English Idiomatic Expressions For Essays On Music

ethnic music

Traditional music of a particular ethnic group or community. I love all types of music, especially the ethnic music you hear in the big city.

See also: music

be music to (one's) ears

To be exciting or pleasant to hear. School being closed for a snow day was music to my kids' ears.After such a stressful day at work, news that my friends had to cancel our dinner was music to my ears.

See also: ear, music

music to (one's) ears

Something that is pleasing to hear, such as good news. When Michelle heard that her son and daughter-in-law were going to have a baby, it was music to her ears.

See also: ear, music

chin music

slang Talk or chatter. Can you guys please be quiet? Your chin music is distracting me from my work.

See also: chin, music

elevator music

Soft, usually jazzy recorded music played in public places. The phrase is often used derisively. This elevator music is putting me to sleep, so let's go walk around the mall again.

See also: elevator, music

face the music

To experience negative repercussions for one's actions or words, especially those that one would expect to incur punishment. I told you not to try to sneak in, and now that you've been caught, you're just going to have to face the music.If we do nothing to curb this pollution, I guarantee we will face the music in the future.

See also: face, music

arrange some music for something

to prepare or adapt music for particular instruments or for a particular musical key. Paul arranged the piece for piano.This piece was arranged for the guitar by Frank's brother.

See also: arrange, music

chin music

Fig. Inf. talk; conversation. Whenever those two get together, you can be sure there'll be plenty of chin music.Bill just loves to hear himself talk. He'll make chin music for hours at a time.

See also: chin, music

face the music

Fig. to receive punishment; to accept the unpleasant results of one's actions. Mary broke a dining-room window and had to face the music when her father got home.After failing a math test, Tom had to go home and face the music.

See also: face, music

make chin music

Fig. to talk or chatter. We sat around all evening making chin music.You were making chin music when you should have been listening.

See also: chin, make, music

music to someone's ears

Fig. a welcome sound to someone; news that someone is pleased to hear. A: Here's your paycheck for this month. B: Ah, that's music to my ears!

See also: ear, music

set something to music

to write a piece of music to accompany a set of words. The musician set my lyrics to music. The rock band set the poem to music.

See also: music, set

stop the music

 and stop the presses

Inf. Stop everything!; Hold it! (Presses refers to the printing presses used to print newspapers. This means that there is recent news of such magnitude that the presses must be stopped so a new edition can be printed immediately.) John (entering the room): Stop the music! There's a fire in the kitchen! Mary: Good grief! Let's get out of here! "Stop the presses!" shouted Jane. "I have an announcement."

See also: music, stop

canned laughter

Also, canned music. Prerecorded sound effects that can be played repeatedly, as in That canned laughter doesn't make his jokes any funnier, or Canned music is greatly reducing the number of musical jobs available. O. Henry had the term in his story, Cabbages and Kings (1903): "We'll export canned music to the Latins." Canned laughter today is often used in broadcasting to simulate the reaction of a nonexistent live audience. [c. 1900]

See also: canned, laughter

face the music

Confront unpleasantness, especially the consequences of one's errors. For example, When the check bounced, he had to face the music. The precise allusion in this expression has been lost. Most authorities believe it refers to a theater's pit orchestra, which an actor must face when he faces what can be a hostile audience, but some hold it comes from the military, where a formal dismissal in disgrace would be accompanied by band music. [Second half of 1800s] Also see face up to.

See also: face, music

music to one's ears

Very pleasing information, excellent news, as in So they're getting married? That's music to my ears.

See also: ear, music

face the music

COMMON If you face the music, you accept responsibility for something that you have done wrong and you prepare yourself to be criticized or punished for it. We were foreigners in a forbidden area, the authorities had found out and we were about to face the music.Sooner or later, she'll have to face the music and it won't be pleasant. Note: The `music' in this expression may refer to the orchestra at an opera or musical. The orchestra sits in front of the stage, so when a performer faces the audience, they also face the orchestra, or `music'. Alternatively, the expression may come from an army practice in which a soldier who had been dismissed for dishonourable behaviour was sent away with drums beating.

