Do you like music? Many people enjoy listening to music in their spare time (free time) or when they’re at work. Some people are even talented enough to play music! Music is an important part of our everyday lives, and because of this, there are lots of music idioms in English.

Music idioms are used every day in English. You’ll hear them all the time! Learning some of our favorite music idioms can help to improve your English and help you become more fluent. Have you heard any of these music idioms before? Read on to learn more!

Like a broken record

Have you heard someone say something again and again? Are they repeating themselves a lot? If so, you can use the idiom like a broken record. If a record (a vinyl plate that can play music) is broken, it will skip when it’s played. It will repeat the same thing again and again. This is where this idiom comes from, and how it is able to be used. Do you know anyone who sounds like a broken record?

For example:

  • Jane’s mom had told her many times to clean her room. Jane thought her mom sounded like a broken record!
  • You’ve told me that five times today! You sound like a broken record.

Not over till the fat lady sings

A good music idiom you can use if you’re waiting for something to be over is to say that it’s not over till the fat lady sings. This is an idiom I’ve been hearing a lot lately, especially (particularly) in connection to the pandemic. People will say that the pandemic isn’t over till the fat lady sings. This idiom comes from opera, where the stereotypical female opera singer is an overweight woman. Things aren’t done until they’re done, which is what this idiom is used to describe.

For example:

  • This meeting is so long! We’re on a break right now, but there’s another two hours left. Well, it’s not over till the fat lady sings, I guess.
  • The election has been going on for so long, and I’m tired of it. I know it’s not over till the fat lady sings, but I’m ready for it to be done.

All that jazz

Is there a music idiom that you can use to say “and so on and so on” in a nice way? I’m glad you asked! Of course there is. This is an idiom I say all the time and that I absolutely love. In this case, you can say and all that jazz. And all that jazz can be used at the end of a list or description to say “and other similar things.” Sometimes it can have a slightly negative tone to it, if the person who’s saying it doesn’t think much of (thinks poorly, doesn’t think good things) what they’re talking about.

For example:

  • He likes video games, fantasy novels, Star Wars, and all that jazz. I’m not interested in the same things, but he’s a lovely person.
  • What do we need at the store? Cheese? Bread? Vegetables? All that jazz? We probably need all the normal stuff.

Play it by ear

Some musicians are so talented that they can do something called playing a piece (song) by ear. This means that they can hear the song and play it back without seeing the sheet music (what music is written on). Unfortunately, when I learned an instrument, I was never talented enough to play something by ear. However, it is an idiom I use pretty frequently (often). To play it by ear means to see how something goes, or to go with the flow. You want to see how things go before making a decision.

For example:

  • Is there anything special you want to do on vacation? Or should we just play it by ear and see how things go?
  • I don’t think I have any plans this weekend, but I’m not sure what I want to do yet. Let’s play it by ear before we decide what to do.

Fine tuning

Have you ever put together a presentation for work that needs just a little something at the end? Have you ever asked someone to edit a paper for you? In both of these situations, the presentation and paper need a little bit of fine tuning. Fine tuning is an idiom that comes from tuning instruments to make sure they make the correct sounds. It means to make small adjustments to make something better and get the best out of it.

For example:

  • Can you please look over this PowerPoint for me? I think something’s missing, but I don’t know what. It just needs some fine tuning, I think.
  • His book was pretty good, but I thought there was something missing. I think if it had had some fine tuning, it would’ve been much better.

Are you familiar with any of these music idioms? Have you used any of them before? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Internet Vocabulary You Should KnowBar Vocabulary in English5 Podcasts to Listen to If You Want to Improve Your English, or this Pregnancy Vocabulary in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is glad this blog doesn’t need any more fine tuning!

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