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If you are a musician, listen to music, or hate music, you might recognize some of these 23 Musical Truths. Photo by Phil Houseal



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23 Musical Truths

by Phil Houseal
Sept 28, 2011

I heard a story from another columnist who - when faced with a deadline and no topic - began writing down “truths” he had discovered in life. Faced with a similar situation this week, I thought I would come up with some timeless truisms I’ve stumbled upon while playing, listening to, and writing about music.

I even got a little help from my followers on Facebook. (Keep sending them in, Friends. Maybe I’ll scrape together another column.)

Here they are:

  1. The talent of the musician is inversely proportional to the size of their instrument. (For drummers, insert “number of drums.”
  2. To know when a band will actually start playing its gig, add 5 minutes past the advertised starting time for each amplifier, with an additional 2 minutes per effects box used by the guitar player. Add another 20 minutes if the drummer is under age 25. If they bring their own soundman, you have time to go out to eat.
  3. The longer ago a musician played, the better he was.
  4. If you are in the band, never sit down during a break or you will be trapped by someone wanting to talk about other musicians.
  5. The farther you have to haul equipment from your van to the stage, the less the gig pays.
  6. If you have no spare strings; you will break one. Corollary: When you do have a spare string, the other guitar player will need it.
  7. Whenever two members of any band are married to each other, the band will last one month for every year they have been married.
  8. The more years someone spends taking lessons, the less likely they will ever actually perform.
  9. Whenever you are asked to play for free because it is “good exposure,” it isn’t. (Corollary from Friend John Reeve: Playing for free is good exposure of the fact that you're willing to play for free.)
  10. The only thing more painful than listening to an amateur songwriter perform his own song, is listening to him explain why he wrote it.
  11. The least talented member of a band looks like he is playing the hardest.
  12. Whenever you are playing a gig on the Florida coast, the odds are greater than 90% that your next gig is in Sault St. Marie, Michigan. Corollary: This will be in December. (That one actually happened to me.)
  13. If you walk into a club where the band members are all dressed the same, walk out. (Unless it is Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys)
  14. If you are a drummer, always keep a pair of broken sticks to lend to the guy who wants to sit in. If you don’t have a pair of broken sticks, you soon will.
  15. The only time a booking agent is telling the truth is when he is talking about how bad other agents are.
  16. The longer a drummer spends tuning his drums, the less difference it makes.
  17. To figure out which member of the band bought the PA system, look for the one holding the tambourine.
  18. At any event, there will be one request to play Happy Birthday for every 25 people. (I’ve done the math.)
  19. After playing in any band in Column A; you will grow to loathe the corresponding song in Column B:
    Column A - Column B
    Country Band - Cotton-Eyed Joe
    Rock Band - Wipeout
    Lounge Band - Piano Man (or any song by John Denver)
    Orchestra - Spring from Four Seasons
    Polka Band - Pretty much every song, but especially The Chicken Dance
  20. From Friend Doug Davis: How many chick singers does it take to sing Crazy? Answer: All of them.
  21. From Friend Theresa Britt: No matter how good I am at fiddle, I'll always be the chick in the band. Until I'm old.
  22. If you are an entertainment columnist, you will receive letters from musicians berating you for your choice of subjects, then asking you to write about them.
  23. Finally, from my editor Matt Ward: Writers who beg for story ideas on Facebook aren't working hard enough.