See also: face, music

music to your ears

COMMON If something that someone says is music to your ears, you are very happy to hear it. That must have been music to your ears, Carlo, to hear how much they respect you.`There'll be another big bonus in it for you.' — `Music to my ears.'

See also: ear, music

face the music

be confronted with the unpleasant consequences of your actions.

See also: face, music

music to your ears

something that is very pleasant or gratifying to hear or discover.

See also: ear, music

face the ˈmusic

(informal) accept the difficulties, criticism and unpleasant results that your words or actions may cause: He’s been cheating us out of our money for years and now it’s time for him to face the music.

See also: face, music

be (like) ˌmusic to your ˈears

(of information, etc.) be something that is pleasant to hear: The news that she’d finally left was like music to my ears. ♢ The bell at the end of the lesson is always music to my ears.

See also: ear, music

elevator music

n. dull, uninteresting music of the type that can be heard in elevators or shops. (see also ear candy.) Elevator music is better than listening to someone chewing food.

See also: elevator, music

face the music

tv. to receive the rebuke that is due one. (see also chinmusic.) You have to face the music eventually.

See also: face, music

Stop the music!

exclam. Stop!; Stop whatever is happening! (From an old radio game show called Stop the Music!) “Stop the music!” hollered the conductor, making a little joke.

See also: stop

face the music

To accept the unpleasant consequences, especially of one's own actions.

See also: face, music

Stop the music! Hold everything!

Stop The Music was a popular radio quiz show that began in 1947 and moved to television a year later. Studio contestants and home listeners or viewers (by telephone) heard a song played, then try to be the first one to guess its title. As soon as contestants indicated that they knew the answer, emcee Burt Parks shouted the show's title. Thanks to the program, anyone who wanted to break into a conversation to make a point or to get someone's attention yelled “stop the music!”

See also: hold, stop

Music Idioms in English. Some people say that music makes the world go round, they say that music is to the soul what words are to the mind…..

Well, music and words go hand in hand when it comes to certain aspects of English! There are so many idioms based on music or instruments that are used in everyday speech!

Here are some examples, these might help you to hit the right note when talking in English!

The “Music Idioms” image was created by Kaplan International. Click here to see the original article or to discover how you can study English abroad.


If you hit the right note, you speak or act in a way that has a positive effect on people.

  • I don’t know how he managed to do it, but he just struck the right note and the meeting ended really positively, even the boss looked pleased!


When someone boasts about their own talents, abilities and achievements.

  • Well, you’re very good at blowing your own trumpet, you just never seem to prove it!


This is used to suggest that when things go wrong, both sides are involved and neither party is completely innocent.

  • I know you saw what he did, but it takes two to tango, they are both equally to blame.


This is used to describe someone who is in perfect health.

  • It’s unbelievable. He must be at least 80 but he’s as fit as a fiddle!


This means to arrive somewhere happy and delighted to attend.

  • Yes, I’m going to the party too, I’ll be there with bells on!


Used to describe someone who keeps talking about the same story over and over again.

  • Would you please stop going on about her boyfriend, you sound like a broken record!


This means that everything related to or similar is included.

  • Celebrities definitely seem to be starting all the latest trends with fashion, hair and all that jazz.


When you hear exactly what you wanted to hear.

  • When they read out the results and everyone heard that I got top marks, it was like music to my ears!!


This means that once something has been done, it cannot be changed and you have to live with the consequences.

  • I’m afraid youcan’t unring the bell now, everyone heard what you said.


When someone does things the way they want to, without taking anybody else or anything else into consideration.

  • I’ve tried talking to him but he won’t listen. All he knows is how to march to the beat of his own drum! Why don’t you try?


This expression is used to describe a final act before dying or ending something

  • I am going to resign tomorrow. This project was my swan song and now that it has been completed, I will leave.


If something rings a bell, it sounds familiar, but you can’t remember the exact details.

  • Harry Bertram? That name rings a bell, but I’m not sure if it was definitely him.


Used to describe something that is familiar to you, reminds you of something or is connected to you somehow.

