Musicians Jargon

Musicians Terminology:
Slang, Jargon & Tech Talk

Musicians today have a rich, wide and colorful vocabulary. It’s important to clearly understand the things that band mates, friends, teachers and employers are saying. As a small example, We’ve compiled a list of some terms for you to study.

The definitions here are taken from the pages of “Musicians Dictionary: Slang, Jargon and Tech Talk.” A great study in the interesting and amusing area of the musicians language and quite educational as well. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from “Musicians Dictionary: Slang, Jargon and Tech Talk.”

Musicians Terminology

A-440- 1.) The tuning standard for the free world. This means that the note ‘A’ is tuned to a frequency of 440 cycles per second (Hertz).

AABA- 1.) The standard 32 bar song form as perfected in the Irving Berlin song I Got Rhythm. Most Jazz standards follow the AABA song form. Some well known examples include Autumn Leaves, Satin Doll and Take the A-Train.

Acapella- 1.) Without the accompaniment of an instrument.

Acapulco- 1.) A funny way to say Acapella.

Image603325Agent- 1.) Someone who hires the entertainment for someone else’s party or establishment. All agents are known for their truthfulness, pleasant demeanor, and maintaining the highest ethics in their professional endeavors.

ADSR- 1.) Stands for Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release -the four main settings of programmable synthesizer or envelope generator. Attack is the time it takes a note to achieve full volume. Sustain is the volume level which is held constant or is Decayed to after the initial burst of volume. The time it takes for the note to fade into silence is the Release.

B-3- 1.) The Hammond B-3 organ sound as heard on countless Blues, R&B, Jazz and Classic Rock recordings. Famous for a rich, singing tone, the Hammond B-3 sound is the benchmark which all other Blues, R&B, Jazz and Rock organ sounds are compared to.

Back-Cycling- 1.) A chord progression whose root motion follows the circle of fifths. See Circle of fifths.

Image973505Bird’s Eye- 1.) The notational symbol for a fermata (pause).

Image1374450Birdland- 1.) New York City Jazz club of legendary stature named for Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker.

Image780419Boogie- 1.) Strong yet relaxed up tempo shuffle in the Rock, R&B or electric Blues vein.2.) To leave. 3.) A Mesa Boogie amplifier, widely considered to be the Rolls- Royce of guitar amplifiers.

Boom Box- 1.) A portable stereo system.

Bootsy- 1.) Funk star, Bootsy Collins of the super-group Parliament. The definitive Funk bass player with a strong command of slap & pop vocabulary, Bootsy often wore outrageous shades and huge outlandish boots.

Bullet- 1.) A song quickly climbing the Top 40 or hot 100 charts of record sales.

Bullet Mike- Green Bullet 1.) The Shure 520D microphone, popular among harmonica players.

Bull Fiddle- 1.) The Bass Violin.

Burn- 1.) To record or commit any data to a digital format. 2.) To record anything in anyway is to burn it.

Burnin’- 1.) In a musical sense, skilled and remarkably competent. e.g. “You guys were Burnin’!”

Buss- 1.) On a mixing console, the routing and combination point of audio signals. A buss has a VU meter and outputs to the monitor system.

Cans- 1.) Headphones.

Cannonball- 1.) Saxophonist Julian Adderly brother of Nat Adderly. Cannonball is known for his ability to bring a down-home bluesy flavor to his own very sophisticated and critically acclaimed form of Jazz. As a bandmate of the great Joe Zawinal, Cannonball had a commercial success with the song ‘Mercy, Mercy’. His bluesy composition Work Song is a favorite among Jazz musicians.

Casual- 1.) A West Coast expression describing a routine gig which working musicians often get at private affairs like Weddings or Corporate Events.

Castrato- 1.) A classically trained male vocalist with a soprano voice. The important part about being a castrato is the fact that they were actually castrated before the onset of puberty and therefore the lowering of the voice. This practice, no longer in use, resulted in the writing of many male soprano parts which are often extremely challenging or impossible by today’s standards. I personally have done many things to get a gig, but……

Corny- 1.) Hokey.

Cover- 1.) To imitate or interpret an existing song is to Cover that song. e.g. “I play in a Top-40 Cover band”.
Cover Charge- 1.) A small admission fee paid to gain entrance to the neighborhood bar where your friends band is playing.

