Sesh-Worthy: An Intro To Music Slang

Mountain Life Online presents a selective intro to two of our favourite non-outdoorsy things: music and slang.

words :: Drew McIvor.

Hang around some cyclists and you might overhear something like “I was drafting tight in the lead peloton until that endo.” Listen carefully at The Chief or Metcalfe Rock and you might hear climbers call out, “I didn’t girth-hitch that chock so watch it on your abseil.” If you don’t have a clue what any of them are saying, you’re not daft, you just aren’t down with parlance of the ‘core insiders. Pretty much every sport, activity, and job has its own niche lingo, and the deeper you get into it, the more terminology comes with it. And even if you were hip 15 years ago, the vocabulary changes. It probably explains why I just get blank stares from the kids in the terrain park when I ask “who’s up for a hot dogging double daffy?


Music: Its Own Language


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Music has its own terminology too. Never mind the academic stuff we learned as kids like treble clefs and dotted quarter notes, I’m talking more about the vocabulary you might hear backstage between the players in a touring indy band. In no particular order, and by no means definitive, here’s a list to get you started in understanding what they’re talking about.


The Marshall amp or “stack” in musical slang. Pao Edu via Unsplash.


Shred: rip a solo with lots of notes. Shredders are known to replace musicality with sheer speed. Shredders also often look at their girlfriend/boyfriend while shredding for support since the band is likely not as impressed.

Blow: similar to shred, but it just means step up for a solo. You don’t have to go fast to blow, but if you do then – your blow shreds. The opposite of course is that if you stink, your shred blows – and that’s bad. But not the Michael Jackson Bad – the bad bad. Still with me?


Your 7-Day Open-Stage Music Guide


Woodshed: practice at home so you’re ready for the … you guessed it –  the gig. Best to woodshed so you don’t botch at the gig.

Axe: your instrument, often a guitar, but pretty much a universal handle. If your axe is admired by other musicians, then you have a sweet axe.


Navigating the world of music slang. Spencer Imbrock via Unsplash


Sesh: a paid gig or studio effort. “I’d love to jam but I have a sesh.” Note from the example that a sesh is monetarily better than a jam.

Jam: play with others but no cash for your tunage, even if you bring a sweet axe.

BVs : background vocals, often the harmonies on top of the melody. If the BVs are in unison to the melody, then you’re ganging the vocal. BVs are also known as BGVs, harms, or my personal favourite – dooie- ooies.

Tribute: a replica performance of a famous act with a cheeky name like Shania Twin or Practically Hip. Tributes are different than cover bands, who play the songs of many a household name artist, wear their own threads and are susceptible to requests from the NFZ.

No Fly Zone (NFZ): an unwritten list of cover songs musicians will not play despite the squealing pleas of bridal shower attendees or dudes that haven’t strayed from “The Mighty Q” (Toronto Classic Rock station Q107 FM) since 1982. Not because they’re bad songs, but because they’ve been covered badly for as long as people have been able to howl “So Good, So Good, So Good” to “Sweet Caroline” or the drunken gang-chorused “La-la-la-la-las” of “Brown Eyed Girl”. The staples of the NFZ include “Wagon Wheel” (please don’t rock me… please?) and just in case you were about to ask – “Stairway to Freebird.

Outro: you guessed it, it’s like the intro but at the end. You might outro a tune with a few different drum patterns including a Bucket of Fish, a Pat-Boone-Debbie-Boone, or if you completely botch – an unmitigated train-wreck.




Diva: the member of the group that wants a private dressing room or to be in the front for a band photo. Can be used as a verb, as in “he diva’d out the whole second set.

‘Verb: short for reverb, or stage echo. One of many stomp box effects based terms like flange, trem, and fuzz.

Soft Seater: a gig in a hall, generally considered a nice room with tech and a lighting package. A few levels up from a low pay, low esteem bar gig, a.k.a. the chicken wing circuit. Soft seaters are like a pillow for musicians used to sleeping on the floor. Maybe a food rider – (maybe a dairy-less cheese plate and M&Ms but remove all the red ones), a green room (an actual dressing room, not the broom closet) and a merch table, to sell swag – CDs, vinyl and T’s.


No music slang, no life? Simon Noh via Unsplash


Jank: a staccato, or short-delay guitar chord, named for its distinct sound and often attributed to reggae, as in “Stir it up…jank… jank… roto-jank… Little darlin’….” Postscript: you can never go wrong starting a reggae song with a Pat-Boone-Debbie-Boone.

Of course the list goes on and on, it varies from one place to another (just imagine the lingo in a backwoods zydeco band!) and definitely from one generation to another. The next time you roll backstage to congratulate the band, get your lingo straight and up to date. Maybe something like “the ‘verb was sesh-worthy, is that tone stock or did you mod?” If the guitar player shows you his amp, you’ll know you got it right.