  • That poem really struck a chord in me, it reminded me of my youth so much.


When someone changes their opinion or their idea of something particular.

  • You’ve definitely changed your tune since the last time I saw you! You used to hate this town!


You say this when someone has to accept the negative consequences of something that has happened.

  • I’m not ready to face the music. I need to figure it out for myself before I speak to them.


If you buy or sell something for a song, it means it is very cheap.

  • I can’t believe I managed to buy all of this for a song, maybe the shopkeeper didn’t know what they’re really worth!


This means to deal with something in an impromptu manner, without guidelines or rules. It refers to playing music without using written connotation.

  • I don’t know what I’m going to say when she gets here, I’ll just play it by ear.


A goodnight phrase used for children.

  • Okay, get some sleep now. See you on the big drum.


Used to describe something that is extremely clean.

  • He may come across as someone who could’ve been involved in that robbery, but I have checked his records and they’re as clean as a whistle.


If you report an illegal or harmful activity to the authorities and give information about those responsible, then you are blowing the whistle and would be referred to as a whistle blower.

  • John refused to make a statement for the police. He was afraid of losing his job if he blew the whistle on his boss.


This is used to describe the person who makes the important decisions about something.

  • I’m afraid I can’t help you sir. Barbara calls the tune around here, so you’d have to speak to her.


This is used to describe the person who takes a subordinate role behind someone more important.

  • You’re much more experienced than he is, I don’t understand why you continue to play second fiddle. You deserve a higher position in the company!


If someone says this to you, it means they are determined to ensure that you don’t get what you are after.

  • You can whistle for it as much as you like, this is an heirloom of our family and will stay with us!


If something is as clear as a bell, it is very clear or easy to understand.

  • His instructions were as clear as a bell, everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to do.


This is used when people are procrastinating or wasting their time on unimportant matters while there are more serious problems to be dealt with.

  • The management committee seems to be fiddling while Rome burns, they haven’t shown any signs of taking immediate action.


Used when someone is trying to improve something or add more style to it.

  • This dress looks so dull on its own, maybe I should jazz it up a bit with this scarf.


Used when someone interrupts or joins in a conversation, especially to repeat or agree with something.

  • I was telling the police officer what had happened, but everyone chimed in and started giving their versions of the story, and he couldn’t hear what I was saying!


When you teach someone how to do something through constant repetition.

  • Our teacher drummed into our heads how important it is to understand the history of our own country.


This is a humorous way of talking about playing the piano.

  • My mother used to love playing the piano. She’d tickle the ivory whenever she had a chance.


Playing music with various instruments in an improvised and informal setting.

  • A few of my friends came over to my house yesterday, and we had the most amazing jam session.
  • We were jamming last night, and I came up with a brilliant idea for a new song!


Used to describe small adjustments made to improve something or to make it work better.

  • My motorbike is almost ready. My dad is quite happy with it, but I think it needs a little more fine tuning.


When someone visits a number of places quickly, only stopping at each for a short period of time.

  • We’re going to visit my family up North for the weekend, but it’s only going to be a whistle-stop tour, as we have so many relatives to visit there!


When someone believes in a positive result, even though everybody else is sure it will not happen.

  • He seems pretty determined that he’s going to win the race, but judging from who he is up against, I think he’s only whistling in the dark.


If someone is whistling Dixie, they talk about things in a more positive way than the reality. Mainly used in the US.

  • He heard what the doctor had to say, but he still seems to be whistling Dixie.


When someone makes a big deal out of, or a fuss over, something that isn’t that important.

  • I wish she’d stop making such a song and dance about me moving out, it’s not a big deal.


Pleasant but boring pre-recorded music that is usually played in public places.

  • I usually like his songs, but his new album just sounds like elevator music!


Try to get extra support/business/interest by various means.

  • I’ve been trying to drum up support for the local Women’s Rights campaign by speaking to people in the neighborhood.
  • We need to try and drum up some interest from the local residents, otherwise we’ll never be able to go ahead with our building plans!


To drink something alcoholic

  • Why don’t you join us tonight and wet your whistle? It’s been a long time since we went out together!


