28 useful music idioms

If you are learning English, speaking more fluidly like a native, is your objective.  Music is often used in language teaching and learning.   Music can be magical and powerful and listening to music is both entertaining and educational.  

In this blog we have put together 28 Useful Music Idioms to use in everyday conversation, so why not check them out!

  • All that jazz

Other similar things; other related things; etcetera:

Example: I’m an outdoors type of person. I love hiking, mountain climbing, camping and all that jazz.

The Farmers Market on Sunday is great. You’ll find fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables and all that jazz

  • Blow the whistle

To report an illegal or unlawful activity to the authorities (e.g., police, company management):

Example: Mark Felt blew the whistle to reporters about the Watergate scandal, which ultimately forced US President Nixon to resign in 1974.

My boss is stealing from the company but I’m afraid of blowing the whistle on her.

  • Call the tune

To make the important decisions or give orders in a situation:

Example:  My father may be president of a corporation but it’s my mom who calls the tune at home.

 Don’t worry. When I’m away, my assistant is perfectly capable of calling the tune.

  • Change one´s tune Sing a different tune

To change one’s opinion or attitude about someone/something (usually from a negative opinion to a positive one).:

Example: I didn’t really like him at first but I changed my tune once I saw how kind and gentle he was with his little sister.

  • Chime in

To join a conversation to repeat or add information that agrees with what others have said:

Example: After I finished my presentation, I was really grateful that my colleague chimed in with a few more examples to support my thesis.

I can’t ever finish saying anything without you chiming in

  • Clear as a bell

Very clear, perfectly clear; straightforward:

Yes, the phone line is great. I can hear you clear as a bell. I could hear my mother clear as a bell when she told me to come home but I pretended that there was static on the line.

  • Drum up

To obtain something by gathering interest or support.

Example: Can you come up with a new title for the book? I don’t think this one’s going to drum up much interest.

Social media is a great way to drum up interest and support for animal welfare issues.

  • Drum something into someone/drum something into someone’s head

To teach someone something by repeating the information many different times, again and again (like beating drum).

Example: Advertisers understand well that drumming short phrases into our heads with music makes us remember their brands for a lifetime.

  • Elevator music

Soft and pleasant but often boring (conservative) music played in public places (e.g., elevators, hotel lounges, doctor’s office).

Example: Starbucks has ruined the coffee house culture. All their cafes are exactly the same and they play annoying elevator music.

I spent nearly 15 years trying to make it as a singer before I finally gave up and started working for a company that produces elevator music for corporate clients

  • Face the music

To accept punishment for the unpleasant consequences of one’s actions:

Example: If you cheat on a test again, be prepared to face the music.

I make sure my children face the music whenever they do something wrong, especially when they don’t tell the truth.

  • Fine tune something

To make something more precise or perfect by making repeated small adjustments:

Example: I need to fine tune my choreography for the school dance. We have several products being fine-tuned for production in the next couple of months.

  • Fit as a fiddle

To be in great shape or health

Example: My 81 year-old grandmother is fit as a fiddle. She can still do cartwheels, pull-ups and push-ups.

 When I ran track in high school I was fit as a fiddle. Now I breathe heavily just walking up the stairs

  • For a song

Very cheaply; to buy or sell something at a very low price

Example: Check out this watch I got at the flea market. I got it for a song!

I bought this bag for a song five years ago and it’s still stylish and in great condition.

  • Hit/strike the right note

To do or say something that is particularly suitable or appropriate for an event or occasion.

Example: I think we need to hire an outside writer for this article. It’s a very sensitive topic and I want to make sure we hit the right note with our readers.

I love Hallmark greeting cards, I never know what to say and they always strike the right note.

  • Jazz something up

To make something or someone more interesting, appeal, exciting or stylish.

Example: What time can we get into the gym tomorrow afternoon? We need to jazz it up for the school dance.

This PowerPoint presentation is too boring. Could you jazz it up with a few animations please?

  • Like a broken record

To say something again and again (which becomes annoying to the listener):

Example: Ugh! You sound like a broken record! I already said that I would pick up your dry cleaning after work.

That’s the fifth time my new manager bragged like a broken record about going to Harvard.

  • Make a song and dance about something

To make a fuss or exaggerate and complain about something that isn’t really important:

Example: Don’t get frustrated. The boss always makes a song and dance about the year-end report but everything will be just fine.

  • March to the beat of one’s own drum

To be unique by doing things in your own way.

Example: We raised each of our children to be independent, have opinions and march to the beat of their own drums.

  • Music to one´s ears

I didn’t really like him at first but I changed my tune once I saw how kind and gentle he was with his little sister.

Example: Hearing my girlfriend say “yes” to my marriage proposal was music to my ears.

The announcement that our connecting flight was delayed and therefore we wouldn’t miss the plane was certainly music to our ears.

  • Play it by ear

To do something without planning, preparation or practice

Example: Yes, I’d love to play tennis but I’m not sure what the weather is going to be like this weekend, so let’s play it by ear.

My parents are complete opposites: my mother likes everything planned in detail and my father always wants to play things by ear.

  • Play second fiddle

To be second in importance or in a lower position than someone else.

Example: Normally, I play second fiddle unless my supervisor is out of town and then I’m the manager in charge.

They always fight because neither one wants to play second fiddle to the other.

  • Sing from the same song sheet

You say the same thing or follow the same plan:

Example: I love working with this volunteer group because we all sing from the same song sheet.

I hate group projects at school, most of the time none of us sing from the same song sheet.

  • Strike a cord

To cause a strong emotional reaction that creates approval (often because it feels familiar or evokes a memory):

Example: Even though she comes from a small village in Pakistan, her struggles to get an education really struck a chord with our viewers.

Advertisers often use music to strike a chord with their customers.

  • Swan Song

The last or final work, effort or performance:

Example: This game is our swan song so let’s win it!

The singer announced the concert would be her swan song.

  • Tickle the ivories

To play the piano. (The white keys on the piano are ivory-coloured):

Example: I learnt to tickle the ivories from a very young age so I’ve been dreaming of getting a grand piano for most of my life.

I can’t believe you just wasted two hours watching videos of dogs tickling the ivories on YouTube when you have homework to do!

  • Toot one’s horn

To boast or brag about your talents, successes or accomplishments:

Example: In general, men find it easier to toot their own horns than women.

If you want to succeed at this firm, you need to actively seek out projects as well as toot your own horn.

  • With bells on it


Example: My daughter is going to her first school dance with bells on!

”Are you going to the game tonight?” ”Yes, with bells on!”

  • You cannot unring a bell

when something is said you have to live with the consequences or results:

Example: I wish I hadn’t offered to work on Christmas Eve and unfortunately you can’t unring a bell.

I remember exactly what you said yesterday and you can’t unring a bell!


Now it´s over to you!  See how you can put these idioms into use in your everyday language!!  We hope you enjoy our free blogs.

If you want to learn English but don´t know how to do it and where to begin, don´t hesitate to contact us to discuss your requirements be it business English, interview English, Exam preparation, general English and so much more…

Abrir chat
¡Buenas! ¿Necesitas ayuda?
Hola ????
¿En qué podemos ayudarte?