An idiom is a common phrase or expression that has a figurative meaning different from its literal interpretation.
When tied to music, these idioms often describe different moods, situations, and experiences through musical metaphors.
As music is an important part of human culture, we have a wide range of idioms connected to it, such as “music to my ears”, which as the following graph from Google’s phrase history shows, has been around since at least the 1800s, and is as popular as ever in the 21st Century:
Idioms for Music
1. Music to one’s ears
Meaning: This phrase conveys that news or information one hears is very pleasant or exhilarating.
When to use: Use this phrase when expressing delight or joy at what you’ve heard.
In a sentence: “Hearing his application had been successful was music to his ears.”
2. Face the music
Meaning: This idiom means to confront the consequences of one’s actions, especially those that might be difficult or unpleasant.
When to use: Use this idiom to describe a situation where someone must accept responsibility for something.
In a sentence: “He knew he couldn’t avoid his mistake forever and that he would have to face the music sooner or later.”
3. Blow one’s own trumpet
Meaning: This phrase refers to praising or showing off one’s own abilities or achievements.
When to use: Use this idiom when someone is self-promoting or bragging about their accomplishments.
In a sentence: “He is always blowing his own trumpet, talking about the awards he has won.”
See Also: List of Similes for Music
4. Change one’s tune
Meaning: This idiom means to alter one’s opinion or attitude about something.
When to use: Use this phrase when someone drastically changes their viewpoint or stance.
In a sentence: “Once he realized the benefits, he quickly changed his tune about the project.”
5. Play it by ear
Meaning: This phrase suggests to improvise or to decide how to proceed based on the situation as it evolves, rather than planning in advance.
When to use: Use this idiom when discussing adaptive plans or decisions made based on changing circumstances.
In a sentence: “We don’t have a fixed itinerary for our trip; we’re going to play it by ear.”
6. Ring a bell
Meaning: This idiom means to sound familiar or to recall something back to memory.
When to use: Use this idiom when something reminds you of a past event or situation.
In a sentence: “That song rings a bell; I think we’ve heard it at the summer festival.”
See Also: List of Metaphors for Music
7. Beat to the same drum
Meaning: This idiom describes people who share the same viewpoint or march to the same rhythm in life.
When to use: Use this phrase when referring to people with similar opinions or perspectives.
In a sentence: “They’ve been best friends for years, always beating to the same drum.”
8. Drum up business
Meaning: This idiom means to attempt to generate interest or patronage for a business.
When to use: Use this phrase to describe promotional activities designed to attract customers or clients.
In a sentence: “They decided to offer a discount in order to drum up business.”
9. Strike a chord
Meaning: This phrase signifies that something resonates or connects emotionally or cognitively.
When to use: Use this idiom when something touches or affects you or someone else deeply.
In a sentence: “The speaker’s words struck a chord with the audience, eliciting tears and applause.”
10. In the limelight
Meaning: This idiom means to be in the center of public attention or fame.
When to use: Use this phrase to indicate someone who is in a prominent or glamorous position.
In a sentence: “Ever since her recent promotion, she has been in the limelight at her company.”
11. Sing one’s praises
Meaning: This idiom means to commend or speak highly of someone.
When to use: Use this phrase when extolling the virtues or accomplishments of someone.
In a sentence: “She is always singing her team’s praises, acknowledging their hard work and dedication.”
12. Change one’s tune
Meaning: This phrase refers to altering one’s attitude, opinion, or stance about something.
When to use: Use this idiom when referencing a significant shift or change in someone’s viewpoint or behavior.
In a sentence: “After seeing the results, he quickly changed his tune and supported the initiative.”
Meaning: This phrase means to make small adjustments to something to optimize its performance or effectiveness.
When to use: Use this idiom when discussing the act of making improvements or enhancements to something.
In a sentence: “She decided to fine-tune her presentation based on the feedback received.”
14. For a song
Meaning: This idiom means to purchase or sell something at a very low price.
When to use: Use this phrase when discussing a good deal or bargain.
In a sentence: “I managed to get this vintage record for a song at the thrift store.”
15. Play second fiddle
Meaning: This idiom refers to a position of lesser importance or rank.
When to use: Use this phrase when discussing a secondary or less important role.
In a sentence: “In the company’s hierarchy, the vice president plays second fiddle to the president.”
16. Music has charms to soothe the savage beast
Meaning: This idiom refers to the power of music to calm and pacify even the most untamed and wild entities.
When to use: Use this phrase when discussing music’s calming and soothing influence.
In a sentence: “After a long, stressful day, listening to classical music has charms to soothe the savage beast in me.”
17. All that jazz
Meaning: This phrase is a colloquial term referring to all the additional, peripheral, or related elements associated with a main item or topic.
When to use: Use this idiom to talk about ancillary or associated aspects of something, often in a dismissive manner.
In a sentence: “Once you get past the figures, the charts, and all that jazz, the financial report isn’t that hard to understand.”
18. Swear by the moon and the stars in the sky
Meaning: This idiom refers to making a heartfelt, solemn promise, often taken from the song lyrics of ‘I Swear’ by All-4-One.
When to use: Use this phrase when discussing deep commitments and promises.
In a sentence: “When it comes to the authenticity of these documents, I can swear by the moon and the stars in the sky.”