Musical Terms Misunderstood by Country-Western Musicians

Here is something that I’ve wanted to post for some time.  This list was a gift of a colleague many years ago, originally printed in the Flatpicking and Madolin Catalog (not sure which company).

  1. Diminished Fifth — An empty bottle of Jack Daniels
  2. Perfect Fifth — A full bottle of Jack Daniels
  3. Ritard — There’s one in every family
  4. Relative Major — an uncle in the Marine Corps
  5. Relative Minor — A girlfriend
  6. Big Band — When the par pays enough to bring two banjo players
  7. Pianissimo — “Refill this beer bottle”
  8. Repeat — What you do until they just expel you
  9. Treble — Woman ain’t nothin’ but…
  10. Bass — The things you run around in softball
  11. Portamento — A foreign country you’ve always wanted to see
  12. Conductor — The man who punches your ticket to Birmingham
  13. Arpeggio — “Ain’t he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?”
  14. Tempo — Good choice for a used car!
  15. A 440 — The highway that runs around Nashville
  16. Transpositions — Men who wear dresses
  17. Cut Time — Parole!
  18. Order of Sharps — What a wimp gets at the bar
  19. Passing Tone — Frequently heard near the baked beans at family barbecues
  20. Middle C — The only fruit drink you can afford when food stamps are low
  21. Perfect Pitch — The smooth coating on a freshly paved road
  22. Tuba — A compound word:  “Hey, woman! Fetch me another tuba Bryll Cream!”
  23. Cadenza — The ugly thing your wife always vacuums dog hair off of when company comes
  24. Whole Note — What’s due after failing to pay the mortgage for a year
  25. Clef — What you try never to fall off of
  26. Bass Clef — Where you wind up if you do fall off
  27. Altos — Not to be confused with “Tomes toes,” “Bubba’s toes” or “Dori’s toes”
  28. Minor Third — Your approximate age and grade at the completion of formal schooling
  29. Melodic Minor — Loretta Lynn’s singing dad
  30. 12-Tone Scale — The thing the State Police weigh your tractor trailer truck with
  31. Quarter Tone — What most standard pickups can haul
  32. Sonata — What you get from a bad cold or hay fever
  33. Clarinet — Name used on your second daughter if you’ve already used Betty Jo
  34. Cello — The proper way to answer the phone
  35. Bassoon — Typical response when asked what you hope to catch and when
  36. French Horn — Your wife says you smell like a cheap one when you come in at 4 a.m.
  37. Cymbal — They use at deer-crossing signs so you know what yo sight-in your pistol with
  38. Bossa Nova — The car your foreman drives
  39. Time Signature — What you need from your boss if you forget to clock in
  40. First Inversion — Granpa’s battle group in Normandy
  41. Staccato – How you did all the ceilings in your mobile home
  42. Major Scale – What you say after chasing wild game up a mountain “Darn! That was a major scale!”
  43. Aeolian Mode — How you like Mama’s apple pie
  44. Bach Chorale — The place behind the barn where you keep the horses


  1. #1 by Rob Reid on June 19, 2012 - 1:14 PM

    I got a kick out of this 🙂 Hope you don’t mind I shared it over on my blog as well – Rob the Classical Guitarist from Newfoundland!

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