Beginner Licks and Chops!

Young Col

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Rob, no-one else has replied yet so here's my take on them, assuming you mean in the musical context!

Don't know when the term "lick" was applied first to a short, quick phrase or sequence of notes that might be learnt and usefully recalled esp. in improvising. I'm sure it goes back to the 1920s at least. I guess it comes from other uses of a "lick" as in something flickering,or moving lightly or quickly, eg a lick of flame, or paint, or going at a bit of a lick.

I think chops is from the slang choppers, originaly meaning teeth but modified over time, probably by musicians, to include all the jaw, mouth and muscles thereof. The trained creole clarinetist Joe Darensbourg is said to have complained in the 1940s about the rediscovery of the veteran, unsophisticated, New Orleans trumpeter Bunk Johnson as a "drunk with no chops" (ie toothless, as indeed he was when found). Louis Armstrong though applied copious amounts of lip balm to, as he said, take care of his chops.

Colin
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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I was kinda hoping that 'Chops' meant something a little more sophisticated than your actual chops :w00t:.
I did initially think that's what it might be .... but then thought.. surely not! :shocked:

As long as I'm not missing any profound sax playing terminology,
then getting-your-gob-in is cool by me. ... mouth aerobics!

I wonder if that girl who fulfilled Hugh Grants dream in the back of the cab played sax too !! ;}
 
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AlanU

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Hmm
Don't know where 'licks' comes from, but 'chops' refers to embouchure which in itself refers to bouche (French for mouth). Get your chops around that, he'll get a slap round the chops, etc.

There are a lot of terms that we just accept and don't question.
Why is a gig a gig (1926)? Or an instrument referred to as an axe?
I think most origins are lost in time and just perpetuated. Even these days guitarists have 'a blow' from the days when almost all band instruments were wind powered.
 
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RobatBlueRock

RobatBlueRock

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Really geeky bit of info.... Ed Pillinger describes the side-walls of the mouthpiece as 'chops'. It's actually identified as such on his technical drawings of the mouthpiece construction on his web-site.
 
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Young Col

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Why is a gig called a gig? That's one I puzzled about but never really looked into. However, stung by Alan's question I started to research it. Found several references to connections to things that move, like whirligigs, and gigs as in a two wheeled carriage or ship's boat but there was no obvious link to a performing engagement.

Then I found a reference to a French word gigue for a dance. I checked with my brother who is a French graduate. It wasn't a word he knew but a dictionary confirmed it as a dance (noun) and giguer to dance (verb). He agreed with my supposition that it might have been imported into creole French and then taken into American pronunciation with a hard first g. Thus to play at a gigue or gig, first meaning a dance, easily became a name amongst musicians for almost any performance.

Timing is very unclear, but it's surprising that the term gig should be used in UK music mags back in the 1920s if that is the origin.

Anyway it's the best explanation for the term that I have found.
Incidently gigue with a soft "g" also gives a root for our own word jig.

Colin
 

Pete Thomas

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He agreed with my supposition that it might have been imported into creole French and then taken into American pronunciation with a hard first g. Thus to play at a gigue or gig, first meaning a dance, easily became a name amongst musicians for almost any performance.

Timing is very unclear, but it's surprising that the term gig should be used in UK music mags back in the 1920s if that is the origin.
Well, if it migrated from rural Louisiana to New Orleans in time for the birth of jazz, then very likely to have crossed over to Europe with the jazz craze of the late teens and twenties.
 

Young Col

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Pete, yes I can understand musicians could have brought it over. Even before 1920, tours like Will Marion Cook's band, with Bechet, and the ODJB, and the American WWI bands like James Reese Europe and Will Vodery. I was thinking it was more surprising that an almost slang term found its way into the press. But perhaps that was all part of the frisson of the post war jazz age. I guess language has been part of the development of popular culture - and music specifically - ever since.
Colin
 
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