Covers- 1.) Restaurant or nightclub patrons are called covers.

Date- 1.) An engagement to perform or record.

Day Job- 1.) A normal, everyday job is a Day Job. 2.) What you should not to quit without excellent prospects.

Daylighting- 1.) Working an ordinary 9 to 5 job, not in music.

Dead- 1.) An audience which is very small and/ or unresponsive or very quiet.
2.) An establishment with little or no business.

Duke, The- 1.) Band leader and pianist, Duke Ellington. The Duke is regarded as one of the greatest composers to have ever lived. His legendary big band was passed along to the capable hands of his son, Mercer Ellington.

Dumpy- 1.) Nickname of Duke Ellington.

Dupe- 1.) To duplicate an audio disc or tape.

Dynamics- 1.) Changes in tone, volume, feeling, intensity and mood during a performance. A command of dynamics gives a band that professional edge.

Fish Horn- 1.) The alto saxophone.

First Lady of Swing-1.) Ella Fitzgerald, one of the greatest Jazz vocalists and scat singers to have ever lived.

Five-O- 1.) A name given to any law enforcement figure and derived from a popular T.V. series, Hawaii Five-0.

Five String- 1.) A five string banjo like those favored by Bluegrass players. 2.) A five string bass.

Flailing- 1.) Playing the Bluegrass banjo.

Flake, Flakey- 1.) Call it unreliable, call it undependable too. To flake out is to not show up or to show up and fail miserably.

Flanging- 1.) A wooshy, swishing, jet engine type of sound produced by mixing the sound with an exact, but slightly delayed replica of itself. This effect is produced by a Flanger.

Flat- 1.) Out of tune, slightly below the desired pitch. 2.) A lackluster and dull performance.

Hertz- Hz 1.) Hertz means cycles per second. A unit for measuring pitches (Frequencies) in terms of Cycles per Second.

Hide Beater- 1.) A drummer.


Hides- 1.) Drums. See Skins, Set, Kit, and Trap kit.

Hi-Hat- 1.) A pair of small opposing cymbals operated with a foot pedal -an integral part of the modern drum set. 2.) Conceited, superior, egocentric, ethnocentric or snobbish behavior.

Higher Intervals- 1.) The tensions or extensions accepted by a basic triad or seventh chord.
Lady Day- 1.) Eleanora ‘Billie’ Holiday, one of the most influential and esteemed Jazz-Blues singer/ stylists in modern music history. Her legend was spawned as a singer with Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Known for beautiful, if not addicting phrasing and dramatic interpretations her life story was made into a 1972 film, Lady Sings the Blues. The name Lady Day was given her by her long time love interest Lester Young whom she named The President Of The Tenor Saxophone – or simply Prez.

Lady Soul- 1.) Aretha Franklin a.k.a. The Queen of Soul.

Label- 1.) A record company or record label.

Laid Back- 1.) A well mannered, even tempered individual. 2.) A loose, relaxed social or professional situation. 3.) In Rhythm & Blues, a tiny, skillful hesitation of beats 2 & 4 of a 4/4 tempo. The snare drum and sometimes the rhythm guitar lay back in the most sophisticated of R&B music.

Mr. Dobro- 1.) Famous Country & Western musician, longtime member of The Patsy Montana Band and author of widely respected method books Tom Swatzell.

Mr. Excitement- 1.) Soul singer Jackie Wilson. His biggest hit was a song entitled Higher & Higher.

Mr. Guitar- 1.) Music legend and guitarist extrodinaire Chet Atkins. Chets self imposed moniker is C.G.P. (Country Guitar Player). Chet Atkins has a reputation as one of the greatest guitarists and finest gentleman to have ever lived.

Pop Filter- 1.) A small screen constructed of fabric used to filter the audible pop or shock wave recorded upon singing words beginning with the letters ‘p’, ‘t’, & ‘b’.

Popping- 1.) Percussive technique on the electric bass guitar. 2.) Excellent playing or an exceptional performance. e.g. “When I saw Danny Gatton play he was really popping -he got a standing ovation.”

