Speak and Write English with Philip

English with Philip


What are Musical Idioms

Musical idioms are phrases or expressions that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase. Categorized as formulaic language, an idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.

In English  we take ideas from many parts of our lives to form an music idiom, we use words, phrases, places, people, things and animals to create each individual Idiom. Musical idioms are very popular and to the native British speaker they are a normal part of every day speech. If you are not familiar with music idioms; the best thing to remember is that the individual words do not mean very much. the only way the music idiom means anything to anyone is as a phrase. (By phrase I mean a collection of words together).  Each musical idiom or phrase has to be memorised as a phrase.

When do we use Musical Idioms

We would normally use a music idiom to add character or interest to our conversation. Imagine you are reading a story book and in the book there are often words to make the story sound more interesting, maybe more dramatic and colourful.  When we are speaking we do exactly the same thing and often we do this by including idioms in our speech. By adding idioms in our sentences, this can make what you are saying much more interesting to the listener.  We can use Musical Idioms on all occasions; be it with friends, at home, work, school and even interviews. Idioms and musical idioms are a great way to show that you have a good command of the English language and you are also connected with English humour. Practice your idiom use with your Skypeclass teacher Philip.

That Rings a Bell !

When you read the musical idiom above ‘that rings a bell‘ you are probably lost. You think what rings a bell? who rings a bell? what bell?.  If you have not learnt this idiom of by heart, it means nothing to you. What it actually means is that something has happened that made you remember an event that happened in the past. Basically, you remember something. For example I could say to a friend “John, do you remember the fish restaurant we visited in Mexico City?”  John replies “oh yes, that rings a bell, I think I do remember a fish restaurant in Mexico where we hated the food right? – ‘Rings a bell’ simply means to recall something in your memory.

read more about other Idioms at the BBC

20 Musical Idioms in English

Face the music

To accept punishment for something that a person has done wrong

  • And he left the party to face the music.
  • Grow up and face the music.
  • The trouble with him is that he can’t face the music.
  • She has got to face the music.
  • They decided that they must go back in the evening and face the music.

Fit as a fiddle

To be strong and extremely healthy.

  • My Uncle is 81 and he is as fit as a fiddle.
  • Although she is overweight she seems as fit as a fiddle.

music to one’s ears

A pleasing or satisfying thing that someone is listening to.

  • It was like music to my ears when she told me she was getting married.
  • When he apologised to me it was like music to ones ears..

Going for a song

Very cheaply

  • I bought my car for a song on the internet.
  • The house sold for a song at auction.

Strike a chord

To strike a chord means that someone will agree with or approve of something.

  • The agreed pay rise struck a chord with the workforce.
  • Her speech on climate change struck accord amongst the audience.

To play second fiddle

To be less important than someone else.

  • I am not prepared to play second fiddle to my Brother.
  • Our team were treated second fiddle to the other team, it was annoying.

All that jazz

We use all that jazz when we talk about other similar things.

  • In the electronics shop they sell computers, keyboards and all that jazz.
  • The cake shop sold cookies, cakes and all that jazz.

Dance to someone’s tune

To do what someone wants.

  • In the electronics shop they sell computers, keyboards and all that jazz.
  • The cake shop sold cookies, cakes and all that jazz.

It takes two to tango

We use this idiom when we point out that two parties are equally responsible for a difficult situation or an argument.

  • He wanted to argue with me but it takes two to tango and I was not joining in.
  • She said it was my fault but my parents agreed that it takes two to tango.

Jump on the bandwagon

To quickly change your view on something because it has become very popular.

  • The opposition promised a wage increase so everyone jumped on the bandwagon.
  • Because vodka is now popular, many clubs have now jumped on the bandwagon and started selling their own vodka brand.

like a broken record

To keep repeating something that can be annoying to others.

  • He repeated the same joke over and over, it was like a broken record.
  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat: it will be difficult to do well in the exam without attending classes regularly.

Strike the right note

say or do something that is exactly what people want at the right time.

  • It’s tricky trying to strike the right note during a job interview, when you’re trying to sell yourself while remaining relatable.
  • The commercial struck the right note with its target audience, and was one of the most highly rated spots of the year.

Play it by ear

To decide how to deal with a situation, as it develops.

  • I can’t decide yet, I need to play it by ear.
  • I don’t know if I will go out at the weekend, I will wait and play it by ear.

Sing for your supper

To do something for other people, so that you can earn money or food.

  • Kim is fixing my computer, I am making her sing for her supper.
  • My husband is singing for his supper today, he is cleaning the whole house.

With bells and whistles

Things that are added to a product to make it more attractive to buyers.

  • car manufactures still build some models with all the bells and whistles.
  • The restaurant had all the bells and whistles when I had my birthday party there.

Blow your own trumpet

To boast about your achievements to others.

  • My Brother blew his own trumpet when he passed his exams.
  • I blew my own trumpet when I finished in first place in the running race.

Change your tune

To completely change your opinion, especially if you think it will benefit you.

  • He changed his tune when he realised everyone disagreed with him
  • I changed my tune when I realised I was upsetting her.

As clean as a whistle

Something super clean.

  • I left the bathroom as clean as a whistle.
  • My son’s shoes were as clean as a whistle after he polished them.

Drum into one’s head

When you repeatedly teach something to another person.

  • Every day my Mother drummed into my head the importance of cleaning my teeth.
  • My Teacher drummed into our heads how grammar was very important.