Dreadful Musician

Not pictured: spontaneous rainstorm, fleeing animals and furious villagers.

Kotomi: My name is Ichinose Kotomi. A senior in Class A. My hobby is reading books.
Tomoya: And her weapon is the violin. It takes only 0.2 seconds before sound waves come out from the moment she takes position. The number of people she's felled is countless.
Kotomi: (after playing some more) I've never felled people with the violin.
Tomoya: Do you see us on the floor right now?!

What a Lethal Chef is to food, a Dreadful Musician is to music. This is a character who plays music badly. Glass shatters, animals scatter, and women lament. Even worse, they may not even realize how bad they are, while everyone around them scrambles to halt the performance.

More Genre Savvy characters may use this entirely-unintended effect to their advantage. Taken to the extreme, where this effect is obtained through skill and used as a weapon, the character becomes a Musical Assassin. If the lethality is the product of the music itself instead of the musician's lack of talent, it's a Brown Note. If the sound is literally capable of physically breaking objects and inflicting damage, it's a Glass-Shattering Sound (if it's mostly confined to shattering brittle materials) or Make Me Wanna Shout (if it's an all-purpose sonic weapon).

Irony as She Is Cast often comes into play here; it's not unusual to find that the bad musician is being played by a good one in Real Life. In fact, sometimes it takes a talented musician to know how to play one who's truly awful.

If they truly don't know how awful they are, then they're also Giftedly Bad. May overlap with Loud of War, Lounge Lizard.

Compare Suckiness Is Painful. Also compare Three Chords and the Truth and Stylistic Suck, where musicians do actually know how to play their instruments, but without the complexity and pretentiousness. Related to Hollywood Tone-Deaf, in which bad music is played more realistically although still exaggerated for comic effect.

