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Jazz Lingo #1

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Jazz Chops

All musical genres and styles have their own language, the kind of words that you need to know if you’re to be taken seriously by fellow lovers of a particular style. But jazz seems to have a wider variety of words, its own special language that are unique to the genre. Many derive from the era when jazz was cool, not that we think it still isn’t, it was just uber-cool back in the day. Our friends at Serious, the organisers of the EFG London Jazz Festival, have created a unique series of videos that help to de-mystify jazz lingo and this is the first one.



  1. Mal Barron

    March 29, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Term refers to embouchure-mouth muscles used by wind players. This video displays the bastardization of the slang term by non-wind players. If a guy has chops…….its mouth muscles, mouth muscle control is an essential component of high level skill set. You have chops if you can hit a double high C as a trumpet player. You have chops if you can do a 2 octave jump into the altisimo range on the sax with maintenance of correct intonation. A blues guitarist bending a string is a skill set…..it doesn’t involve mouth muscles. There is no evaluative intent in the identification of different skill sets…..to a horn player it seems goofy to hear non-wind players use our lingo, For example….imagine a violinist using pizzicato……A wind player would sound ridiculous if they said….I played it pizzicato.

    • uDiscover

      March 29, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Mal, thanks for that, it’s great to have such input…

      • Dave

        March 29, 2015 at 11:41 pm

        But you DO have to consider that “chops” is not the technical name for mouth muscles, like pizzicato IS for strings

  2. Chris Hughes

    March 29, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    The element of stamina is an important part of having chops…

    • uDiscover

      March 29, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      We hear you, Chris!

  3. mlla

    March 29, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Love it ! Thanks for this. Please keep it coming. And Mal, please continue giving precision as I very much appreciate it. 🙂
    Peace, mlla

  4. dave zoller

    March 30, 2015 at 2:18 am

    ‘Chops’ has become a generic, all-purpose term for the ability to do something really well. Applied to me, for example, would be ‘my arranging chops’ or ‘my keyboard chops’.

  5. Rudy Trujillo

    March 30, 2015 at 5:04 am

    I believe Louis Armstrong invented the word according to Ken Burns documentary.

    • uDiscover

      March 30, 2015 at 7:59 am

      Rudy, that’s interesting, we’re off to investigate!

  6. Marvin "Doc" Holladay

    March 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Dave Zoller has the definition correct. I play very little these days but when I have an occasion to do so I will begin practicing to get my “Chops” up to a performance level.


    March 30, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    having had “chops” as a clarinetist during my creative time, i have seen the term embraced as slang to refer to “someone who is so good in their field, it’s only natural”… in so saying, that someone noticed and is impressed and is acknowledging an innate talent or ability.

    therefore, i’m not offended when someone tells me “lady, you really have chops for hacking into that computer!” or “girlfriend, you’ve got the chops for hairstyling!” or, “baby, you’ve got the chops in the kitchen… that meal was restaurant quality!”

    if you got the chops for something, it means you rock it, you own it, you live it, love it, do it… and it ain’t no thang to be spot tested

  8. Betty Grimm

    April 12, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    So enjoy ur comments and information.

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