Skip to main content
Report this ad

See also:

Musical terminology of jobbing musicians

Author performing
Author performing
Larry's photos


There is a lot of slang used in the music business, especially in reference to jazz musicians and their instruments.
Here’s a little quiz: Which instrument is referred to as the ‘licorice stick’?
What does ‘having good chops’ mean?
What is a musician’s ‘axe’?
What is a ‘chop-buster’?
What does ‘fake’ mean?
What is a ‘riff’?
In referring to a composition, what does ‘changes’ mean?
What does ‘trading fours’ mean?
What is the ‘head’ of a composition?
What is the biggest frustration of playing sax or clarinet?
What does ‘take a chorus’ mean?
What is a musicians performance called?
If a composition were entitled ‘bones of contention’ was is it likely to feature?
On which two beats of the bar is jazz emphasized? (the public usually gets this one wrong).
Does does ‘wail’ mean?

A licorice stick is a clarinet. That’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination, is it?
Having good chops usually refers to a trumpet of trombone player having his embouchure (lip muscles) in good shape. It can apply to sax and clarinet as well.
An ‘axe’ simply refers to one’s instrument of choice.
A ‘chop-buster’ is a composition that is stressful to the muscles of the lips, usually that’s caused by high notes.
‘Fake means to play without the need for written out music.
A ‘riff’ is a small segment of music that is played repeatedly or a short jazz melody.
‘Changes’ refers to chord changes, the harmony that is used in a song, also known as the ‘chord progression’.
‘Trading fours’ means that one player ad libs for four bars and then another musician, usually the drummer, ad libs for four bars.
The ‘head’ of the composition is the composition itself as opposed to the chords.
Reeds are the nemesis of reed players. The vast majority of them don’t play well, but the player still has to shell out a lot of money for them.
‘Take a chorus’ means to improvise on the harmony of the full song.
‘Bones of contention’ would certainly refer to trombones.
Jazz is emphasized on beats 2 and 4.
‘Wail’ means to play your heart out in a solo.

As one learns to read music, especially classical music, the terms for interpretation are mostly in Italian. It’s a nice addition to your study of Italian!

Report this ad