Dept. of Word Lists

Jazz Words

Stop noodling with your axe and gimme a vamp on your doghouse, can you dig it?

To help translate this deliciously jazzed up sentence, drummer Brian Floody, a professional musician active in New York's jazz scene, graciously gave us this list of jazz-related words and their meanings:

Axe Any musical instrument
Box Guitar
Tubs Drums
Doghouse Upright acoustic bass
Licorice Stick Clarinet
Chops A dual meaning: Technique, or for horn players, the spot where the horn meets their lips.
Woodshed Practice (see Shed)
Shed Both a verb and a noun for practice. For example: "I gotta get into the shed," or "I gotta go home and shed."
Lick Signature musical phrase of a musician, as in "that's Louis Armstrong's lick"
Head Melody of a song
Front Band leader
Tag Extra material in addition to a song's form
Dig To really like something, as in "can you dig it"
Cut A back and forth between two musicians playing the same instrument, as in "a cutting contest." Also refers to a track on a record.
Vamp Section of music that's open ended
Changes Changing the harmonic structure, how the cords move

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Comments from our users:

Tuesday August 29th 2006, 11:22 AM
Comment by: THOMAS J.
None of this matters if you don't have a GIG (a musical job -these days expanded to mean anyone's job.) Enough gigs may allow you to quit you're DAYJOB. But you can never be late for a gig or you'll miss the HIT (start time, akin to "downbeat" in classical music or "curtain" in opera and theater.) While the GROOVE and POCKET may be understood to refer to the physical feeling of the rhythm section's ensemble playing, Louis Armstrong (POPS) famously pointed out years ago that jazz itself should not (could not?) be defined, noting "If you have to ask [what jazz is], you'll never know." p.s. "Tubs" is such an arcane term that I took it as a stage name. SKINS would be more widely understood, though more square (or L - 7) from overuse, term for drums. --tubs
Friday September 1st 2006, 10:17 AM
Comment by: Carolyn M.
An additional meaning for hickory comes from my childhood when discipline was dispensed with a "hickory" meaning a long limber switch applied to the dancing legs of the disobedient child. Teachers and parents wielded these instruments. My mother kept one handy at all times for with seven of us someone was always in need of guidance.

Remember the little rhyme: "Readin' and writin' and 'rithmatic, taught to the tune of a hickry stick"
Tuesday September 5th 2006, 3:19 PM
Comment by: Lucien F.
A "riff" signifies a guitar run of note (!) and has filled my woodshed for years. I am surprised that musicians have a vocabulary less replete than say, mechanics or golfers or roofers.
The beatniks had a great vocabulary of intimate words and phrases that should also be remembered.
Monday September 18th 2006, 1:42 PM
Comment by: Kevin V.
My family has a word for that special affection a dog gives by placing it's mouth and teeth softly around one's arm. We call it "yomp."
Tuesday October 7th 2014, 10:42 AM
Comment by: ax N. (LA)

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