Playing Second Fiddle – Six Short Interviews With Second Fiddle Players

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Playing second fiddle

‘Playing second fiddle’ is a phrase we use to explain a person’s position when it is subordinate to the position of someone else, or in other words, to explain that a person is less important or in a weaker position than someone else.

The underlying tone of this phrase is bitterness, sadness, or ridicule.

However, in an orchestra the second fiddle player is just as important as the first fiddle player. Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, explained: “The hardest instrument to play is the second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet, if no one plays second, we have no harmony.’”

Interviews with second fiddle players

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imagerymajestic @ freedigitalphotos.net

1. Desmond

Desmond is the father of two children. “Ever since the birth of the oldest I am playing second fiddle,” he complained quite agitated. “According to my wife, the kids are more important than I.”

My advice to Desmond: “Your wife’s behavior is known as mother’s instinct. You will see this everywhere in nature. The female attracts the male only when her body is in a state of oestrus, in other words, when her body is ready for insemination – or, in the case of humans, also when she has a psychological need to survive in a more comfortable environment. Whatever, when she gets what she wanted she will give it the first fiddle to play. Sorry, but she needs a good second fiddle player in her orchestra, and of course, you were her best choice. Now, dear Desmond, you, too, have a choice. Either you play the second fiddle properly in order to be first in line when those first fiddle players leave the orchestra, or you find yourself another conductor. Always remember, women seek harmony.”

Michael Elliott @ freedigitalphotos.net
Michael Elliott @ freedigitalphotos.net

2. Debbie

Debbie fell in love with one of a pair of twins. “Carl’s twin-brother is everything in his life. There is absolutely no way I will ever get the opportunity to play the first fiddle in Carl’s orchestra. But, apart from not being first in his life, I have nothing to complain about. Whenever I need something, I get it from both.” Blushing she assured me that she only sleeps with Carl.

My advice to Debbie: “Actually, you have butter and jam on both sides of your bread. You will notice in reality that most men, once they have annexed half of a woman’s bed, stop dancing to a woman’s tune. Or let me stick to the orchestra – they take their position as first fiddle player in your orchestra for granted. Good for you, you have a second fiddle player in Carl's brother. So, conduct your orchestra, girl. Don’t be a fool. I know Carl’s brother is a plumber. Believe me, he will be too eager to renovate your ugly bathroom. Fact is, as long as men don’t share your bed, they’ll keep on impressing you with the tools you allow them to use.

Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee @ freedigitalphotos.net
Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee @ freedigitalphotos.net

3. Angela

Angela’s story is a bit complicated: “I play second fiddle to my boyfriend’s ex-wife and children. Please note, both children are adults. Although he lives in his own house – unfortunately across the street from his ex – she acts like a wife sharing his bed. Whenever she gets the idea that she is losing him to another woman, or whenever she doesn’t receive the support she needs, she turns his life into a hell by treating him in co-operation with their children with the utmost disdain. When her children visit, he has to pretend that he is still the man in the house, the perfect father, the perfect husband, as the in-laws may not know the truth. My boyfriend is not the type of man who can live with himself while his children hate and disrespect him. He will sacrifice his own needs in exchange for their love and respect. So I have no choice but to enjoy and appreciate his love and all the goodness he shares with me. To kiss him off would be like cut my nose to spite my face. After all, at my age I no longer need a husband or a father for my children, I simply need a friend with benefits.”

My advice to Angela: “Well, it seems to me you have no desire to play the first fiddle in your boyfriend’s orchestra. So, enjoy the music!”

imagerymajestic @ freedigitalphotos.net
imagerymajestic @ freedigitalphotos.net

4. George

Jasmin’s pets play the first fiddle, explained her husband, George. “I cannot take her anywhere, because according to Jasmin the pets can’t stay alone at home and nobody is good enough to take care of them on her behalf. I feel lonely and trapped, while my buddies tour the world with their mates.”

My advice to George: “For heavens sake, what is the world in your eyes? Only Jasmin? Get up and do what you feel like doing. Let her take care of her pets; I bet she doesn’t need your help. Come-on, don’t be her pet - a two-legged parrot in an open cage!” (I was so disgusted, I forgot to compare him with a lousy, discontented second fiddle player. After all, he should realize that playing in an orchestra is an honor and opportunity to make beautiful music.)

stockimages @ freedigitalphotos.net
stockimages @ freedigitalphotos.net

5. Carmen

Carmen’s husband is a doctor. “I will always be less important than my husband’s patients. I am so tired of playing second fiddle to them,” she moaned.