When adding examples, keep in mind that this trope by definition exaggerates the possible to the impossible. Therefore, this cannot occur in Real Life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yomi from Azumanga Daioh is good at many things, but singing definitely isn't one of them. Contrast Sakaki, who doesn't say much, but sings beautifully. (Ironically, Yomi's Japanese voice actress is well-respected for her singing abilities.)
  • Despite being a genius and depicted calmly playing the violin in the opening of CLANNAD, the terrible truth is revealed when Kotomi finally gets her hands on one: every time she plays, shockwaves emanate from the violin, glass cracks, lightbulbs burst, and everyone in the school collapses to the ground in agony. She thinks her music is pretty. She was apparently fine when she was a child, but after her parents died and she Never Got to Say Goodbye, she became a Giftedly Bad Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Detective Conan's Kudo Shinichi/Edogawa Conan is a horrendous singer who also can't play an instrument to save his life. Everybody jokes about his tone-deafness, but he actually has perfect pitch; he just has no interest in getting better beyond emulating Sherlock Holmes. Ironically, his voice actor is a famous Idol Singer.
  • Digimon Adventure has four such atrociously bad singers: Tai, Joe, Gomamon, and Agumon. They try to wake up a sleeping Digimon with their singing and are absolute and hilarious FAIL.
  • Mana from DokiDoki! Precure sings a lullaby horribly and hilariously.
  • In Doraemon, Giant fancies himself a singer, but his voice is so awful it can be weaponized. Even in a world without sound, just reading his lyrics induce nausea. It's only rivaled by Shizuka's violin. In a memorable scene from a Non-Serial Movie, the team is being drawn in by siren/mermaid song which has also attracted a sea beast. The praise of the music annoys Giant, who begins to sing. Cue fleeing mermaids and a knocked-out monster.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods:
    • Piccolo tries his hand at karaoke at Bulma's birthday party. We don't hear him, since the scene in question is mostly a montage of still frames, but the surrounding characters' reactions leave little doubt about his lack of musical gifts.
    • Later in the movie, Vegeta invokes this deliberately when he tries to create the biggest and most amusing distraction he could think of to stop Beerus the God of Destruction from destroying the world. He also couples it with equally dreadful dancing, and it works.
  • Gajeel from Fairy Tail believes himself to be a good guitar player and singer. He's not good at either, although other guild members like his lyrics. His Shoody Doo Bop became a Memetic Mutation.
  • Once in Gosick, Victorique singing was mistaken for her moaning in pain.
  • Mikuru Asahina from Haruhi Suzumiya absolutely cannot sing. While this seldom transcends mere lack of quality, at one point in the Drama CD she has to sing especially badly to weaken a sound-based monster, and does so handily.
  • While Nishizawa from Hayate the Combat Butler is perfectly ordinary in almost every aspect, her singing abilities leave much to be desired. When she challenges Nagi to a karaoke duel in the manga, Nishizawa's score is so low compared to Nagi's that the machine itself makes fun of her. Nagi's had vocal training for years, incidentally, and gets basically a perfect score.
  • Mizuki's attempts to play the flute in Kamisama Kiss leave something to be desired. But don't take our word for it, see for yourself.
  • In Key the Metal Idol, Key goes to a concert and is instructed to show what she can do. She then proceeds to sing a very high note that shatters glass, causes the audience to reel in pain, and short-circuits the robot puppet.
  • Part of the premise of K-On!, where four girls form a new band for their school's music club to save it from being shut down. Yui definitely can't play at the beginning, while the others are decent musicians.
  • Tokino in the original Kujibiki Unbalance OVA. She "wins" a karaoke competition by breaking the karaoke meter, as plants wither, birds fall dead out of the sky, nearby aircraft crash in flames, and the other contestants unsuccessfully attempt to keep from vomiting. Her singing voice is not provided by her normal voice actress, but by a tone-deaf fifty-year old man.
  • The main character Weed of The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor has several times shown that his singing will make enemies of all his listeners. When posting one of his battles on the internet while transformed into an orc, people think it is a parody of how the race has no in-game culture. He is completely unaware of how bad he is.
  • Konata from Lucky Star is an especially noxious karaoke singer, as the ending credits from many episodes reveal. Still, the sheer spunk of her performance almost makes up for the fact that she can't hold a tone to save her life. It is quite a feat of Aya Hirano, Konata's voice actress, who is a very proficient singer in reality.
