Mind the gap: The most joyous of orchestral fails!

When orchestral musicians lose their concentration…

When orchestral musicians lose their concentration…

In the orchestral repertoire there are probably thousands of sneaky moments that regularly catch players out. For the musician, to play a wrong note loudly right at the point of a silence can be terrifying and humiliating, but then later in hindsight the story is often hilarious. The situation is increasingly funny the more obvious the error is and the higher the stakes.

Whether it’s the extra moment of silence at bar 389 in the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which tricks careless musicians into coming in early, or the ability to ruin the epic ending of Sibelius 5, every musician will at some point in their career have ‘played in the gap.’

This first short animation demonstrates a particularly common timpani ‘fail’, near to the end of the first movement of Beethoven 8.

This second animation tells the tale of a flautist coming in a bar early towards the end of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth.


It is so easy for your mind to wander during a performance, especially as a percussionist who may only play two or three times in an hour long piece! This third and final animation (based on real-life events!) demonstrates how losing focus can lead to disaster…

Do you have any hilarious orchestral fail stories of your own? Was there a time where you played in the gap?  Let us know
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