To deliberately broadcast some news so everyone can hear, with the intent to boast about something.

  • He hasn’t stopped trumpeting his promotion ever since he got it last month! It’s very annoying.


When everyone follows the same plan, or says the same thing (can be used in the negative form too)

  • I would say the reason why our business is failing is because everyone is not marching to the same tune!
  • He is always singing from the same songsheet as others. I’ve never heard him come up with his own original idea!

More for you:
1000+ Most Popular English Idioms and Their Meanings
50 Popular English Idioms to Sound Like a Native Speaker


Music is constantly evolving, and so is the English language! So it comes as no surprise that they affect each other so much.

English idioms are used in music to express feelings and describe situations, the same way music is used in English!

Here is a list of popular songs that include idioms:

‘Mountain Sound’ by Monsters of Men
Hold your horses now’ meaning wait or hold on. Typically used when someone is rushing into something.

‘Reach for the Stars’ by S Club 7
Reach for the stars’ meaning aspire to something and set your goals high.

‘Always on Time’ by Ja Rule and Ashanti
Always on time’ meaning never late.

‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ by The Pretenders
Don’t get me wrong’ meaning don’t misunderstand me.

‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Keane
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand’ meaning to know something really well.

‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye
I heard it through the grapevine’ meaning to hear information from someone who heard it from someone else, i.e. not directly from the source.

‘Chasing Pavements’ by Adele
‘Even if I knew my place’ (know your place) meaning to be aware of your position in society, family or a relationship and comfortable with it.

‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ by Guns ‘N’ Roses
Knocking on heaven’s door’ meaning to be waiting to die or being very close to death.

‘Down and Out’ by Genesis
I don’t want to beat around the bush’ meaning let’s just get straight to the point or there’s no need to procrastinate.

-Beat It’ by Michael Jackson
‘Just beat it’ meaning leave immediately (usually used as an order).

– ‘Cat Got Your Tongue’ by Fujiya and Miyagi
‘Has the cat got your tongue?’ meaning to be speechless or unable to speak. (In other words: ‘Why won’t you say anything?’)

‘Cry Me a River’ by Justin Timberlake
Cry me a river’ meaning to cry excessively in someone’s presence in order to obtain sympathy.

‘By Myself’ by Linkin Park
‘Do I try to catch them red-handed?’ meaning to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong.

‘White Flag’ by Dido
‘There will be no white flag above my door’ (raise a white flag) meaning to show sign of surrender or truce.

‘Time after Time’ by Cyndi Lauper
Time after time’ meaning again and again, repeatedly.

‘Louise’ by The Human League
‘It’s not true that time heals all wounds’ meaning feelings of emotional hurt will leave as time passes.

‘Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)’ by Janet Jackson
Ain’t it funny how time flies’ meaning how quickly time passes by.

‘Because of You’ by Kelly Clarkson
I learnt to play on the safe side’ meaning to be extremely cautious in order to stay safe.

‘Hit The Road Jack’ by Ray Charles
Hit the road Jack’ meaning to leave immediately without the intention of returning (usually used as an order).

‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ by Dr. John
‘In the right place at the wrong time’ – this is a combination of two idioms, which are ‘in the right place at the right time’ (when something good happens by luck) and ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ (when something bad happens by chance/unlucky).

‘Wrong’ by Depeche Mode
‘I was in the wrong place at the wrong time’ – meaning when something bad happens by chance or something unlucky that would not have normally happened.

‘Lost out over You’ by Novastar
‘We have other fish to fry’ – meaning we have other/more important things to do.

‘Linger’ by The Cranberries
‘You’ve got me wrapped around your little finger’ meaning to manipulate and control someone.

‘Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It’ by Brenda Taylor
You can’t have your cake and eat it too’ meaning you can’t have or do two good things at the same time that are impossible or unfair to have or do at the same time.

‘If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time’ by R Kelly
If I could turn back the hands of time’ meaning to go back in the past. Usually used in moments of reminiscence or regret.

‘I Had the Time of My Life’ by Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing)
I had the time of my life’ meaning to enjoy yourself thoroughly, have the best time ever.

