okay so is flute], and especially the physical manner of sound production), but this remark is meant to emphasize something about the quality of sound I guess.

    I think I have heard this in some Sarah Willis YouTube piece, and also from the Imani Winds in performances when they introduce themselves as a woodwind quintet including their hornist. (At the times I saw them, they had a different guy on horn. You can see him in the pictures on the Performances and Projects tab. They don’t seem to have history info about changes of personnel over time.)

  10. Mitch, flutes long ago were made of wood, hence the woodwinds designation. Saxophones never were; their only wood is in the reeds, and even those are sometimes plastic. Now that I think of it, clarinets are the only wooden woodwinds.

    And Shrug‘s comment about getting his clothes off reminds me of once when I saw a woman remove her bra while dressed in a sleeved garment.

  11. Please also give the cor anglais player a moment to explain their instrument, though called an English Horn, is not actually a horn.

  12. True, Mitch4. I think of it as an differently voiced oboe, if one has a bent for that sort of thing.

  13. The instrument that in English is called a “French horn” is called in German simply “(das) Horn”. I’m not sure whether the issue relates to refusing to give credit, or unwillingness to place the blame.

  14. If one is willing to be just a bit pedantic, the same thing holds in English. Anyone may casually say “French horn” but in places like concert program booklets and “classical” music publications, just “horn” is standard.

  15. Perhaps back in Junior High school we needed the adjective to avoid confusing them with trumpets, cornets, etc. It’s hard to imagine the “Tower of Power“ playing (concert) “horns”.

  16. Mitch4, you will note that in proper score order, although the horns are grouped with the brass, they are just below the bassoons and above the trumpets. Also note that a standard wind quintet consists of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon.

    Horns are not as loud and strident as trumpets, bugles, cornets and trombones. The sound fits in well with the woodwinds. This is partly because of the construction of the instrument and partly because of the playing technique of putting your hand in it.

    Oh, and by the way, every trombonist carries a bottle of slide oil in the trombone case and uses a little of it before playing to lubricate the slide. It should get this guy’s hand out.

Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.