Navy Musician's Dictionary
administrative petty officer: A french horn player.
Autovon: Toll-free Navy telephone system used by seamen for supervised official calls, by administrative POs for unsupervised official calls, and CPOs for all-night gabfests with old buddies in Yokosuka.
axe: A musical instrument issued by the Supply Petty Officer for the performance of duties, or, in the case of clarinets, a sharp-bladed tool for chopping wood.
bag band: A ceremonial unit, named after the pouches of march-sized music the musicians sling over their shoulders. "Oh hell, another bag band gig."
basso continuo: The effect that is achieved when the sousaphone players in the last rank miss the turn.
big band: A bag band without clarinets.
- The part of a rope that is tied to a secure object.
- The effect achieved when the trombone section misses the drum major's cutoff.
- begins with the word "Hawaii,"
- contains the word "ORDMOD," and
- concludes with the word "Norfolk."
change of command: Proof that musicians, like cows, can sleep while standing up.
chord factory: The School of Music.
civilian: A term of endearment referring to half the personnel in the U.S. Navy Band.
chord changes: The effect created when four Navy trombone players attempt to sustain tones whose duration is greater than a whole note.
CLINK-CLANK: Band of the Commander-in-chief of the Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANT).
comp time: The 73 measures that pass while the trombone player tries to figure out when his solo begins.
cymbal crash modulation: A sudden transition between keys that are not closely-related.
Disney World: Place of employment for MUs who quit the Navy because they're tired of wearing uniforms and marching in parades.
ditty bag: The XO's wife who thinks she can sing.
dog watch: The guy in the van's passenger seat in charge of pointing out women while driving through an Army base.
dream sheet: A transfer request form upon which you are required to write the name of every stateside, overseas and seagoing band, in return for which you receive a letter congratulating you on having your request approved.
duty gig: An occasional nuisance that interferes with getting your real work done.
ensign: The guy in front of the band who was standing behind you last week.
equal temperament: A method of forecasting how the day will go that divides the chief's mood disorder into twelve equal stages ranging from mildly belligerent to acutely hostile.
first call: What you're thinking about when the bartender announces last call.
flat five: A School of Music sax section.
foul anchors: to botch the music during a ceremony. "What a rotten gig--we slaughtered 'Washington Post' and fouled 'Anchors.'"
harp: Rating badge insignia for MU.
harmony: the musical effect created by two Navy trombonists performing a unison passage.
- The beginning of a piece of music.
- A place where excrement is deposited.
- In the case of Advanced Course arranging projects, both of the above.
hidden fifths: Training aids that circulate in the back of the Theory classroom.
high and tight: The condition of the trumpet section during the last set.
key signature: The handwritten name on your chit next to the block checked "approved."
march tempo: A pace whose speed is dependent upon how late the bass drummer was out last night.
military time: Those few, hurried minutes sandwiched in between pay gigs.
Morning Colors: An event consisting of a short march to the flagpole, a few Sousa marches, a bugle call, the National Anthem, another bugle call, "Anchors Aweigh" and a walk back to band quarters, all of which lasts about a half an hour and is listed in the bandmaster's report as two parades, two concerts, two duty-bugler gigs and a ceremony.
Navy Exchange: The process by which a long-haired, tattooed guitar player in camouflage gear becomes a bald, tattooed guitar player in camouflage gear who can read music.
Navy special: Any of a number of dance band arrangements written for training purposes in the years after World War II. Variously described as "marvelously complex and challenging" or "hideously over-written."
Navy triplets: A three-note sequence of notes of sort-of-equal duration, usually consisting of:
- a dotted eighth note, followed by
- a sixteenth-note which is tied to
- a final eighth note.
- Patriotic Opener, music performed before a special event.
- Opening words of an Irish song that begins, "Pat, O Pat, is there whiskey in yer hat?"
- The guy who welcomes you to your first AA meeting after you sing #2 at #1.
per diem: (L. "by dieting" or "meals are optional.") A travel allowance that is calculated by estimating daily expenses required for food and lodging and dividing by two.
perfect interval: The rarely-occurring period of joy that occurs when payday arrives before the bar tab is due.
perfect pitch: The arc described by a Bb clarinet tossed from the poop deck so that it clears the rudder.
plankowner: A saxophone player that has been issued a seven-year-old box of Rico Fives.
practical factors: Sucking up to the Chief, bribing the LPO and other skills required for promotion to the next pay grade.
Pool of Mucus: The Armed Forces School of Music.
ship arrival: An emotional ceremony during which sailors run down the gangplank into the arms of their waiting wives and girlfriends while the band plays "Back in the Saddle Again."
ship departure: An emotional ceremony that is traditionally followed by a surge in the number of unattached women in the Enlisted Club.
shitty ditty: An obscure song that is childishly arranged by an MU1, illegibly copied by an MU3, and highly favored by the admiral's wife.
sick call: The unfortunate music that ensues when a bugler begins on the wrong harmonic.
sound man: An MU who is being discharged in a few weeks, sits in the back of the auditorium and couldn't care less whether the vocals are audible.
staff combo: Four MUs who spend occasional evenings at the "O club" drinking doubles from the open bar, ogling the junior officers' wives, picking up juicy tidbits from the admiral's chief of staff and show up for work the next day complaining about all this extra duty.
stinger: A loud repetition of the last note of a march, generally performed only by the second trombone player.
survey: The procedure that transforms bass drums and tubas into coffee tables and flower planters in the Supply Petty Officer's living room.
unit: An hour of individual practice (derived from School of Music record-keeping terminology). "Trombones, you need to put in some units on that slow whole-note section."
4 Ruffles & Flourishes and the Flag Officers March: The default answer to all questions on MU promotion exams.
Nomenclature for Bands Afloat
battle station: A rectangular fabric casing filled with resilient material such as cotton or foam, often employed with a similar, but smaller, "pillow" for the support of the head.
crossing the line: Asking the flag lieutenant's wife if she'd like to grease your slide after the gig.
flight quarters: An exercise, usually held at night, during which sirens are sounded and heavy chains are dragged across the deck directly above the band's berthing compartment.
general quarters: Nap time.
hatch: An opening in a passageway that is three inches narrower than a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
liberty call: An announcement signalling the period during which the ship goes to In-Port Routine, the crew goes on R&R and the band goes to work.
mess deck: The 16 square feet surrounding a trombonist with a broken spit valve.
port: The contents of the bottle in the trumpet player's spare case.
quarterdeck: The number of playing cards sequestered up the sleeve of the smiling bosun's mate who has just sauntered into the band's berthing compartment.
unreps: Underway replenishment, a harrowing naval evolution involving two closely-spaced ships on parallel courses that requires precise radio contact, instant communication between helmsman and watchstanders, and a band outside the bridge playing Fillmore marches.
1MC: The public address system through which the executive officer remarks on the contribution the band is making to Unreps.
MU Phrase Book
"Did you cash your last paycheck?" Translation: "Your constant griping about the Navy grows tiresome."
"Get a haircut." Translation: "I disagree with you, but can't think of an adequate response."
- Question: "Can't the combo have some time off, chief? We're working twice as hard as the rest of the band."
- Answer: "Get a haircut."
"Who booked this gig? Translation: "The accommodations for the band are not up to general standards."
- MUs at Navy Band Newport had an unusual distinction in the mid-80s, when MU1 Billy Ream was the Operations PO in charge of scheduling performances. After a concert in a particularly inhospitable venue, musicians could stomp off the bandstand and truthfully moan, "Another Ream job."