  • In Macross 7, Gamlin Kizaki tried to sing, despite Basara's protests, and this trope is the result. Then the Protodeviln eventually start attempting it. Sivil actually isn't too bad, but Gigil and Geppelnitch are absolutely horrendous. Still, they do manage to produce Spiritia through it.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has Shirabe, a Musical Assassin who apparently doesn't sound all that great. Doesn't stop it from being extremely deadly. After the Mundus Magicus arc, we learn that Kotarou and Negi aren't that good at singing either.
  • Dorothy from MÄR keeps a living rag doll as one of her retinue of Guardians. Named Crazy Quilt, she specializes in this trope. It works quite well the first time she's used in the fourth round against Rapunzel, but in the finals, Chimera merely slaps her away; Chimera had already experienced much worse than bad singing.
  • In the beginning of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Lucia tries to use a song as thanks in accordance with mermaid customs and ends up causing an earthquake. She's also (inexplicably) able to sing microphone static too. After getting back the pearl that controls her Magic Music, she can sing well (not that the enemies think so). And she was always far better than Caren, a completely unintentional example.
  • In Monster Rancher the anime series, the gang is trapped on board a pirate ship whose crew are ghost monsters who can't be physically hit, so Suezo goes below deck to the ship's speaker system and starts singing. It's so bad that everyone — including the ghosts — starts writhing in pain. Captain Horn has finally had enough and teleports down there:
    Horn: What are you doing with that racket?!
    Suezo: Oh, hey there Horn, I'm just trying to sing to scare the ghosts off. I was just getting warmed up.
    Horn: Your singing has the whole crew looking like they're going through the bends! Here, let me give it a try.
    Ghosts: Oh Crap! face
  • Kashima from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is The Ace at most everything she turns her hand to — except singing, which can leave unfortunate listeners trembling on the floor with their hands clutched over their ears. She's ashamed of it because she's normally so good at things.
  • Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion plays the cello, but considers himself a Dreadful Musician. He actually isn't that bad. Asuka hears him play and is impressed, at least.
  • In one episode of Nichijou, eight-year old Professor and her robot Nano are playing on trumpets. They sound awful — until you realize that the Professor is blowing into her horn but not actually making any noise. It's Nano who sounds awful.
  • Aoi from Night Raid 1931 is horrible at playing the violin, but he doesn't let that bother him.
  • Pokémon
    • Jigglypuff is an inversion. Her lullaby is so good that any person or Pokémon that hears it falls asleep. She doesn't appreciate that at all, and she draws on the faces of her sleeping victims. She wanders the world following the heroes, trying to find someone who can hear her entire song. When she finally finds a Pokémon who was immune to sound-based techniques, she later finds it knocked out from battle, figures he fell asleep too, and resigned herself to never finding that being who can stay awake.
    • In season 10, Pikachu forms a band with himself on cello, Buizel on saxophone, Turtwig on drums, and Sudowoodo on piano. Staravia wasn't a big fan.
  • In Q.E.D., while So Touma is a genius in many ways, he's never sung in karaoke before. It turns out, his singing is so bad that it petrifies those who hear it. But he finds that he enjoys it, much to Kana's chagrin.
  • Kanata is not a particularly good bugler when Sound of the Sky begins, so she joins the army to learn how to play.
  • Megumi in Special A, who normally communicates by Talking with Signs, got a chance to sing for Kei's birthday in the first episode. Her singing caused a minor explosion over the school and caused the birthday boy to go pale. Everyone else put in earplugs before she began singing.
  • De Niro from They Are My Noble Masters sometimes tries to use his sound system for musical purposes, which never works since it's actually built to emanate destructive waves.
  • Akina in UFO Princess Valkyrie is terrible at karaoke. It's barely survivable when she's got a backup-team of catgirl gogo-dancers distracting you from the actual singing, but without them, it's so bad that when Hydra is first thrown into the Punishment Dimension, the hell of her imagining is being strapped to a chair while Akina sings her Image Song.
  • In Yandere Kanojo, the piano-playing ghost Kuroko can't move on to the next life until someone recognizes the piece of music she's playing. Just one problem — she's agonizingly bad at it. Reina and the gang listen for hours, writhing on the floor the whole time, and still can't make heads or tails of the song.

