The Classical Music Slang Dictionary

By Michael Vincent on September 26, 2022

Classical Music Slang
Classical Music Slang

Like any vocation, those working in the field of classical music love to use their fair share of rather colourful slang terms. Some are nearly universal, while others are hardly known at all.

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Axe: An endearing term for a musician’s instrument. “Bring your axe so we can play tonight.”

Barihunk: A handsome baritone with exaggerated masculine features. One who removes his shirt for the sake of opera. The closer they look like Fabio, the better. “OMG! Barihunk alert!”

Bones: Trombones. “Never look at the bones. You’ll only encourage them.”

To Clam: Miss a note. “Darn it! I keep clamming that last 32nd note.”

Classive Aggressive: Delicate/soft classical music played at a high volume, or someone who speaks indignantly about non-classical music.

Colognetanger: A man or woman who wears an obnoxious amount of perfume at a classical music concert. “There’s a Colognetanger in the parterre box. It won’t take you long to find them.”

Driftwood: A nasty term for concert patrons who walk incredibly slowly, especially around aisles and doorways, effectively blocking the flow of traffic making their way to their seats.

To Elgar: To get drunk and start playing piano at a party. “The party never really starts until someone Elgars the piano.”

Football: A whole note. “I can’t wait for my big entrance at the football on measure 133.”

Gravy Gig: A performance that requires little preparation or effort.

Hairpin: Crescendo/decrescendo mark. “Remember the hairpin on the opening of each phrase.”

Head-bobbers: Audience members who fall asleep during concerts. “Hey John, check out the head-bobber in the front row.”

Hummer: A musician lacking classical training. “I hate to say this, but she’s a bit of a hummer.”

Idiot Check: The act of going back into the venue after everything is loaded out and packed up to ensure nothing was forgotten. Should be performed by two different people.

Maestrobate: The act of conducting an imaginary orchestra, often in a grandiose and exaggerated fashion.

Monster: A really, really good musician.

Mozart Boobs: In the Opera World, the terminology refers to breasts which fit neatly into a corset, therefore looking good on the Opera Stage.

Nickelbach: The name for an amateur ensemble that only performs the most well-known, least adventurous repertoire.

Octaviate: A term used when playing a musical instrument, normally the trumpet, when a player goes into the extreme upper register.

Opera Water/Symphony Water: Water obtained from the lobby drinking fountain during intermission at an opera house or concert hall.

Orch Dork: A person who loves playing an instrument in an orchestra (usually a school or youth orchestra). They often have a very strong opinion about their conductor.

Orchestra Shock: The moment when someone hears a full orchestra for the first time, and has their mind blown.

Pianoob: Someone who had just started playing the piano. Every known pianist in the world started out as a pianoob.

Pipes: A singer’s voice. Only used when they are very good.

Practice Mark: The marks left on your fingers, lips, or neck from practicing your instrument for long hours.

Prima Donna: A musician, typically a singer, who acts entitled.

Purple Hairs: A derogatory term used to describe older folks at classical music concerts.

To Rach: To play in an intense and impressive manner.

Stringy Paddle: Ludwig Van’s favourite term for a violin.

Subway Effect: The act of ignoring a public performance unless they are on a concert stage.

Vamp: To kill time speaking to the crowd while the musicians prepare.

Vertical: A weekly gig that happens on the same day.

Violin Hickey, aka Violin Chin: A mark on violinists/violists located under the jaw. It is formed from the chinrest rubbing on the neck and looks like a little hickey.

To Woodshed: To practice.

The Zone: The place where time stands still, and the music is felt most deeply. This is the most cherished conscious state sought after by musicians and listeners alike.

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