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Chops

The word “chops” is used to describe a musician’s level of technique in terms of the ability to execute music physically on a particular musical instrument (and to negotiate chord changes). An example would be the lightning-fast technique of a guitar player. E.g., “Yngwie Malmsteen has great chops.” “Chops” is a slang term that has its roots in the jazz idiom, initially relating to horn players’ ability to hit high notes. (“Miles has got the chops…”) “Chops” in this case harkens back to its original 16th-century slang meaning of “mouth” or “lips.” The term chops is not used to describe the capacity to have good musical ideas, to phrase effectively, or to build a solo.

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