The 10 most disgusting orchestral instruments, ranked in order of grimness

12 September 2019, 15:25

Disgusting instruments – ranked.
Disgusting instruments – ranked. Picture: Getty / social media / Chris Slaughter / PA

By Daniel Ross

Being a musician and being a clean-freak are just not compatible personality types. For those of you worried that you won’t be able to play yours without wearing disposable gloves, we’ve compiled a list of the worst offenders when it comes to instrumental hygiene...

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but musical instruments are disgusting.

  1. Harp

    So, ‘harpist’s finger’ is an actual cutaneous condition specific to harpists, whose hands are the uniformly gnarled and calloused results of a world without hygiene.

  2. Trumpet

    The tightly pursed lips of the trumpeter turn their saliva into a formidably germ-y jet, relatively low in quantity but high in toxicity.

    Watch out for a trumpeter's saliva...
    Watch out for a trumpeter's saliva... Picture: Getty
  3. Flute

    We see you, flautist, breathing down your instrument’s cold, cold pipes to warm it up. The mere thought of the film of saliva condensation on the inside makes us heave.

  4. Violin

    You know that smell you get behind a wristwatch in the summer? Imagine that, but on your neck, for several hours on end. Couple it with all that blood soaked into the fingerboard and you’ve got yourself a fairly rank cocktail.

    Violin chin rests can get a little clammy...
    Violin chin rests can get a little clammy... Picture: The Plucky Violin Teacher
  5. Piano

    Think of the piano in your local practice room. Think of all the fingers which have wiped their detritus on the keys before you sat down in front of it.

    If you’re a pianist and you don’t wash your hands between playing each note then please do us the favour of never offering us a high five, handshake or anything you’ve ever touched.

    The practice room piano: you just don't know who may have used it before you
    The practice room piano: you just don't know who may have used it before you. Picture: Chris Slaughter / Cincinnati World Piano Competition
  6. Voice

    All those punishing ululations mean the human singing voice can be a fragile thing. Singers know better than anyone the pain of over-exertion, and that’s why it’s absolutely necessary and not at all disgusting to throw the head back and gargle potent mixes of throat-coat tea and salt for minutes at a time while people are in the next room.

  7. Cello

    Few instruments require such a full body workout when played at soloist levels of passion, and the consequential sweat build-up in unusual areas is not something to be taken lightly.

  8. Oboe

    Oh, nice glass of water you have there. Looks refreshing! Wait – it’s been there for HOW long? And you put WHAT in there? And that’s supposed to be… good, in some way?!

    *Oboists need to stop putting their reed water in plain sight.

  9. Bassoon

    Like the oboe, but bigger, worse, and more disgusting.

  10. Tuba

    Oh, deep and sonorous tuba, your low end makes every orchestral piece that bit richer. But lurking in your lengthy pipes is something grim, something rotten. Something wrong. And it’s not the pulsing bass part of a Mahler symphony. No, it’s human saliva.

    Gallons upon gallons of the stuff (well, potentially gallons), sloshing around your intestinal tubes, just waiting to be released with the twist of a spit valve. Utter, utter filth.

    And due to the comparative size of both its pipes and its valve, it out-yucks its brass family colleagues easily.

    How they laugh, your orchestral colleagues, as you gaily upend your instrument and let the torrents gush forth. But they are not really laughing. They are grimacing.