    Card Games 
  • Harpies in Munchkin. "Their music is really, really bad."

  • British comedian Les Dawson on the piano. He regularly managed the amazing feat of playing a tune, and not getting a single note right, but you could still tell what the tune was. That's the sort of badness it takes real talent to achieve.

    Comic Books 
  • Cacofonix the bard from Astérix is an absolutely horrid musician. The entire village conspires to keep him from singing, to the point of tying him up and gagging him whenever they have a celebration (i.e. the end of every book). The blacksmith, Fulliautomatix, is always trying to shut him up with a sledgehammer; if not him, the gods themselves will throw a Bolt of Divine Retribution. In later parts of the series, he can start horrible rainstorms just by playing a few notes, and he's implied to be ancestor of Dreadful Musicians everywhere. His exploits include:
    • In The Mansions of the Gods, The Roman civilians leave after Cacofonix bursts into song, only for the legionnaires to move in.
    • The "Normans" (i.e. Vikings) come to Gaul to learn fear, a concept they cannot understand. The Gauls throw everything they have at them, including a severe beating from their strongest men, but only one thing teaches them to fear: Cacofonix's singing.
    • In Astérix the Gladiator, Cacofonix's singing saves Astérix's life when he is brought into the circus arena to fight the lions, and his singing scares the lions off.
    • In Astérix and the Magic Carpet, a Fakir from India comes to request his assistance because his country has not had rain in all of its rainy season and only the bard's horrible singing voice can drive the sky to torrential downpour. Surprise! It works.
    • The page image comes from Asterix and the Secret Weapon and was an attempt at heavy metal ("an anacreontic ode transcending the verbal dimension"). It caused a near-apocalyptic storm that caused most of the animal population of the forest to run away, including a dragon.
  • Bianca Castafiore in the Tintin books is a professional opera singer, but judging by other characters' reactions, she's dreadful. She's also Giftedly Bad and will sing at full blast at any opportunity. The only characters who don't mind her are Professor Calculus (who is "slightly hard of hearing") and Colonel Sponsz (who wants to get into her knickers). Hergé himself hated opera and found it ridiculous; he based the diva on his Aunt Mimi, a similarly shrill singer.
  • Gaston Lagaffe is an interesting example, as he's not bad at playing music per se — rather, his music is painful because he insists on using eldritch homemade instruments. After he "tuned" a violin for a friend, it produced a shrieking sound that could paralyze people. His buddies aren't any better; once, during a rehearsal, they caused the floor to cave in.
  • Peewit, in Peyo's Johan and Peewit. His natural ability for inflicting musical pain only gets worse when he accidentally obtains a magical six-holed flute of smurf origin that can force people to dance uncontrollably until they drop from exhaustion. He's so bad that at the beginning of the same album, when a traveling salesman comes to the castle and begins unloading musical instruments, the horrified king banishes him with threats of hanging.
  • The Smurfs: Harmony Smurf can make any instrument sound painfully out of tune, even a triangle. For the sake of experiment, the other Smurfs once allowed him to direct their orchestra: he made every last one of them play wrong. They even once gave him a music box to hold. He made it play wrong. Farmer Smurf deliberately uses Harmony's bad music playing to bring on the rain in "The Finance Smurf".
  • Preservers in ElfQuest love to sing. Nobody else loves hearing them. Cutter once asked Petalwing to sing for Rayek, just to torment him.

    Films — Animated 
  • Treasure of Swamp Castle: The Baron's daughter drives the flute player to tears and he bends the flute out of grief.
  • Scuttle from The Little Mermaid believes a smoking pipe is a musical instrument and tries to make music with that on a few occasions. When Sebastian tries to lead the sea creatures in a song to serenade Ariel and Eric, Scuttle tries to sing, and Eric remarks that "someone should put that poor animal out of its misery."
  • Cinderella's stepsisters, one singing and one on a flute, drive Lucifer the cat to seek refuge in another room, where Cinderella is secretly putting them to shame with her own singing.
  • The aforementioned Peewit is still one of these in The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. It's only when he gets his hands on the magic flute that he ever plays a decent tune, and also at the end of the movie when he has a fake copy of the magic flute.
  • Warren T. Rat in An American Tail plays a very cringe-worthy rendition of "Beautiful Dreamer" on his violin during the sewer scene. He claims it's because "his nose keeps getting in the way". Granted, this may be justified as he is wearing a fake rat nose.
  • Garth from Alpha and Omega is a horrid howler (howling being like singing to the wolves). Every time he sings, stunned birds drop out of the sky. While at first he seems to think he's good at it, he later admits he knows how awful he is. Lilly manages to teach him how to howl wonderfully, in the process causing them to fall in love.
  • In Megamind, just because Metro Man wanted to be a musician doesn't mean that he is any good at it. Granted, he was previously constantly occupied with saving Metro City, so he might not have had any time to practice and improve yet.
  • King Julian in Madagascar 2 tries to whistle, but only manages to blow raspberries.
  • Mumble, The main character of Happy Feet is the only penguin among his peers that can't sing to save his life. His voice actor, Elijah Wood, is a pretty decent singer in real life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Some versions of Sherlock Holmes make him a painfully bad violinist. In the original stories he's quite skilled, although he tends to play endlessly when thinking or bored, to Watson's annoyance. The literary canon explains that Holmes is quite talented but usually can't be motivated to attempt an actual tune. Most of the time, he just listlessly scrapes away with the bow while his mind is elsewhere, and he barely seems to realise he's doing it.
  • A Japanese interactive film Super Voice World features the "player" character meeting various voice actors on his way to becoming one himself. Too bad his singing evokes visions of two nerds (played by Yamaguchi Kappei and Matsumoto Yasunori) taking off each other's glasses and falling on the floor in each other's embrace (no, it doesn't really make sense in context, either), shatters glass, kills goldfish, makes flowers wither, sends producers to the hospital and causes bad emotional trauma to the three poor girls who asked him to sing in the first place — they hide behind furniture and threaten him with fruits afterwards. Yeah.
  • Subverted in High Fidelity where Jack Black's character's band, Sonic Death Monkey, has been built up for the entire third act. They finally appear playing smooth R&B Standards, and sound great.
  • Mark and the members of his garage band in Welcome To The Dollhouse. Case in point is the infamous "Happy Anniversary" song.
  • Played with during the "camp battle" scene in American Pie Presents: Band Camp. The MC is challenged to a musical "duel". He's recently taken up the triangle. His competitor, of course, is much better. Then the MC pulls out an instrument he, unexpectedly, plays well.
  • In Take the Money and Run, this is the result of attempts to teach Virgil to play the cello. As his instructor puts it, "He had no conception of the instrument. He was blowing into it." It doesn't help that he tries to play cello in a marching band.
  • In the comedy Water (1985), Billy Connolly plays a communist rebel who's sworn never to speak until his island nation is free, so he communicates by singing. Unfortunately he's not very good at it, so when it's time for him to address the United Nations they're unimpressed, until a cameo appearance by George Harrison and Ringo Starr with their band "The Singing Rebels" earns him a standing ovation.
  • The singers at the first wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The credits even list them as "Frightful Folk Duo".
  • The Pink Panthers's Inspector Clouseau is the archetypal Clueless Inspector, and "playing the violin" is one of many things he isn't good at.
  • Billy Madison: Billy and Carl compete in the musical round of an "Academic Decathlon." Carl wears a tuxedo and plays the violin beautifully. Then Billy, dressed in his street clothes, blows into his clarinet - and toots out a horribly off-key, screechy note. He smiles sheepishly, points to Carl and says "He's good."

  • Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger books:
    • Jon-Tom, the eponymous Spellsinger, can work magic with his music — but he has absolutely no vocal talents. He still sings, because his magical abilities require singing to work.
    • The villain from the eighth book makes Jon-Tom sound like a multiple-Grammy winner.
  • The entire Smythe-Smith family in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series. An entire family of girls with no musical talent, and three-quarters of the family are in denial about it enough to insist that all of the eligible maidens play a musicale every year.
  • Discworld is fond of this trope:
    • In Lords and Ladies, it's revealed that Nanny Ogg's baths are accompanied by singing so loud and dreadful they cause everyone in her village to seek shelter. Animals forced to endure it unprotected produce curdled milk afterwards. Whereas opera singers can shatter glass with their voice, Nanny Ogg can clean it. Making it worse is that the tin bath she uses amplifies it to the point you can hear it from a good distance up the mountains.
    • Christine in Maskerade doesn't so much sing as shriek the words of opera songs ("Kwesta?! Mallydetta!!"); however, she looks the part and has genuine "star quality", so she is chosen over the supernaturally talented Agnes in the end. Christine and Agnes are, of course, an inversion of Christine and Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera, although in most versions the latter is more overblown and past her prime than dreadful.
    • Death is likewise a terrible musician. He has tried to learn the violin and banjo at various points, but is inherently unable to be creative and always fails. Death at one point came close to ending the universe in Soul Music by playing a magical guitar. That was the catastrophic combination of the nature of the player and the divine quality of the instrument in question. This was entirely intentional and done for a very good cause.
    • Soul Music features an entire band of these, who flail away at their instruments so poorly that the drummer is actually prone to missing the drums entirely.
    • In The Wee Free Men, the Nac Mac Feegle gonnagles use the Mousepipes (a.k.a. bagpipes) as a weapon of war. About the only thing worse is their poetry, which would make Vogons curl up in pain.
    • In Small Gods, Brutha's singing is so awful that he receives special dispensation to be excused from choir practice. The music master says it puts him in the mind of a disappointed vulture arriving too late at the dead donkey. Om himself (holy horns) compares it to the lamentations of the plague-stricken.
    • In Pyramids, Ptraci is on page 5 of her dulcimer instruction book Little Pieces for Tiny Fingers and can almost play "The Goblins' Picnic". The late king, however, enjoyed her music, in a way. Life seemed so much better once she stopped.
  • Redwall
    • Dorothea Duckfontein Dillworthy: "To describe the haremaid's voice as being akin to a frog trapped beneath a hot stone would have been a great insult, to both frog and stone." She also plays the "harecordion", which apparently sounds like a rusty hinge even before she accidentally soaks it in cider. Her two fanboys, Southpaw and Bobweave, apparently genuinely love her music, while everyone else flees at the mere suggestion that she's about to sing.
    • Captain Slipp and Blaggut, a pair of searats, are asked to sing at one point in The Bellmaker. Not only do they both suck at it, their choice of song is so gory it makes the Dibbuns cry.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy, Vice Principal Nero forces the academy's students to listen to hours of his horrendous violin playing. Naturally it's a Historical In-Joke: mad Emperor Nero also inflicted his astounding lack of talent on his unfortunate subjects. In his case, complaining about the racket meant death.
  • Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: Mary Bennet is quite the terrible singer. Her father has to pry her away from the pianoforte at Mr. Bingley's ball, to spare the other guests. Adaptations tend to make her even worse than the book, failing to realize that her flaw was that she was pretentious and Giftedly Bad; Lizzie isn't much better as a musician, but she knows her talent level.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar series has a song about a Countess whose singing was so terrible (and whose personality was so abusive) that she wound up stuffing her lute down her throat.
  • Alastair Reynolds' standalone Noir Alternate History novel Century Rain averts this trope. In an early scene, the protagonist is walking into a superior's office while he plays a violin, as her Internal Monologue notes how grating and painful the music is. It is then revealed that she, along with a large portion of the rest of the human race, were infected with a designer-disease called "amusica", which prevented people from enjoying music, to ruin their side's morale.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe gives us the band Disaster Area, the loudest sound of any kind in the known universe. Host planets to their gigs are largely left in ruins. The only positive gig was on a planet where the music turned a vast desert into a verdant field by flipping the planet's crust like a pancake, and it was also loud enough to cure the locals of their telepathy.
  • "Two Kinds", a story from The Joy Luck Club, has Jing-Mei learn how to play the piano very badly. In front of a large audience including her parents, no less. She admits that she could have become a good pianist, but was so irritated at her mother forcing her to be a "prodigy" against her wishes that she deliberately set out to be this trope instead.
