japanese-music-words

90+ Japanese Music Words for Talking About Your Favorite Band

So you’re well on your way to being fluent in Japanese?

Awesome!

To put it like The Beatles so aptly did, “It’s been a hard day’s night and you’ve been working like a dog.”

Then why is it you can’t seem to hold a conversation with your Japanese classmate or coworker that goes beyond the weather?

Maybe because they don’t share your all-consuming love of music!

In order to get your Japanese-speaking juices flowing, you’re going to need to engage in conversations about things you really care about, with people who care about them just as much.

And now that you have a good base of Japanese, you’re going to want to beef up your vocabulary with a few tasty music-specific words to spark these kinds of conversations.

So sling your guitar over your head, grab your drumsticks or bust out your sax and get ready to stuff a “whole lotta love” into that Japanese word bank!
 


 
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So Why Learn This Music Stuff?

Meet Like-minded Japanese Speakers

To reiterate, if you’ve ever found yourself in a conversation that just does not progress, the issue might not be with your Japanese…it might be that you and the person you’re talking to have nothing in common!

If you’ve ever been on a date and striking up a conversation is like trying to move a futon up 10 flights of stairs, you get where I’m coming from.

It’s all about context! Say instead you walk into a bar sporting a Ramones tee. Chances are someone will perk up and exclaim おー!ラモーンズ!(おー!らもーんず!— Oh! Ramones!) and you can take it from there!

Deepen Your Japanese Conversations

We’re willing to bet that the most you’ve gotten from your textbook on music has been an innocuous little phrase like:

どんな音楽が好きですか? (どんな おんがくが すきですか?)

What kind of music do you like?

And that’s all well and good to start the conversation, don’t get me wrong, but it reads more like a question out of an お見合い (おみあい — marriage meeting) or some kind of mind-numbing interview.

Try instead to start off the conversation with finding a common-interest band:

ザ・フーが好きですか? (ざ・ふーが すきですか?)

Do you like The Who?

That way, you can go way beyond this question—delve into the ins-and-outs of the best songs on your favorite album, or how Janis Joplin’s career was tragically cut short when she died young at the demon age of 27!

Explore a Whole New Aspect of Japanese Culture

Below the ubiquitous black business suits of 9-5 サラリーマン (さらりーまん — salaryman) culture, in the corners of alleyways and built above subway stations is a whole other dimension of distorted guitar sounds, tattoos and stage-divers waiting to be stumbled into.

When they decide it’s what they want, the degree to which Japanese people commit themselves to their chosen musical lifestyle is inspiring. It’s enough to make you wonder why you can’t even commit to a given task for five minutes before your phone distracts you.

The fierce hierarchical relationships between local bands, the fabled “launch parties” after the shows and the sheer amount of specialized vocabulary in this world is enough to make your mouth water!

Understand Music from a Different Perspective

Ever wonder why J-pop sounds so vastly different from what Westerners call “pop”? While it might not be something you can outright ask someone about, it’s definitely something you can glean from being around music fans and musicians—when you hear the conversations and the aspects of the music they talk about you can tell what’s important to a lot of appreciators.

Great musicianship and flawless live performances are among the many admirable fundamentals of Japanese music…and they’re out there waiting for you to discover them.

Where to Use Your Newfound Musical Prowess

If you’re in Japan or headed there at any point in the future, here are some great places where you can exercise the new music vocabulary you’ll learn in this post.

  • Music/Record Stores: Despite the virtual disappearance of music stores in North America, the once ubiquitous Tower Records stores are still found in most big cities in Japan. If records are more your thing, check out the more intimate record stores that pop up, manned by passionate lifetime devotees of rock and the like.
  • Music MeetUps: While I’m sure you’ve heard of MeetUp, I’m also pretty sure you haven’t quite plucked up the courage to attend or start a meetup of your very own. This method is guaranteed to find you like-minded musicians and appreciators.
  • Music Classes: If you’re picking up a ギター (guitar) for the first time, why not check out classes at Yamaha music or similar music schools? Guaranteed to get you around the right people.
  • Local Performances at Public Venues: These can be anything from local festival performances around any city, to organized shows at “live houses.” There’s always something going on…just listen for 太鼓 (たいこ) drums. Check out bulletin boards in your area or, if you’re not in Japan, you can always seek out Japanese performances in your city.
  • Practice Studios: If you’re looking around for a place to rock out without waking the neighbors (an absolute certainty if you’ve experienced the thinness of your apartment walls…), try wandering around a local practice studio. Talk to the owner, ask about prices, make a reservation…dive right in.