‘When it’s Raining Cats and Dogs’ by PM Dawn
‘When it’s raining cats and dogs’ when there is torrential rain or raining very heavily.

‘It’s Raining Men’ by The Weather Girls (originally) also by Gerri Halliwell
It’s raining men’ – used in a situation when there are many attractive men around.

‘Leave No Stone Unturned’ by Europe
Leave no stone unturned’ meaning to search in every possible way for evidence or the truth.

‘Taking Care of Business’ by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Taking care of business’ meaning to do what needs to be done.

‘Water Under the Bridge’ by Olivia Newton-John
It’s all water under the bridge’ meaning it’s all in the past, long gone and forgotten about.

‘Take it Easy’ by The Eagles
Take it easy’ meaning relax and stay calm.

‘I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair’ by South Pacific
I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair’ meaning to finish with someone and want nothing else to do with them.

‘Alienated’ by Keri Hilson
‘You’ve become a shooting star’ referring to someone who is rapidly rising to fame.

‘Alejandro’ by Lady Gaga
Nothing to lose’ meaning to take a risk because things could not possibly get any worse.

‘Fancy Pants’ by Lady Gaga
Fancy pants’ referring to someone who acts in a manner which others think is overly elaborate or pretentious.

‘Poker Face’ by Lady Gaga
Poker face’ meaning when someone’s face has no expression and does not give away any sign of emotion. Most commonly used in the context of playing a poker game in order to disguise the true value of your cards.

‘Monster’ by Lady Gaga
‘He’s a wolf in disguise’ referring to someone who is an evil or dangerous person who pretends to be nice and friendly. It comes from an old fable ‘about a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing’, and the children’s story ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.

‘Red and Blue’ by Lady Gaga
I’m old school’ meaning traditional thinking or behaviour. This can be used in a positive (efficient ideas that work) or a negative way (backwards, living in the past).

‘Star Struck’ by Lady Gaga
Starstruck’ meaning to be completely in awe of someone’s celebrity status.

‘Wonderful’ by Lady Gaga
‘I’m talking in circles’ meaning to talk a lot and not really say anything of meaning.

‘Jammin’ by Bob Marley
‘We’re jammin’ or jam session’ refers to an informal session where musicians play together.

‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler
‘Every now and then I fall apart’ meaning when something (can be used for objects when they stop working) or someone fails to function properly (mainly emotionally for people).

‘Drive My Car’ by The Beatles
Working for peanuts’ meaning working for a very small amount of money, not earning very much.

‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles
‘There’s a shadow hanging over me’ meaning mistakes that were made in the past are / guilt is still following you and lingering close by.

‘Ticket to Ride’ by The Beatles
Driving me mad’ meaning being forced into insanity, not necessarily in the literal sense, but more in love or anger.

‘The Fool on the Hill’ by The Beatles
His head’s in a cloud’ meaning not living in reality, (mentally) living in a dream land in one’s own imagination.

‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ by The Beatles
Dying to take you away’ meaning to be in desperate eagerness to do something.

‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ by The Beatles
Lend me your ears’ meaning to ask someone to listen to you.

‘Nowhere Man’ by The Beatles
Lends you a hand’ meaning to offer help or assistance with something.

‘Genius in France’ by Weird Al Malkovic
Not the brightest crayon in the box’
‘Not the sharpest chunk of cheese’

This song uses many different phrases that refer to being very simple-minded, not clever.

‘You are the Sunshine of my Life’ by Stevie Wonder
You are the sunshine of my life / You are the apple of my eye both refer to someone or something that makes you very happy.

‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ by The Police
‘You live your life like acanary in a coalmine’ meaning something whose sensitivity to adverse conditions makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of a greater danger or trouble by a deterioration of its health. This could be used to describe someone who is very paranoid and lives in constant fear of danger or death.

‘Wild Horses’ by The Rolling Stones
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away’ meaning nothing could persuade me to do or not do something, impossible to change your mind.

‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra
I bit off more than I could chew’ meaning to try to do more than you can comfortably handle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *