30 Commonly Used Music Idioms in English

Learn commonly used Music Idioms in English with meaning and examples.

List of 30 Commonly Used Music Idioms in English.

(It’s) Not Over Till the Fat Lady Sings

  • Meaning: The situation may change; nothing is certain until the conclusion
  • Example: The team is behind 4-1, but it’s not over till the fat lady sings.

(To) Play Second Fiddle

  • Meaning: To play a subordinate role to someone
  • Example: I thought I’d have more responsibility in my new job, but I’m just playing second fiddle to Victoria.


  • Meaning: In music, steady, uniformly accented beat in 4/4 time, a steady beat in four
  • Example: I enjoy jazz and classical music, but when I want to dance, I need a four-on-the-floor beat.

All That Jazz

  • Meaning: Similar things, similar qualities, et cetera
  • Example: The teacher said I was lazy, that I needed to study more, and all that jazz.

Beat the Drum for (Something)

  • Meaning: Speak in favor of something to try to generate support
  • Example: Religious conservatives have been beating the drum for higher alcohol taxes.

Blow the whistle

  • Meaning: Reporting an illegal or unacceptable activity to the authorities
  • Example: If you keep coming in late, I’m going to have to blow the whistle and report you to the department head.

Blow Your Own Trumpet

  • Meaning: Brag; emphasize one’s own contributions
  • Example: Sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet to get proper credit for your work.

Call the tune

  • Meaning: Making important decisions and controlling a situation.
  • Example: My staff has to do what I say because I’m the boss, and I call the tune here!

Change One’s Tune

  • Meaning: To alter one’s opinion about something.
  • Example: Jason used to dislike muffins, but now that he’s dating a pastry chef he’s changed his tune!

Chin music

  • Meaning: Meaningless talk
  • Example: Can you guys please be quiet? Your chin music is distracting me from my work.

Dance to Someone’s Tune

  • Meaning: Consistently follow someone’s directions or influence
  • Example: The city council always dances to the tune of the large corporations in the area.

Elevator music

  • Meaning: Pleasant but boring recorded music that is played in public places.
  • Example: This elevator music is putting me to sleep, so let’s go walk around the mall again.

Face the music

  • Meaning: Dealing with consequences of one’s actions
  • Example: I told you not to try to sneak in, and now that you’ve been caught, you’re just going to have to face the music.

For a song

  • Meaning: Buying or selling something at a very cheap price.
  • Example: Wow, I can’t believe they let so many things at their yard sale go for a song.

It Takes Two to Tango

  • Meaning: When something goes wrong involving two people, it’s likely that they share the blame; cooperation is necessary
  • Example: Elena blames Juan for the breakup of their marriage, but it takes two to tango.

Useful music idioms in English

music idioms

…30 Commonly Used Music Idioms in English…

Jam session

  • Meaning: Playing improvised music in an informal setting
  • Example: Andy and Nick had a jam session last night and kept all the neighbors awake.

Jump on the Bandwagon

  • Meaning: To follow a trend or craze
  • Example: Now that hard cider is becoming popular in American bars, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and releasing their own versions.

March to the beat of your own drum

  • Meaning: When someone does things the way they want to, without taking anybody else or anything else into consideration.
  • Example: My brother’s eschewed the idea of a full-time career and has had every odd ball job you could think of, but then he’s always been happy marching to the beat of his own drum.

Music to My Ears

  • Meaning: Good to hear; welcome news
  • Example: News of the new president was music to my ears – she’s terrific.

Play it by ear

  • Meaning: To play a piece of music without referencingsheet music or a recording
  • Example: Just because Tom can play by ear doesn’t mean he’s a great song writer.

Ring a bell

  • Meaning: When something seems familiar
  • Example: Your description rings a bell, but I don’t think I’ve ever been there myself.

Second Stringer

  • Meaning: A substitute player in a sport; a substitute for a job who is not the most talented person
  • Example: Of course the campaign didn’t go well. The boss sent me all second-stringers – not one single star from the sales staff.

Set something to music

  • Meaning: To write a piece of music to accompany a set of words
  • Example: The musician set my lyrics to music.

Sing a Different Tune

  • Meaning: Change your opinion
  • Example: You may say you’re in love with your boyfriend, but you’ll be singing a different tune when you find out what he’s been up to.

Strike a chord

  • Meaning: Used to describe something that is familiar to you, reminds you of something or is connected to you somehow.
  • Example: The woman in the portrait struck a chord with me, and I realized that it was my grandmother.

Swan song

  • Meaning: This expression is used to describe a final act before dying or ending something.
  • Example: We didn’t know that her performance last night was the singer’s swan song.


  • Meaning: Not good at perceiving the impact of one’s words, insensitive
  • Example: Can you believe Julia would be so tone-deaf as to talk about couples vacations on the day Carla’s divorce became final?

Toot Your Own Horn

  • Meaning: Brag; emphasize one’s own contributions
  • Example: Sometimes you have to toot your own horn to get proper credit for your work.

Whistle in the Dark

  • Meaning: To be unrealistically confident or brave; to talk about something of which one has little knowledge
  • Example: John thinks he can win the match, but he’s just whistling in the dark.

Whistling Dixie

  • Meaning: Being unrealistically optimistic
  • Example: If you think you can get a ticket for under $200 at Christmastime, you’re whistling Dixie.

Commonly Used Music Idioms in English.

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