Measure Twice, Cut Once

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Or, in this case, learn to read music if you’re going to tattoo musical notation to someone’s arm – permanently!

Recently, I had the unique experience of meeting a young guy working on a construction crew who had a giant tattoo wrapping around  his arm from his wrist to his elbow.  He was in his twenties and enjoyed the adornments of his generation, I.E. tattoos and metal  facial decorations.  He asked me what I do and I said I was a musician.  He said he was a musician as well and lifted up his forearm to show off his whopping tattoo which was a single, five line staff of music.  He asked me if I knew what the piece was so I first looked at the key signature and said, “it has three flats”.  I was about to continue when he interrupted and said, sadly, that it  was only supposed to have two flats but the tattoo artist added an extra one by mistake. I politely continued to check it out (very  difficult to not chuckle a little at that point).  I started to sing the melody by singing up a minor sixth as indicated.  He  stopped me again and admitted that it was supposed to be a perfect fifth between the first and second notes.  I suppressed my  laughter again, which was now pretty hard to do.  I started singing again, using two flats as the key signature and an opening interval of a fifth.  It turned out to be Bach’s Little Fugue in g minor which I identified as such.  He was happy to know that some people could figure out what he has indelibly printed on his arm despite the typographical errors.  He told me he had it done in high school and proudly showed it to his band director the next morning who immediately spotted the mistakes.  He was shocked, to say the least.  He seemed like a nice young guy but now has to live with a strange arrangement of the Little Fugue on his arm.  It’s kind of like having a tattoo of your ex-girl friend’s name, spelled wrong, a double whammy.

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