Break into the Scene with These 90+ Japanese Music Words

One good thing about music vocabulary in Japanese is that a lot of it is derived from English—so as long as you’ve got hiragana and katakana under your belt, you’re off to the races!

Genres You’ll Want to Talk About

Alternative/Rock/Metal

オルタナティヴ (おるたなてぃゔ) — alternative

ガレージ・ロック (がれーじ・ろっく) — garage rock

グラム・ロック (ぐらむ・ろっく) — glam rock

グランジ (ぐらんじ) — grunge

パンク・ロック (ぱんく・ろっく) — punk rock

サイケデリック (さいけでりっく) — psychedelic

デス・メタル (です・めたる) — death metal

ニューウェーブ (にゅーうぇーぶ) — new wave

ハード・ロック (はーど・ろっく) — hard rock

ブリティッシュ・ロック (ぶりてぃっしゅ・ろっく) — British rock

プログレッシヴ・ロック (ぷろぐれっしゔ・ろっく) — progressive rock

ヘヴィ・メタル (へゔぃ・めたる) — heavy metal

ロックン・ロール (ろっくん・ろーる) — rock ‘n roll

Pop/Electronic

ハウス (はうす) — house

ドラムン・ベース (どらむん・べーす) — drum ‘n’ bass

ヒップホップ (ひっぷほっぷ) — hip-hop

ファンク (ふぁんく) — funk

ダブ (だぶ) — dubstep

テクノ (てくの) — techno

ブリットポップ (ぶりっと・ぽっぷ) — Brit pop

ポップ (ぽっぷ) — pop

ラップ (らっぷ) — rap

レゲエ (れげえ) — reggae

アール アンド ビー (あーる あんど びー) — R&B

Folk/Country

カントリー (かんとりー) — country

ブルース (ぶるーす) — blues

フォーク・ロック (ふぉーく・ろっく) — folk rock

Classical/Jazz/Soul

クラシック (くらしっく) — classical

ジャズ (じゃず) — jazz

スカ (すか) — ska

ソウル (そうる) — soul

Distinctly Japanese Genres

民謡 (みんよう) — Japanese folk music/rural music

Hajime Chitose sings an interesting example of Japanese island folk music accompanied only by a shamisen and a male second vocalist.

流行歌 (りゅうこうか) — “popular” music from the 1920s-1960s

There isn’t really a good example of this because it literally means “popular music” and that can span any number of generations, but basically this style in the early 1900s set the precedent for the next genre…

演歌 (えんか) — post-war sentimental ballad music

Here’s a 1960s song by Jun Mayuzumi called “Yuzuki” which is in the typical style, displaying flourishing, emotional vocals to reflect the pain of the post-war years.

ジェイポップ (じぇいぽっぷ) — J-pop

I’m sure you’ve heard of this one before—and it’s hard to pin down, but here’s a recent chart-topper as an example. Just keep in mind…Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is intentionally as bizarre as possible.

ジェイ・ロック (じぇい・ろっく) — J-rock

This too spans a lot of styles, from X Japan to Asian Kung Fu Generation, but One Ok Rock seems to be popular for the moment. Essentially, it’s anything less pop and more rock from Japan!

ヴィジュアル系 (ゔぃじゅあるけい) — Visual Kei

This is actually not a genre per se, but a “movement” among musicians, according to Wikipedia (which will explain this in much more depth than I can!). What you need to know is that the focus is on performance (costumes, makeup and often androgyny), and you’ll hear a lot of glam-rock and metal influences in this kind of style. The Gazette are one of the most successful examples—go ahead and look ’em up!

Example Sentences

大体ロックの方が好きだけど、たまにポップの曲を聴きます。 (だいたい ろっくのほうが すきだけど、たまに ぽっぷのきょくをききます。)

Basically I prefer rock but sometimes I listen to pop songs.

パンクが好きだったら、どんなバンドがお勧めですか? (ぱんくがすきだったら、どんな ばんどが おすすめですか?)

If I like punk, what kind of band would you recommend?

演歌だったら、どの歌手が一番人気がありますか? (えんかだったら、どのかしゅが いちばん にんきがありますか?)

In Enka, which singer is the most popular?

Describing Your Favorite Songs

Words for Talking About Songs

(きょく) — song

歌詞 (かし) — lyrics

歌手 (かしゅ) — singer

(こえ) — voice

コーラス (こーらす) — chorus

バース (ばーす) — verse

メロディー (めろでぃー) — melody

Aメロ (えーめろ) — main melody

Bメロ (びーめろ) — secondary melody

ボーカル (ぼーかる) — vocals

リズム (りずむ) — rhythm

ベースライン (べーすらいん) — bassline

オクターブ (おくたーぶ) — octave

コード/和音 (こーど/わおん) — chord

縦ノリ (たてのり) — “jumping” songs (generally used to describe upbeat or aggressive songs you would “jump” to when dancing)

横ノリ (よこのり) — “swaying” songs (more melodic, relaxed songs you would “sway” to)

ジャカ ジャカ ジャン (じゃか じゃか じゃん) — sound of guitar

頭から (あたま から) — “from the top”

Example Sentences

このコーラスはメロディーがいいね。 (このこーらすは めろでぃーが いいね。)

This chorus has a nice melody, doesn’t it?

この歌手の声は、悲しそうだけど、とても美しいですね。 (このかしゅのこえは、かなしそうだけど、とてもうつくしいですね。)

This singer’s voice is both sad and very beautiful, isn’t it?

ベースラインはすごくかっこいいと思います。 (べーすらいんは すごくかっこいい とおもいます。)

This bassline is really cool, I think.

Knowing Your Instruments

Instruments (and Equipment!)

楽器 (がっき) — instrument

ギター (ぎたー) — guitar

(げん) — strings

シールド (しーるど) — patchcord

ベース (べーす) — bass guitar

ドラム (どらむ) — drums

ピアノ/キーボード (ぴあの・きーぼーど) — piano/keyboard

マイク (まいく) — microphone

バイオリン (ばいおりん) — violin

チェロ (ちぇろ) — cello

オーボエ (おーぼえ) — oboe

トランペット (とらんぺっと) — trumpet

サックスフォン (さっくすふぉん) — saxophone

ウッドベース (うっどべーす) — double bass

ハープ (はーぷ) — harp

チューナー (ちゅーなー) — tuner

ハーモニカ (はーもにか) — harmonica

口笛 (くちぶえ) — whistle

タンバリン (たんばりん) — tambourine

アンプ (あんぷ) — amp

Japanese Instruments

琵琶 (びわ) — biwa

三味線 (しゃみせん) — shamisen

(こと) — koto

太鼓 (たいこ) — taiko drum

尺八 (しゃくはち) — shakuhachi flute

三線 (さんしん) — sanshin

Example Sentences

高校生の時、私はドラムを演奏した。(こうこうせいのとき、わたしは どらむをえんそうした。)

I played drums when I was in high school.

楽器を演奏しますか?(がっきを えんそうしますか?)

Do you play an instrument?

ウッドベース担当はうまいですね。(うっどべーすたんとうは うまいですね。)

The double-bass player is really good, isn’t she?

Getting Out to the Shows!

Words for Talking About Shows

ライブ (らいぶ) — live show/music performance

ライブハウス (らいぶ はうす) — venue/”live house”

日時 (にちじ) — date and time

出演時間 (しゅつえんじかん) — performance time

メンバー (めんばー) — members

観客 (かんきゃく) — audience

チケット (ちけっと) — ticket

サウンドチェック (さうんど ちぇっく) — soundcheck

チューニング (ちゅーにんぐ) — tuning

打ち上げ (うちあげ) — job-well-done party

出番 (でばん) — performance order

発売中 (はつばいちゅう) — being sold

前売り料金 (まえうり りょうきん) — advance ticket price

売り切れ (うりきれ) — sold out

盛り上がった (もりあがった) — energetic/lively

Example Sentences

サマーソニックのチケットは、今発売中です!(さまーそにっくの ちけっとは、いま はつばいちゅうです!)

Tickets to Summer Sonic are on sale now!

今週の日曜日のライブを見に行きませんか? (こんしゅうの にちようびの らいぶを みにいきませんか?)

Do you want to go see this Sunday’s show?

観客は盛り上がっているね...もうすぐ始まるみたい!(かんきゃくは もりあがっているね...もうすぐ はじまるみたい!)

The audience is really excited…it looks like it’ll start soon!

Excited yet?

Now keep on rockin’ in the free world and get yourself to that venue!
 


 

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