Common Terms Used in Jazz Music

Jazz is full of unique lingo and a lot of times those new to Jazz my be wondering what in the world do all these words mean. To help out I have listed some common terms you will run across in your Jazz adventures in addition to some great resources.

Sample of Common Jazz Terms

In The Pocket
This is often said when the band is locked in and playing really tight together.

Train Wreck
Describes when someone in the group gets lost and playing out of time or the wrong part.

What Jazz musicians often refer to each other as.


Also called Blowing, refers to when the musician takes a solo, named appropriately as it is often the sax or trumpet player soloing and they need to ‘blow’

18 Karat

All the way, full out.

Balloon Lungs

Term used to describe a brass player who has plenty of wind.

Types of Jazz Terms


Jazz (usually atonal) not based on preconceived chord changes

Hard Bop

Period of Jazz where the music took influence from blues and gospel.

Additional Resources

Columbia University Jazz Glossary: One of the best resources I have found for a variety of different Jazz terms.

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