My advice to her: “Practice your solos, girl. Just delight him with your ability to play the fiddle better than any other fiddle player. Prove to him that you are supposed to play the first fiddle, but that you are well aware of the fact that Someone Up There has given him an assembled orchestra to conduct. In other words, don’t be selfish and narrow-minded. You are blessed!”

photostock @ freedigitalphotos.net
photostock @ freedigitalphotos.net

6. Kathy

Kathy complained: “At work I play second fiddle to another woman. I am better trained than she, and I have more experience, but our boss gives her all the important work while I have to take care of the boring stuff.”

My advice to Kathy: “The conductor’s score contains all the scores in the orchestra, while you know only your own score, which is but only a small part of an entire symphony. Without you, or rather without the part you are playing, the symphony may be tenuous. In other words, Kathy, shut-up and play your fiddle. Be grateful for having a fiddle to play with. My hat off to the conductor. Giving a magnificent performance that requires the co-operation of many musicians is a task beyond our comprehension.”

What prevents people from playing second fiddle with great finesse?


Egoism – Egoists are selfish and egocentric creatures who are not able to see themselves as part of a network. The pursuit of their own welfare, and even at the cost of others, is their mission in life. They want ALL or NOTHING. In their universe they want to be the only sun orbited by smaller suns and planets. This is the kind of people who demand - instead of earn - loyalty, respect and love. Egoists are most of the time unhappy and discontented, unless they are manipulative dictators surrounded by weak and chinless people.

Greed and Possessiveness – Greed is a little monster living in all human beings. It thrives on gratified desires. The more gratified desires it gets, the more it wants to possess. People who are not able to control this little monster will never be able to play the second fiddle in tune. In fact, they will not even be able to play the first fiddle in tune, as in the position of the first fiddle player their desire to be the conductor will keep them incompetent. Eventually they will be incompetent conductors, as they have never managed to obtain a sense of harmony.

Envy – For some reason some people never come to terms with their unique self and their true needs. Their personal circumstances always seem to be unfortunate, or even fortunate. When they are not envious of others, they walk with their noses in the air, looking down on the less fortunate, thinking ‘for the love of God there goes I.” Envious people are lousy fiddle players.

Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee @ freedigitalphotos.net
Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee @ freedigitalphotos.net

Relevant quotes

“Those who refuse to play second fiddle may wind up playing no fiddle at all.” - Mason Cooley

“It needs more skill than I can tell to play the second fiddle well.” - C.H. Spurgeon

“Be good friends who love deeply, practice playing second fiddle.” - Romans 12:10

© Martie Coetser

Writer’s Note

Reviewing my life, I must admit that I once had the marvelous opportunity to play the first fiddle, but then the conductor proved himself incompetent. I was compelled to take over his baton and allow him to play the first fiddle. But, oh dear, he couldn't cope. So I moved him to second fiddle player. Fortunately he decided not to play at all, and I was compelled to deliver a symphony with him sitting in my orchestra like a papule on a beauty-queen’s nose. Eventually my time to present symphonies came to an end. Ever since then I play the second fiddle in orchestras with finesse, because being in the limelight, either as conductor or first fiddle player, demands energy I now prefer to spend on myself.

As long as the conductor’s happy with my performance, I am happy.

But yes, being an esteemed first violin player is any person's dream!

© 2014 Martie Coetser

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Comments 41 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

Martie, I've played first fiddle (in life) and second fiddle (in life and an orchestra when I was in 3rd grade). Now I play solo and don't mind a bit.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

"Fact is, as long as men don’t share your bed, they’ll keep on impressing you with the tools you allow them to use."

Oh my lands, Martie, you have written a wise, pithy and rather hysterical essay on a subject that I imagine is rather universal for one reason or another.

I positively love your "Dear Abbey" style in this HubVille community.

