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!music idioms
1. HIT THE RIGHT NOTE / STRIKE THE RIGHT NOTE
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!
2. BLOW YOUR OWN TRUMPET / BLOW YOUR OWN HORN / TOOT YOUR OWN HORN
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!
3. IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
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.
4. FIT AS A FIDDLE
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!
5. WITH BELLS ON
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!
6. LIKE A BROKEN RECORD
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!
7. AND ALL THAT JAZZ
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.
8. MUSIC TO MY EARS
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!!
9. YOU CAN’T UNRING A BELL
This means that once something has been done, it cannot be changed and you have to live with the consequences.
I’m afraid you can’t unring the bell now, everyone heard what you said.
10. MARCH TO THE BEAT OF YOUR OWN DRUM
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?
11. SWAN SONG
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.
12. RING A BELL
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.
13. STRIKE A CHORD
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.
14. CHANGE YOUR TUNE / SING A DIFFERENT TUNE
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!
15. FACE THE MUSIC
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.
16. FOR A SONG
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!
17. PLAY BY EAR
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.
18. SEE YOU ON THE BIG DRUM
A goodnight phrase used for children.
Okay, get some sleep now. See you on the big drum.
19. AS CLEAN AS A WHISTLE
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.
20. BLOW THE WHISTLE / WHISTLE BLOWER
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.
21. CALL THE TUNE
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.
22. PLAY SECOND FIDDLE
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!
23. WHISTLE FOR IT
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!
24. CLEAR AS A BELL
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.
25. FIDDLE WHILE ROME BURNS
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.
26. JAZZ SOMETHING UP
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.
27. CHIME IN
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!
28. DRUM INTO ONE’S HEAD
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.
29. TICKLE THE IVORY
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.
30. JAM SESSION / JAMMING
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!
31. FINE TUNING
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.
32. WHISTLE-STOP TOUR
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!
33. WHISTLING IN THE DARK
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.
34. WHISTLING DIXIE
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.
35. MAKE A SONG AND DANCE ABOUT SOMETHING
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.
36. ELEVATOR MUSIC
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!
37. DRUM UP SUPPORT / BUSINESS / INTEREST
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!
38. WET YOUR WHISTLE
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!
39. TRUMPET SOMETHING
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.
40. MARCH TO THE SAME TUNE / SING FROM THE SAME SONGSHEET
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!
SONGS WITH IDIOMS
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.
Hold your horses now意为耐心等待。用于告诫某人不要急于做某事。
‘Reach for the Stars’ by S Club 7
‘Reach for the stars’ meaning aspire to something and set your goals high.
Reach for the stars意为某人雄心勃勃志向高远。
‘Always on Time’ by Ja Rule and Ashanti
‘Always on time’ meaning never late.
Always on time意为从不迟到。
‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ by The Pretenders
‘Don’t get me wrong’ meaning don’t misunderstand me.
Don’t get me wrong意为不要误解我。
‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Keane
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand’ meaning to know something really well.
我熟悉这条小路，就像熟悉我的手掌。like the back of my hand意为对某事非常了解。
‘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.
I heard it through the grapevine意为某人从他人那里听到的消息，也就是说，并非直接从消息源那里听到的。
‘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.
know my place意为你清楚并享受自己在社会、家庭或人际关系中的地位。
‘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.
Knocking on heaven’s door意为等待死亡或濒临死亡。
‘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.
我不想“绕着灌木丛转”，beat around the bush意为让我们直入主题，别兜圈子。
-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?’)
The cat got your tongue意为一言不发或不讲话。（换言之，“你为何一言不发？”）
‘Cry Me a River’ by Justin Timberlake
‘Cry me a river’ meaning to cry excessively in someone’s presence in order to obtain sympathy.
Cry me a river意为为博他人同情而过度悲恸。
‘By Myself’ by Linkin Park
‘Do I try to catch them red-handed?’ meaning to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong.
''还是想要把他们抓个正着？''catch them red-handed意为某人做坏事时被抓个正着。
‘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.
Time after time意为一次次地。
‘Louise’ by The Human League
‘It’s not true that time heals all wounds’ meaning feelings of emotional hurt will leave as time passes.
''时间并非真能治愈一切伤痛''，time heals all wounds意为时间能够治愈一切。
‘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.
“我学会安全地游戏人生”，play on the safe side意为十分谨慎以保安全。
‘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).
Hit the road意为立即出发且不再返回（多为命令）。
‘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).
In the right place at the wrong time由in the right place at the right time（有好事发生）和in the wrong place at the wrong time（不幸发生坏事）两个惯用语组成。
‘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.
In the wrong place at the wrong time意为碰巧发生了坏事或是发生了罕见的不幸。
‘Lost out over You’ by Novastar
‘We have other fish to fry’ – meaning we have other/more important things to do.
“我们还有别的鱼要炸”，other fish to fry意为我们还有别的/更重要的事要做。
‘Linger’ by The Cranberries
‘You’ve got me wrapped around your little finger’ meaning to manipulate and control someone.
“你把我缠在你的小指头上”，wrapped around your little finger意为操纵、控制某人。
‘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.
“你不能既吃蛋糕又保留蛋糕”， You can’t have your cake and eat it too意为你不能同时拥有或做两件事。
‘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.
“若能重返过去”， If I could turn back the hands of time意为回到过去，常用于追忆往事或遗憾。
‘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.
“我一生最快乐的时光”， I had the time of my life意为好好享受，度过一段好时光。
‘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.
“大雨滂沱时”，raining cats and dogs 意为暴雨如注。
‘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.
It’s raining men用于形容附近有很多英俊男子。
‘Leave No Stone Unturned’ by Europe
‘Leave no stone unturned’ meaning to search in every possible way for evidence or the truth.
Leave no stone unturned意为不遗余力地寻找证据或真相。
‘Taking Care of Business’ by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
‘Taking care of business’ meaning to do what needs to be done.
Taking care of business意为完成应该做的事。
‘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.
It’s all water under the bridge意为过去的事，很早之前的事，早就遗忘的事。
‘Take it Easy’ by The Eagles
‘Take it easy’ meaning relax and stay calm.
Take it easy意为放松下来，保持镇定。
‘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.
I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair意为和某人断个干净，不再有关联。
‘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.
“再无可失”，Nothing to lose意为冒险一试，因为事情不会变得更糟了。
‘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’.
“他是一匹善于伪装的狼”，a wolf in disguise用来描述邪恶之人将自己伪装成善良友好之人。这一习语出自一则古老寓言《披着羊皮的狼》以及儿童读物《小红帽》.
‘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).
“我是守旧派”，I’m old school意为思想传统、行事保守。可用于褒义（想法行之有效），也可用于贬义（退步、守旧）。
‘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.
“我只是在兜圈子”talking in circles意为说了很多没价值的话。
‘Jammin’ by Bob Marley
‘We’re jammin’ or ‘jam session’ refers to an informal session where musicians play together.
“我们在即兴演奏” jamming or jam session
‘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).