Music idioms in English

Music is an important part of culture and traditions, and there are many English idioms that relate to musical instruments, types of music, or musical performance. Here are some common music idioms.

Musical instruments

bang the drum = speak in support of something: “We’re banging the drum for women’s rights.”

drum something in = keep repeating something: “She drummed in the importance of good manners to her children.”

drum up support / business = try and get support / extra business: “They went on TV to drum up support for their new idea.”

play second fiddle = be lower down in rank than someone else: “He plays second fiddle to the CEO.”

fit as a fiddle = to be fit and healthy: “She plays tennis twice a week – she’s as fit as a fiddle.”

trumpet something = to broadcast the news loudly: “He keeps trumpeting his promotion. It’s a bit annoying.

wet your whistle = to drink something (alcoholic): “Come and wet your whistle!”

Types of music

jazz something up = to make something more interesting: “We’re jazzing up our new home page. What do you think?”

march to the same tune = all follow the same plan / say the same thing: “I think the problem with this company is that the management don’t march to the same tune.”

Musical performance

know the score = understand the rules / situation: “You don’t need to tell me how to behave at the meeting. I know the score!”

be pitch-perfect (be note-perfect) = to be able to perform / say something perfectly: “She was pitch-perfect in her presentation.”

make a song and dance out of something = make a fuss out of something: “She made a song and dance out of organising the flowers. Just as well we didn’t give her anything more complicated to do!”

be music to someone’s ears = say something that others want to hear: “Giving us all a day off was music to our ears!”

play something by ear = not plan something: “I don’t know what I’m going to say – I’ll just play it by ear.”

sing from the same songsheet = say the same thing as others (an alternative to “march to the same tune”)

give a virtuoso performance = do something perfectly: “He gave a virtuoso performance in his speech. All the audience were moved.”