I also thoroughly appreciate your musical analogies throughout...Brava for "conducting" yourself like a lady who can "orchestrate" her life with beautiful finesse - no "strings" attached. Love you, Maria


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Martie, I am speechless. You have a very unique style with light words that have a darker core. I love it! I have played first and second fiddle, i now just listen to the music, and i'm a happy camper. I might add that out of the seven deadly sins, pride has not allowed me to play second fiddle. I don't know if that is good or bad. lol. Interesting topic. Excellent writing...


suzettenaples 2 years ago

What a great metaphor for life and hence a great article. Your examples are excellent. I am also playing solo right now although I'd prefer the orchestra. What a well written and well thought out piece.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Martie, yes sadly people playing second fiddle have to learn to adapt or be gone! lol! seriously I had to learn to play second fiddle to my ex husband, not for another woman, or anything like that, but because he suddenly realised he was transgender! If I could have left I would have been gone long ago, sadly this second fiddle is still here with nowhere to go!


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Marty, this is an intelligent, yet entertaining article that challenges each person at some level. Very well done.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

bravewarrior - I guess playing the fiddle with finesse, whether first, second or solo, is what we should do.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Mar, sadly it seems to be a fact that men love to impress women with their talents, while their own wife waits in vain for them to take care of some maintenance around the house. Thank you for being such a beautiful symphony. I love the crescendos.....


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Always - one has to kill one's ego and self-image to play the 2nd fiddle with finesse, but the rewards are worth it. BTW, as one of five siblings I have learned how to play all the parts. I was also a conductor for many years. So just call me an accomplished musician. Lol!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Suzette, I forgot to interview a mistress. I actually know one, but she behaves more like a solist than a 2nd fiddle player. Wonderful how we can use metaphors to make issues more comprehensible.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Nell - some confuctors.... err... conductors are really lousy. Just chuck that fiddle and try the baton :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Cam - I could have done more interviews. We can be second fiddle players in countless orchestras. I remember how difficult it was to accept my demotion to 2nd fiddle player in my son's orchestra. Of course, he never knew my feelings; until today he thinks I am a better 2nd fiddle player than a 1st :) I guess I was a bit too dominant in the 1st position :)


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

An interesting post with a unique perspective. second fiddle is as important as the first. The second fiddle is like the cushion to fall back upon. Great hub. Voted up.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Martie....I absolutely love this. Whatever position you play (or have ever) I've no doubt you did it with grace and dignity.

It seems I'd have to say that I'm adaptable, often even amenable.....depending upon who the conductor is....whether or not the tune has a catchy melody, the other fiddler and I can play well together and I needn't carry any instrument but my own.....

If you figure out what I just said.....would you be so kind as to explain it to me?

You are an Amazing Aries Artist, my friend!.....I suddenly feel like singing!...........UP+++


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Vellur - in the orchestra 2nd violin is indeed just as important as the first - without the 2nd violins the 1st violins have no harmony, the entire symphony will have no substance. Without the 1st violins the 2nd violins have no melody. However, there is no way for the 1st violins to rely on the 2nd violins. Each play their one unique part; when one makes a mistake, or loses their pitch, the other cannot cover it. I believe the rule of life should be: Play you part perfectly. Unfortunately the sheetmusic of Symphony Life was eaten by a dinosaur and ever since then people play it by ear and most people have no sense of harmony.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Fpher - an orchestra is as good as its conductor, and violins of the same size - 4/4 for adults - same weight...... Of course, only when they are made of the same wood/material. I suddenly realize the catch in this. Some violins are better and more expensive, and they even produce better sound.... so, the question is who is the manufacturer of your violin. If the symphony sounds like a cacophony, maybe he is to blame. So, another responsibility of the conductor: make sure you choose a 2nd fiddle who has the same quality fiddle as the 1st.... Now this makes sense, doesn't it?

Mmm, and this also explains why a conductor cannot deliver any symphony when Booze or Dope plays 1st fiddle and Eve or Adam 2nd, or even vice versa.

Am I still on the right track?


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Oh, I love your analogy here on playing second fiddle! Yes, we all play our roles in this life. I have no doubt whatever role you play or have played it has always been with great finesse. I believe I have played second fiddle most of my life and that is just fine with me. Another interesting hub dear one. Hugs and love, Faith Reaper. life


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Sorry about the life at the end there, my phone would not allow me to back up and remove it. I tried several times : )


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi my dear Faith Reaper, in general 2nd fiddle players are more beautiful in the inside than 1st fiddle players, who tend to be snobbish, vain and arrogant. Of course, there are exceptions. My friends in the 1st fiddle section are beautiful and worthy of my envy. Maybe one day I will again have the opportunity to be in position 1, or maybe not. To be honest, I don't covet the responsibilities of a 1st player.

Writing and editing comments via a cell phone or tablet are currently one of the big frustrations in my life, and I have no other choice but to use it, because using my desktop and laptop is like torturing myself in a bath filled with boiling water....

Oh, I just remembered my boyfriend gave me a keyboard for my tablet. I should seriously start to use it :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Martie, you are so clever and so creative. This is a beautiful example of using metaphors for maximum effect. I wish about 75,000 writers on HP would read this and learn from it. Perfectly done my friend, a joy to read.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

As an euphonium player over in the wind section, I don't worry myself with the string section. Sense the wind section has no strings to pull it is much easier to listen to the big picture.

You are a master of methaphor and your analogies are telling. This article is very creative and laced with humor as well.

Shared and shared again.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Great advice. Martie. Every orchestra, including the orchestra of life, needs people to play the second fiddle. We must play with contentment when it's our turn. Sometimes, the tune for the second fiddle is jazzier than for the first.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

@ billybuc - I always appreciate your comments, because you are surely the one who read the most hubs in Hubville and you don't give compliments where they are not deserved.

@ mckbirdbks - we can only swallow bitter pills when we dip, or rather soak, them in humor, not so?

@ MsDora - The position of the 1st is, unfortunately, associated with 'fame', 'prestige', 'status'. While the rest are just... ordinary, average, nothing to boast about... Sadly so!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

You presented well the idea second fiddle must be as good as first in order to take the first seat if necessary. Outstanding work!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

A timeless message for the masses! Second fiddle is ok in some areas, depends upon the motive and attitude of both players.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very creative, entertaining and useful hub, Martie! I love your descriptions of playing second fiddle and of its importance. As always, your hub has given me a lot of interesting things to think about. Thank you!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A great experience and surely is entertaining Martie you have presented an interesting hub. You shared wonderful advice.


midget38 profile image

midget38 2 years ago from Singapore

I think everyone just likes to be número uno...so being a second fiddle can be quite a task! Thanks for sharing, Martie!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Martie…

I’m so pleased that you included this often little-known fact: “However, in an orchestra the second fiddle player is just as important as the first fiddle player. Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, explained: “The hardest instrument to play is the second fiddle.”’

“And yet, if no one plays second, we have no harmony.’” How very true…and what a charmingly clever and creative way of bringing life’s “second fiddles” into view. I just loved this! I, for one, have no problem at all with playing second fiddle, as long as it helps to create that beautiful harmony. Voted way up and shared. :-)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

tirelesstraveler - obviously, if one can't play 2nd fiddle with finesse they will never be able to play 1st fiddle with finesse. However, conductors can make the wrong choice.... We see this all around us: Wrong choices. For example Alcohol on 1st fiddle, the wife/husband on second and work on contra-bass.....


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Teaches - we have to play it by ear :))


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi, Alicia, I believe whatever we play, we should play well. Somewhere in the Bible is a profound scripture stating that it is not the best who win the races. Our achievements depend on Time and Opportunity.'


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

DDE - sharing is the word, because this advice must be as old as humanity :)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Midget - the desire to be Nr 1 is, of course, natural, rooted in our urge to survive, whether we are the conductor, selecting fiddle players, or fiddle players striving to play 1st...


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

So true, Genna, those who want harmony will play even the 3rd fiddle as if it is the 1st...


JPB0756 profile image

JPB0756 2 years ago

Excellent point, concept, writing; three-bagger! Teamwork and harmony are synonyms which exhibit those qualities in an associated tangent in sports. I've been involved in many group and solo performances in many arenas; truth covers all ground, and yours is eloquently pointedly put. Quite polished in approach, also. Nice; thank you! :-)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

JPB, thank you for a most profound comment. 'Truth covers all ground,' is surely the rule to keep in mind when one finds themselves in the position of a second fiddle player. When the conductor expects from you to be a ghost, playing your fiddle behind the curtain in order for the 1st player to feel like a soloist who deserves all the limelight, it is time to realize that you are playing in the wrong orchestra. Keep all players on the stage for all to see, is the golden rule....


JPB0756 profile image

JPB0756 2 years ago

I agree! Fine way of living. :-)


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks, JPB0756. Every position has its pros and cons :)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

A great hub Martie and voted up.

Eddy.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks, Eddy -:)

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