Popular idioms about music

An infographic showing the 10 idioms featured on this webpage with definitions and sentence examples.

These idioms about music include phrases that are common used in everyday conversational English. Learning them will also help you understand everyday English better and make your English sound more natural.

But first, do you know what an idiom is?  Idioms are fixed phrases—that means you can't change or substitute other words and the meaning is metaphorical rather than literal. As a result, you cannot usually know the meaning from looking up the individual words in a dictionary. 


More examples of idioms about music

Here are a few more examples to help make the meaning of these music idioms even clearer:

with bells on: enthusiastically

  • My daughter is going to her first school dance with bells on.
  • ''Are you going to the game tonight?" ''Yes, with bells on!"
  • I'm picking her up at her house at 8:00 tonight with bells on.


clear as a bell:  very clear, perfectly clear; straightforward.

  • Yes, the phone line is great. I can hear you clear as a bell.
  • I could hear my mother clear as a bell when she told me to come home but I pretended that there was static on the line.
  • When my boyfriend said he wanted to date other people I understood him clear as a bell and broke up with him.


strike/hit the right note:  to do or say something that is particularly suitable or appropriate for an event or occasion.

  • I think we need to hire an outside writer for this article. It's a very sensitive topic and I want to make sure we hit the right note with our readers.
  • I love Hallmark greeting cards. I never know what to say and they always strike the right note.
  • Everyone struck the right note for the group picture except Samantha. She wore jeans so we had to put her in the back row.


chime in:  to join a conversation to repeat or add information that agrees with what others have said.

Note:  A chime is a set of bells or a metal bar or tube that produces a musical sound when struck.

  • After I finished my presentation I was really grateful that my colleague chimed in with a few more examples to support my thesis.
  • I was telling everybody about my holiday in Greece and then Jennifer chimed in about what a great place it was and then, she even pulled out her phone to show photos from her holiday three years ago.
  • I can't ever finish saying anything without you chiming in.


you can't unring a bell:  when something is said you have to live with the consequences or results.

  • Are you sure it's a good idea tell your mother-in-law? Remember, you can't unring a bell.
  • Be careful what you say to your boyfriend when you're fighting—you can't unring a bell, you know.
  • I wish I hadn't offered to work on Christmas Eve and unfortunately you can't unring a bell
  • I remember exactly what you said yesterday and you can't unring a bell!


all that jazz:  other similar things; other related things; etcetera

  • I'm an outdoors type of person. I love hiking, mountain climbing, camping and all that jazz.
  • She comes from a very wealthy family—you know, fancy cars, mansions with swimming pools, private jets and all that jazz.
  • The Farmers Market on Sunday is great. You'll find fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables and all that jazz.


Drum something into someone/drum something into someone's head:  to teach someone something by repeating the information many different times, again and again (like beating drum).

  • My mother used to always drum flossing our teeth into our head when we were growing up so we had very few cavities.
  • Advertisers understand well that drumming short phrases into our heads with music makes us remember their brands for a lifetime.
  • Airplane safety messages are drummed into passengers to the point that frequent flyers could probably deliver a safety message themselves.


tickle the ivories:  to play the piano.  (The white keys on the piano are ivory-colored).

  • I learned to tickle the ivories from a very young age so I've been dreaming of getting a grand piano for most of my life.
  • I can't believe you just wasted two hours watching videos of dogs tickling the ivories on YouTube when you have homework to do!


elevator music:  soft and pleasant but often boring (conservative)  music played in public places (e.g., elevators, hotel lounges, doctor's office).

  • Ugh! I've been trying to reach British Airways to change my flight but I've been hold for 15 minutes now listening to elevator music.
  • Starbucks has ruined the coffee house culture. All their cafes are exactly the same and they play annoying elevator music.
  • I spent nearly 15 years trying to make it as a singer before I finally gave up and started working for a company that produces elevator music for corporate clients.


Did you enjoy these idioms?  If so, check out more expressions from this other music idioms list and infographic that I created.

Your turn: Use one of these idioms about music

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› Idioms about music

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