Sandy Brown Jazz



An Alternative List of

Musical Definitions

for Jazz Musicians

Click on a picture and see what you get.



Arrangement - Coming to an agreement with other musicians about the way you have organised a piece of music.


Bar Queue


Bar Line - A measure of how many people turned up for the gig.



Max Boyce Barry Island


Baritone - Colourful Welsh island


Bongo - French for 'Good To Go'.


Can-Can - Musician's reassuring mantra.


Capriccio – A quick coffee.


Cha Cha - Tea for two.


Chamber Music – Music of convenience.


Chart - Musical notation to help musicians guage how far a tune is 'cool' or 'hot'


Concussion Idiophone - Knockout performance by a drummer beating together two items of percussion.


Da Capo - Ruthless bandleader who makes offers you can't refuse.


Whiplash Fletcher


Drone - Jazz played robotically rather than by a musician
e.g. as in 'Flying Home (by remote control)' or Angel Eyes in the Skies.


Ewe Drums - Sheepish drummers


Free Jazz - Music that it doesn’t cost you any money to listen to.2


Galliard - Similar to a slim guitar player / pianist.


Slim Gaillard




Gopack - A lively dance of Byelorussia in duple time - or "Guys, I've booked the tour!"


Grave - Where musicians go to decompose.


Gregorian Chant – Impatient Gregory Porter Fans.


Harmonic - Mouth Organ with a note missing.


Harmony - Payment to a band after a gig





Head Arrangement - Creative mind over matter


Carmen Miranda



Hymn - Sexist term applied to a piece of religious music. Similarly the word 'Amen' is used rather than 'Awomen'.

Iambics - Poetic and musical units consisting of two sylables, the first short, the second long, or, a certain cornet player's introduction to Paul Whiteman.


a Lick - Using a Mouth Organ


Mancando - Jazz chauvinism. 3


Metronome – Busker of short stature on the Paris Metro.1





Modulation - Mad about Lambrettas, Paul Weller and The Jam.



Justin Bua Jazz Trio

picture by Justin Bua

Modulate - A young pretentious vegan jazz musician who arrives late to rehearsals wearing the suit from the night before.2



Modus Lascivus - Medieval name for the mode corresponding to c-major, which was avoided in church music, but widely used in secular music of the time e.g. secular music often played in pleasure houses in Basin Street such as that run byKate Townsend (Sister Kate) - click here for her story.


Mouth Organ - Tongue


Nachtmusik - Term used by people who don't understand jazz. (as in: 'That's Nachtmusik!')


Neoromantic - A compositional style of the 20th century embodying the techniques and characteristics of the Romantic period (19th century) but incorporated into a 20th century idiom - or - Brian Ferry's Jazz Age album.


Obbligato - Student or Manager's fees.


Oboe - Wandering musician of no fixed abode.


Yusef Lateef



One Step - Predecessor of Hip-Hop


Orchestration – a musical arrangement cut off in its prime.


Austin Powers


Ostinato - a tomato eaten during the jazz flute solo
at the beginning of the Austin Powers movie.2


Overture - Passing from one soloist to another.


Perpetuum Mobile - People who don't turn their phones off during a gig.


Piped Music – Music indigenous to the Scottish Highlands and Dagenham.1


Piped Music



Pitch - Making a case to a club owner to book your band.


Pitching a product



Practice Pad - Drummer with a basement flat


Presa - Sign in musical notation that indicates that a Lester Young solo is coming.


Prima Donna - High quality kebab


Pulse - Way of telling whether the audience is still awake / alive.


Quadrille - Strange dance where participants get thrown out to sea with lobsters.


Lobster Quadrille



Quaver – Stage fright.1


Relative major and minor - Sister in the Salvation Army and brother who plays with the colliery brass band.


Guys and Dolls image



Rubato – Music for a foot massage.


Runs – after effects of a vindaloo.1


Sackbut - Bags' Groove (sometimes played by an early form of trombone).


Sforzando - Tune dedicated to Zando


Singspiel - Rap


Solo - A note by a single instrument or voice as far down the register as possible.


Bass and Baritone sax




Sonic Harmonic - Hedgehog with a mouth organ



Soprano - Gangster's girlfriend who wants to be a singer.


The Sopranos




Spinet - Skill acquired by DJs


Subdominant – Masochist.1


Suite - Praise for a solo or a piece of music.


Super Tonic - A tonic that comes with the gin already in it.


Gin and Tonic



Tarantella - A singing spider


Timbre - A warning cry best heeded when walking in the vicinity of lumberjacks. 3


Lumberjack Big Band



Tre Corde - The basis of rock 'n' roll.3


Status Quo


Tremolo - Member of Brian Poole's band.


Brian Poole and the Tremoloes


Triad – booking agency operating from Chinatown.1


Trill - Birdsong effect or an exciting piece of Irish improvisation.


Triple Tonguing - A Trio of Mouth Organs


Tuba - Instrument for playing Roots music




Vermindert - Diminished (as in interval) or mouse droppings in the band room.

If you haven't seen the mouse, well Chick Corea has ....

Troy High Senor Mouse




Villanelle - A French term used in the 16th century for pastoral poems or songs, later applied to compositions by composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann, Hector Berlioz, and Paul Dukas. Later still applied to a certain femme fatale.


Xylophone – Small toy musical instrument often given as gifts to children who show their appreciation by playing it constantly, over and over, all day long; see also ‘drums’.


Yerba Buena – Spanish for ‘Good Grass’.1


Killer drug warning



Zebra - African anmal that inspired the design of pedestrian crossings and piano keyboards.


If you would like to add to our list of definitions for jazz musicians please contact us.


1 - With thanks to Ron Rubin
2 - With thanks to Andrew Linham.
3 - With thanks to Dave Simms.

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Other pages you might find of interest :

Jazz Quiz
Name The Tune
Video Juke Box

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