What Does “Ad-Lib” Mean in Music?

You might have heard a lot of music terms being thrown around, and one of them is “ad-lib.” But what does this term actually mean?

In music, the term “ad-lib” can refer to a couple different things. From the improvised solo in jazz to the improvised lyrics in rap, ad-libbing is all about going off the script and making it up as you go.

For starters, let’s look at the word “ad-lib.” This word comes from the Latin phrase “ad libitum,” which means “at one’s pleasure.” In other words, when you’re ad-libbing, you’re doing something spontaneously and without planning. Ad-lib can be used as a verb meaning to improvise.

This is a way for performers to show their creativity and expertise and can be a lot of fun for both the performer and the audience. In short, it’s making up your own parts to a song on the spot. Ad-libbing can be done with any type of music, but it’s especially common in hip-hop, R&B, and soul.

Here are a few examples of songs that feature ad-libbing:

“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Ah, the famous ” Billie Jean” ad-lib. This is one of the most well-known examples of an ad-lib, and it’s also one of the most iconic moments in pop music history.

Michael Jackson improvised the “hee hee” sound during the recording of the song, and it quickly became one of the most recognizable parts of the song. It became his trademark sound, and he used it in many of his other songs.

“Bad and Boujee” by Offset, Quavo, and Lil Uzi Vert

Bad and boujee is the go-to song for hip hop ad-libs. From “skrrt skrrt” to “raindrop, drop top,” these adlibs have taken over the internet.

Most of them are just made up words or sounds that fit with the beat, but they’ve become so popular that everyone knows what they mean. As you can see, ad-libbing is a popular way for artists to show their creativity and expertise.

“A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane

Like any jazz music, ad-libs are often used in solos. These solos are improvised and are meant to show off the performer’s skill and creativity. The rest of the band will usually continue playing the main melody while the soloist improvises.

“Bank Account” by 21 Savage

Name chants and ad-drops are a big part of rap and hip-hop. These are usually short phrases or words that the rappers improvise over the beat.

They often include the rapper’s name, and sometimes they’ll even have a message for the listener. 21 Savage is known for his over-the-top ad-libs, which often feature him chanting his rap name.


Looking at the examples above, we can see that ad-libbing is a popular way for artists to show their creativity and expertise. This means that it requires knowledge of the song, the instruments, and the genre.

As well as being able to listen to what’s going on around them and improvising accordingly. Sometimes we remember a song because of the main melody, but sometimes it’s the ad-libs that stand out the most. So next time you’re listening to your favorite song, see if you can pick out the ad-libs!