IELTS Music Vocabulary
In the IELTS Speaking exam you may be asked questions about the music you listen to or instruments you play. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.
Part 1-style questions
Examiner: What kind of music do you listen to?
Katherine: I’m a big fan of classical music … it doesn’t make me very popular with my children … their taste in music is completely different … they always want to listen to their favourite rock bands …
Examiner: Do you play any instruments?
Jamie: No I don’t … I’ve always wished I’d taken up a musical instrument … I’d love to be able to play the guitar … but I think I’m a bit tone deaf so perhaps I’d find it hard …
Examiner: Have you got any hobbies or interests?
Marco: I’m really into live music … I go to a lot of music festivals … I think a live performance always sounds more exciting than a recorded version … as long as the performers can sing and play well of course …
Part 2-style task
Describe a song you like to listen to. You should say
- what the piece of music is called
- how long you have liked it
- when you like to listen to it
and say why you like it so much.
Millie: Well … I’m a little older than most students and when I was young Abba the Swedish pop group were very famous … I don’t think it was cool to like them even though they had a huge following but I think now people have realised what wonderful songs they wrote … one piece of music in particular is called ‘Slipping through my fingers’ … it wasn’t a massive hit but I love it … it’s a song for parents and it’s all about how quickly our children grow up … it’s a slow number and like a lot of their songs it’s a very catchy tune … the two women in Abba had great voices and it’s the kind of music you can also sing along to easily … even if you don’t have a great voice … I listen to Abba when I feel like a sing-song … and I especially like to listen when I’m doing the housework … it stops me thinking about the hard work …
Part 3-style questions
Examiner: Is the Internet a good or bad thing for the music industry?
Thomas: On the one hand it’s good for marketing new musical talent or particular bands but it’s so easy to share and download tracks for free I think it is costing the industry a lot of money …
Examiner: Should music be treated as seriously as subjects like maths or sciences at school?
Carla: I think it should … I don’t think it should be taught in a boring way … I mean making children read music … but I do think they should be encouraged to play instruments and to play things by ear perhaps … to keep the lessons fun …
Examiner: Where do people usually enjoy listening to music?
Sally: In lots of ways or places … as background music when they are doing something else … at concerts when a band goes on tour … or in clubs or discos …
- adoring fans: people who love a particular band or singer
- background music: music that is played while something else is happening
- a catchy tune: a song that is easy to remember and makes you want to sing it
- classical music: music that is regarded as part of a long, formal tradition
- to download tracks: to obtain music from the Internet
- to have a great voice: to sing well
- to go on tour: to go on a planned series of performances around a region or country
- a huge following: a large number of fans
- live music: music that is listened to while it is performed (not recorded)
- live performance: (see live music)
- a massive hit: a record that sells lots of copies
- a music festival: music performances at a venue often over several days
- musical talent: skilled at music
- to be/sing out of tune: to not be in harmony/to sing the wrong notes
- a piece of music: an item of music
- to play by ear: to play without reading the musical notes
- a pop group: a small group of people who play or sing pop music together
- to read music: to understand and follow written musical notes
- a rock band: a group of musicians that play rock music
- to sing along to: to join in singing
- a sing-song: to sing informally, often with other people
- a slow number: a song with a slow tempo
- to take up a musical instrument: to begin learning a musical instrument
- taste in music: the music someone likes
- to be tone deaf: to be unable to distinguish the different notes in music
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