Created By: Floria on April 14, 2013 Last Edited By: Floria on May 21, 2013
Troped

Skeletal Musician

A skeleton plays a musical instrument or sings.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Dem Bones are a varied bunch - some are mindless necromantic Mooks, some are powerful liches, some are snarky talking skulls, some can dance, and some are Skeletal Musicians. The skeletal musician may sing (despite the Fridge Logic involved in singing without lungs or vocal cords) or play an instrument - xylophones improvised from their own or another skeleton's rib cages are a popular choice. A group of them may serve as the backing band for The Dead Can Dance. See also Ethereal Choir and Ghost Song, which can both accompany this.

This is an old trope - dating back at least as far as the Dance of Death depictions of the late Middle Ages - and still in use in the 21st century. Skeletal Musicians are normally free-willed undead, and are more likely to be comedic than scary. Expect a joke about trombones at some point.

Skeletal Musicians don't have to be true undead - skeletal versions of the Grim Reaper count; as do symbolic figures such as the denizens of the medieval Dance of Death and Jose Guadalupe Posada's satirical cartoons. If they're bony and making music, they qualify.

Please note that while skeletons are a common feature of Real Life musicians, characters whose bones are covered in layers of meat and skin do not qualify for the trope.

Not to be confused with underfed Starving Artists, or with "Bones Trombone."


Examples:

[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
  • Brook of One Piece is a nearly nine foot tall skeleton with an afro, and a multi-instrumentalist (who favors the violin and guitar) who can use his music to create supernatural effects.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film: Animated]]
  • Corpse Bride:
    • The backstory on Emily the Corpse Bride is given to us by a singing skeleton equipped with one eyeball and one very snazzy bowler hat, accompanied by skeletal instrumentalists.
    • Bonejangle's pianist in Corpse Bride is a dead-ringer (cough) for Ray Charles. The choreography also has a couple of Shout Outs to The Skeleton Dance.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film: Live Action]]
  • The horde of undead animated by the Necronomicon in Army of Darkness includes some skeletal bagpipers.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature]] [[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV]]
  • Telefrancais features a musical duet of skeletons called Les Squelettes as recurring characters.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Music]]
  • Some of the supplementary art for The Black Parade features skeletons with musical instruments alongside the more famous skeleton drum major.
  • Oingo Boingo. The cover art for the album Dead Man's Party has a mariachi band providing music for the party of the title.
  • In the music video for "Touch of Grey," The Grateful Dead appear now and again as skeletons playing their instruments.
  • An 1985 video versionof Camille Saint-SaŽns' Carnival of the Animals suite, narrated by Gary Burghoff, features skeletal dinosaur musicians during the "Fossils" movement (which begins at 18:59).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games]]
  • Miniature manufacturer Ral Partha had a set called "The Grateful Undead" consisting of three 25mm skeleton rock musicians modelled after The Grateful Dead psychedelic rock band.
  • Musicians in skeleton units in Warhammer.
  • The Eberron NPC Fiddlebone plays with this trope. The skeleton was intended by its creator to be a musician, but since most skeletons in Dungeons & Dragons are mindless, the creature was an unimpressive performer.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Videogames]]
  • Grim Fandango has this as Book Ends: The opening titles play over a still shot of figurines of a skeletal mariachi band, then the final scene has an actual skeleton mariachi band playing in the background.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge includes a sequence where Guybrush dreams his parents turn into skeletons and give him a message via a song and dance number.
  • The Sanbone Trio from Gitaroo Man, a trio of robotic skeletons who play themselves like xylophones. They're considered That One Level by most players.
  • One random event in The King of Dragon Pass involves a man with a troupe of skeletal musicians offering to play a concert on your tula. If there's a Humakti[[note]]holy warrior of Humakt, sworn to hunt down and destroy all undead[[/note]] on your clan ring, they will not be pleased; if you allow the concert, your Humakti will tell you "Don't talk to me unless you're here to tell me I can kill them all."
  • The Saturn game Mr. Bones is about a skeleton who plays guitar to make an army of evil skeletons HeelĖFace Turn.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Visual Arts]] [[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomics]]
  • Discussed in Unwinder's Tall Comics. Unwinder discovers that his favorite character from the After Dark book series is not a saxophone-playing skeleton as he previously thought, but instead a shapeshifter who takes the form of a skeleton. He's so disappointed with this twist that he quits reading the series.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation]]
  • In The Skeleton Dance, a skeleton plays a xylophone made of bones.
  • The Columbia Cartoons short Skeleton Frolic (a remake of The Skeleton Dance) features rib-cage xylophones, among other skeletal shenanigans.
  • Sartana of the Dead in El Tigre. She has a cartoonishly skeletal appearance and a guitar she can strum to create undead minions.
  • This occurs three times in the Cartoon Network Groovies short "El Kabong Rides Again".
    • A skeleton plays a guitar at the beginning.
    • During the "La Fiesta" sequence two skeletons blow on horns.
    • At the very end, one skeleton is playing a guitar and one is blowing on a horn.
  • The Bare Boned Band from Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies are a trio of Skeletal Musicians who play bone-themed instruments.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • April 15, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Table Top Games:

    Miniature manufacturer Ral Partha had a set called "The Grateful Undead" consisting of three 25mm skeleton rock musicians modelled after the Grateful Dead psychedelic rock band.

    They are not animated though ;)
  • April 15, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Expect a joke about trombones.

    Worth point out: Bonejangle's pianist in Corpse Bride is a dead-ringer (cough) for Ray Charles. The choreography also has a couple of Shout Outs to The Skeleton Dance.

    On the subject of skeletons and jazz: I think Grim Fandango has Skeletal Musicians, but I might be misremembering.
  • April 18, 2013
    TitoMosquito
  • April 18, 2013
    CardsOfWar
    Musicians in skeleton units in Warhammer
  • April 18, 2013
    Chernoskill
    ^^I was just thinking of that! Actually, every game that features rank&file units, has skeletons, and options for musicians :)
  • April 21, 2013
    SharleeD
    • The horde of undead animated by the Necronomicon in Army Of Darkness includes some skeletal bagpipers.
  • April 24, 2013
    Floria
    bump
  • April 24, 2013
    MetaFour
    I recall Grim Fandango having this as Book Ends: The opening titles play over a still shot of figurines of a skeletal mariachi band, then the final scene has an actual skeleton mariachi band playing in the background.

    Music
    • Oingo Boingo. The cover art for the album Dead Man's Party has a mariachi band providing music for the party of the title.

    Webcomics
    • Discussed in Unwinders Tall Comics. Unwinder discovers that his favorite character from the After Dark book series is not a saxophone-playing skeleton as he previously thought, but instead a shapeshifter who takes the form of a skeleton. He's so disappointed with this twist that he quits reading the series.
  • April 25, 2013
    Floria
    AC: Visual Arts
  • April 25, 2013
    Arivne
    Western Animation
    • This occurs three times in the Cartoon Network Groovies short "El Kabong Rides Again".
      • A skeleton plays a guitar at the beginning.
      • During the "La Fiesta" sequence two skeletons blow on horns.
      • At the very end, one skeleton is playing a guitar and one is blowing on a horn.
  • April 25, 2013
    Boston
    In the music video for "Touch of Grey," The Grateful Dead appear now and again as skeletons playing their instruments.
  • April 26, 2013
    Floria
    La Flama Dama is currently a Zero Context Example. Can anyone who's seen the show tell me how she qualifies?

    Also - again, haven't seen the show, but from the list of characters on the wikipedia page, it looks like Sartana of the Dead would qualify. She has a cartoonishly skeletal appearance and a guitar she can strum to create undead minions.
  • April 26, 2013
    Thunderforge
    Video Games
  • April 26, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    In the Discworld novel Soul Music, Death, who takes the form of a tall skeleton dressed in a cowl, plays a rockin' guitar solo with a pick made from the blade of his scythe.
  • April 26, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    Also, I seem to recall in elementary school being shown an animated version of Camille Saint-Saëns' suite Carnival of the Animals that illustrated the xylophone motif in the "Fossils" movement as dinosaur skeletons playing each other's ribcages (which if I'm not mistaken is exactly what the motif is supposed to depict, as it quotes Saint-Saëns' own "Danse Macabre"). Anyone else know of that version? I think it had accompanying poetry and a narrator. Something like this, though this one seems to be just clips from The Skeleton Dance set to the music.
  • April 26, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    Found it! Though I was conflating the skeletal dinosaur musicians playing orchestral instruments with the cute live-action clip of the xylophonist synching to the music while playing the ribs of a dinosaur skeleton.

    An 1985 video versionof Camille Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals suite, narrated by Gary Burghoff, features skeletal dinosaur musicians during the "Fossils" movement (which begins at 18:59).
  • April 29, 2013
    jean55
    In real life : every musician is this, they only hides their bones under a coat of meat.
  • April 29, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    ^As a musician, I find that very amusing.
  • May 6, 2013
    Melkior
  • May 6, 2013
    DracMonster
    See also Ethereal Choir and Ghost Song, which can both accompany this.
  • May 6, 2013
    SharleeD
    Quibble: Death in the Discworld example didn't actually play a solo, he just struck a pose with the guitar that any other magician would kill to replicate. Discworld's Death can't play music, only empty chords.
  • May 6, 2013
    capsaicinfinity
    ^ Yes, I remember now. But when he struck the guitar strings with the pick, didn't it play something like "the silence without which there would be no music?"
  • May 14, 2013
    Melkior
    Why wasn't The Skeleton Dance included, since it's one of the earliest examples and is definitely earlier than the other mentioned examples?
  • May 14, 2013
    Floria
    It is. Look under Western Animation.
  • May 14, 2013
    Melkior
    Oops. My mistake.
  • May 14, 2013
    DouglasFir
    Telefrancais features a musical duet of skeletons called Les Squelettes as recurring characters.
  • May 15, 2013
    KTera
    • The Sanbone Trio from Gitaroo Man, a trio of robotic skeletons who play themselves like xylophones. They're considered That One Level by most players.
    • One random event in The King Of Dragon Pass involves a man with a troupe of skeletal musicians offering to play a concert on your tula. If there's a Humakti[[hottip:*:holy warrior of Humakt, sworn to hunt down and destroy all undead]] on your clan ring, they will not be pleased; if you allow the concert, your Humakti will tell you "Don't talk to me unless you're here to tell me I can kill them all."
  • May 18, 2013
    Floria
  • May 19, 2013
    Raconteur
    • In Corpse Bride, the backstory on the eponymous Corpse Bride is given to us by a singing skeleton equipped with one eyeball and one very snazzy bowler hat.
  • May 21, 2013
    TBTabby
    The Saturn game Mr. Bones is about a skeleton who plays guitar to make an army of evil skeletons Heel Face Turn.
  • May 21, 2013
    Floria
    Launch?
  • Can I launch it for you?
  • May 21, 2013
    Floria
    I'd been planning on doing it. Was there anything special you wanted to change/add?
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