That, of course, is the punchline to
What do you get if you push a piano down a mine shaft?
Among classical musos this is a popular story, whose own punch-line often crops up in rehearsals:
A burly murderer, sentenced to life, is doing his Grade V Music Theory in prison. The well-meaning Associated Board examiner (a perfect part for Michael Palin, surely – not that he exactly needs the work) shows up, and goes through all the exam questions nervously in a little room, seated at the piano with the prisoner standing at his side.
It’s all going rather well till they get to the last question, where the candidate has to identify chords. The examiner says pleasantly,
“Now I’m just going to play you a chord—and I’d like you, if you would be so kind, to tell me if it’s a major or a minor triad!”
and plays a major triad with an encouraging smile. The prisoner looks at him dourly and grunts,
The examiner smiles nervously and says,
“Now I’ll just play it again and see what you think…”
Prisoner goes “It’s minor”.
Examiner, with ever more desperate encouragement: “Ah yes, very good… now I’m just going to play it One More Time, and this time I’d like you to pay attention to that teeny little note in the middle—see whether you find it a little on the low side, or is it, perhaps, rather, um, somewhat high, and bright, and happy…?”
The prisoner walks over to the piano, puts his huge gnarled hand on the examiner’s puny corduroyed shoulder, and says slowly and severely,
“I Think You’ll Find—it’s MINOR!”
Often in rehearsal when there is discussion of the appropriate continuo chord in a figured bass line, we all snowclone in chorus, “I Think You’ll Find—it’s MINOR!”