Tuesday, August 31, 2010

After considering the instrument, I'm still inclined to underrate it a bit. (The Ten Best Underrated Instruments, 3)

It's a MiniBest!

I was driving into work this morning, and mulling over two important thoughts.

First, I'd had an idea that I needed to write down, so I was waiting to hit a red light so that I could quick jot it down, and I'm not kidding you, I hit not a single red light in the seven mile drive into work. That led to the first thought, which was this: Could I fool the universe into never sending me a red light if every time I got in the car I just had a brilliant idea and decided to write it down as soon as I hit a red light?

The answer is, probably.

Second, the idea that I had and needed to write down was this: How does one become a professional triangle player? And is there such a thing? I've got the impression that there is such a thing, but why would there be? I've seen triangles, and even played one. It just makes one single note. That's it. One note. Hit it, it dings, and you're done.

So how can you be a professional triangle player? Do orchestras have someone like that? Or do they just have someone who's not really doing anything during that part of the song pick up the triangle and hit it. "Hey, Julia, the oboes have nothing to do in the second movement, so when I point at you, give that triangle a whack, would ya?"

It's a proven fact that every oboe player everywhere is named Julia, by the way.

So I googled "professional triangle player" and I found first, very first, a link to this site, which makes the amazingly improbable claim that the average salary for a professional triangle player is $56,000. If that's true (it's not, but bear with me) then I am immediately quitting my job because I've just found the single-least-stressful career ever.

The second result on that list was this site, which says that they need a triangle player for a band. But not just any old triangle player. They need a triangle player with these qualifications:

* Must be proficient in blues triangle and rock triangle styles
* Must be willing to step up and play triangle soloes. . in any key
* Triangle player must provide his/her own amp. (our last triangle player used one of my amps and blew out a cone.)

Okay, that's a joke, right? It has to be. Because that ad also includes this line: "No triangle divas need apply."

You've got to go read the whole site. Sadly, there's no contact information, because I seriously would quit my job and go on tour as a rock triangulist. Triangular? Triangulator?

Wikipedia, which is even less informative and helpful now that nobody is updating it anymore, says that the triangle was invented in the 16th century, but everyone says that about everything. Whatever it is people are talking about, when pressed for when it was invented, we just shrug and say "Around the 16th century." Like that lends it some heft or gravitas, that it was invented by peasants during the dark ages. That site also says that it's featured in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 (which was first written in the 16th century):

And that the triangle also was used in Queen's Killer Queen. Queen, of course, was a prominent 16th century prog-rock group, and if you listen to the song in this 16th-century video, you'll see that Wikipedia was (as usual) wrong; there's no triangle in it:

Even more fascinating, Wikipedia also claims that the largest orchestras feature an instrument called the "Wood Block." Why did my parents bother buying a piano?

But the importance of a triangle player cannot possibly be overstated... or can it? Witness this blog, in which a technology start-up post advises how to pay oneself for starting a business by demonstrating what appears to be an in-depth knowledge about orchestral pay structures:

You could think about it as, "From each according to her ability, to each according to his needs." But that doesn't get the full idea across. Here's a better analogy; In most professional orchestras, the triangle player makes as much money as the first violinist. You might pay more for a special visiting musician, but for the most part pay is even across the board. Because even if the triangle player plays a fraction of the amount of notes that the violinist, the triangle player must be as good as the first violinist, and work just as hard. In fact, the triangle player can afford to make fewer errors than the violinist, because she will be judged on playing less than ten notes, instead of hundreds.

Not only does that quote provide no source or reference whatsoever-- what's the basis for claiming that triangle players make the same as the lead violinist?-- but it also makes a logical misassumption, that being the premise that someone who plays only ten notes in a symphony can afford to make fewer mistakes simply because each mistake will be a larger percentage of the whole. While a triangle player's one mistake might be 10% of his output (I'm pretty sure most professional triangle players are men, and I apparently need not provide a source for that fact), the triangle itself is a hardly-noticed part of the orchestra, and if a triangle player comes in a little flat (how is that possible? It plays ONE NOTE!) I'm pretty sure people would notice that a little less than if a violinist makes whatever mistakes a violinist can make. (Using the wrong kind of dog hair on the bow? I'm not sure.)

But if you ARE looking to make $56,000 in a musical profession that according to a tech website has little to no margin for error, I suggest doing what every person does when making big important life-changing decisions: Learn what you need to know from a Youtube video. That's how I figured out how to light a basketball on fire and then dunk it from a trampoline, after all, and that's how you can learn to play triangle:

Seriously; I feel like I'm in Zoolander. Am I the only one who can tell that he's just playing the same note over and over? It's the exact same effect as if I tell you I'm going to play Stairway to Heaven on my armpit.

Aaron does teach you other things, like how to play long and short notes, and how to get some vibrato out of a triangle, which he says will give you a tremolo sound:

I think Aaron may be laughing all the way to the bank here.

In closing, I'd just like to pass along this video, called "Ein kleines Konzert für Triangel und Orchester" which, if I understand my German means "A concert for triangle and orchestra" or, possibly "Belgium is being invaded on October 3." It's pleasant sounding, anyway:

That band looking for a triangulist is "Y2Steve." Listen to Y2Steve's "Organ Grinder Monkey by clicking here."

Previous Instruments:

1. Tuba

2. Harp.


Rogue Mutt said...

Wow, I want to play a triangle now! I heard on the news the other day about the Detroit orchestra going on strike, which probably includes the triangle player too because he's so overworked and stressed that he needs a raise and increased health benefits.

Thomas said...

Liszt's Piano Concerto wasn't written in the 16th century...