Pops- 1.) Legendary Jazz trumpet man and vocalist Louis Armstrong. Pops (a.k.a. ‘Satchmo’) is held in the highest regard by informed and experienced Jazz musicians for his genius, originality and inventive improvising.

Schtick- 1.) Warn out, predictable or cliché jokes and skits. The same corny old jokes that come from someone is his schtick.

Sco- 1.) John Scofield, Jazz guitarist extrodinaire.

Score- 1.) The conductors score for a big band or orchestra which contains all the parts for each of the individual instruments. 2.) To compose a soundtrack for a film. 3.) To acquire. e.g. ?I scored a new axe at the pawn shop.? 2.) A large payday is a score.

Swingin’- 1.) Hip, enjoyable, entirely appropriate and or memorable. Being hip, doing cool things.

Swingster- 1.) A Swing or Jazz musician

Synth- 1.) A synthesizer. 2.) Any electronic keyboard.

System- 1.) Two or more staves, each one representing the various instruments which play the parts of an orchestrated composition or arrangement. All of these parts are to be played simultaneously. See also, Score.

Voice, The- 1.) Nickname of the late Roy Orbison one of the greatest vocalists to have ever worked in the Pop/ Rock genre.

Voicing- 1.) The order and placement of the notes in a particular chord.

Wah-Wah- 1.) An electronic foot peddle which quickly changes a guitars output signal from very bassy to very trebly and then back again producing a vocal Wah-Wah sound. 2.) The sound made by a Wah-Wah peddle. 3.) American guitarist Wah-Wah Watson.

Image765856 exclusive!!!
Musicians Dictionary: Slang Jargon And Tech Talk is available only at by exclusive arrangement with the author. Funny and entertaining as well as being highly informative offers this book with pride.

Available only at, $12.95 + postage. For a safe, secure transfer CLICK HERE.


“My first experience with the guitar was taking lessons from Karl Aranjo as a high school student. His lessons were more than just a collection of tips and riffs: they were a method. As I look through, I get to take a trip back through those lessons and am reminded about I loved about them. His strong focus on the fundamentals quickly draws a connection between general music theory and the particulars of how that theory can be applied to the guitar, even allowing us as guitarists to use our instrument as an abacus-like tool to enhance our musical insight. In high school, Karl’s lessons got me up to speed to jam with my friends and in the school band almost immediately. In the almost 20 years since I left high school and had my last lesson with Karl, the things he taught me have continued to serve me well; I’ve played almost continuously in a variety of styles (jazz, rock, funk, folk), both as a hobby and as a part-time professional (currently playing with San Francisco’s Smash-Up Derby). If I hadn’t grown up in the same town as where Karl taught, I might have missed out on a lifetime of fun playing the guitar. With, wherever you are, you can benefit from the same quality instruction that I had!

-Grahm Ruby

“Mr. Karl Aranjo is one great teacher to work with. When working with him, he is very flexible, and will teach you all the basics and fundamentals you will need while learning how to play the guitar. From learning basic chords to crazy licks and solo’s. You will become an expert in no time and looking like a professional guitar player. In my experience, I learned to master chord progressions much easier and understand it in a better perspective. In my music career/hobby, it has given me nothing but success to play in a band as a front man/rhythm guitarist, compose my own type of music, and as well as songs that I really wanted to learn how to play on the guitar. Learning through Karl Aranjo was a great experience and has helped me understand the guitar a lot easier, I would not have wanted this learning experience any other way.”

-Julius Isaac

“I had the pleasure of being a guitar student of Karl’s for several years. Karl advanced my playing ability a great deal very quickly by giving me a perfect combination of guitar technique, theory and assigning songs that motivated me to continue learning. I highly recommend Karl for all level of guitar players no matter if you are a beginner or advanced.”

-Tom Hunt

”Karl Aranjo is a great and experienced teacher with an extensive knowledge of guitar playing and theory. His thorough online course, covers the whole spectrum from the first time beginner to advanced.”

Blake Aaron- Internationally Known Recording Artist

”Karl helped me dive into the blues when I was first starting out, and learning how to improvise opened up many doors for me on guitar. He has a vast knowledge ranging many musical styles, and i would recommend him to anyone trying to learn the instrument!”

Eric Cannata Young The Giant