  • Harris from Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing About the Dog) drove many accompanying pianists mad with his awful singing, to the amusement of the crowd.
  • When the 597th Valhallan arrives on Gravalax in For the Emperor, Cain describes the regimental band as:
    [T]humping and parping away at If I Should Forget Thee, O Terra, as though they had a grudge against the composer.
  • Breq, the protagonist of Ancillary Justice and its sequels, loves choral music and often sings to herself. Unfortunately for everyone around her, she has a terrible voice.
  • Justin Bieber is portrayed as this in Travis Shorts. He's so bad that his music actually makes people go deaf.
  • According to Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle, every citizen of Mechanicsburg is required to learn to play at least one musical instrument by law. This law was passed to punish the citizens for a very brief rebellion. The Heterodyne at the time didn't want to kill people for a revolt so minor, but couldn't allow it to go unpunished, so he arranged for every future generation to be tortured by the sound of children trying to learn to play.
  • Karyl of The Dinosaur Lords is a dreadful, dreadful musician, and Rob winces any time he's forced to listen to him. Karyl tries to defend himself by pointing out that it's not easy to learn how to play when you have only one working hand.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Several NBC teen comedies like California Dreams have a character horribly tone-deaf trying to join a band and the rest trying to give them "lessons" rather than admit how bad they are. Subverted on City Guys, where Cassidy's horrible singing before an open-night audition has her bandmates decide it's better to let her perform alone rather than be embarrassed in public. At which point Cassidy reveals she's a great singer and was pulling this just to perform solo.
  • Edith Bunker of All in the Family tends to sound like a cat being tortured when she sings. She also loves to sing, much to Archie's chagrin.
  • In 'Allo 'Allo!, when Rene's wife Edith prepares to sing in the cafe, all the patrons pass round cotton wool (or cheese) to stuff in their ears.
  • In Auction Kings, Cindy is a downplayed example. When a drum set comes in, Cindy reveals she has a drum set at home and knows how to play. It turns out she knows how to play exactly one beat, which she does continually.
  • On Babylon 5, G'Kar ends up having to serve some time in the station's jail. He passes the time by singing, which causes the station population to mistakenly believe Station Security is torturing him. He finds this hilarious when he is told about it.
  • Oz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer maintains this opinion of himself and his band, saying that a review that describes them as playing "as if they have plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers" is fair. In reality they're not bad at all, their music provided by alternative rock group Four Star Mary.
  • When Pierce in Community joins a band, everyone expects him to be this. However, he proves to be a very good keyboard player, although lead singer Vaughan has less than positive lyrics about Britta — who herself has an atrocious singing voice, as demonstrated in the Christmas Glee Club episode.
  • In the fourth wall-breaking Doctor Who special "Music of the Spheres", the Doctor tries composing a symphony inspired by planetary rotation synthesized into music through the TARDIS harmonics filters. Let's just say the universe makes better music than Ten. But at least we get the image of him conducting an orchestra with the sonic screwdriver.
  • Private Dobbs, the inept fort bugler from F Troop.
  • The way Frasier solves his insecurity complex in "The Perfect Guy" is by revealing his Foil to be one of these.
    • Daphne is such an awful pianist that her previous teacher of eight years was apparently Driven to Suicide.
  • Nick Andolpolis, of Freaks and Geeks. His audition in the "I'm with the Band" episode is at once one of the funniest and most painful Cringe Comedy moments on a show that's full of them.
  • Friends:
    • Phoebe is known for playing the guitar in Central Perk and is sometimes (but not always) portrayed as such. Her biggest failing is in her lyrics, which are either terrifyingly banal (like "Smelly Cat") or terrifyingly tasteless (like a Christmas carol she wrote about her mom dying).
    • Ross's FX-heavy keyboard compositions ("The Sound") in "The One Where Chandler Crosses a Line" strike everyone this way. When he tries to play the bagpipes in "The One With Joey’s New Brain", the results are similar; everyone hates it except Phoebe.
  • On Game Shakers, Double-G finally gets to do a song with his long-time idol Diana DeVane, the woman's manager insisting Double-G sign the contract guaranteeing Diana is paid no matter what. The song becomes a nightmare, as Diana's voice has been rendered to a horrific screech thanks to operations, and she's totally unware of it. The manager just shrugs and says that she lives off the past and it's okay by him.
  • PJ and Emmett in Good Luck Charlie are shown to be incapable of both singing and playing an instrument in an episode where they enter a Battle of the Bands competition.
  • Colonel Klink of Hogan's Heroes is a horrendous violin player. This is a bit ironic, as his actor Werner Klemperer was apparently very talented at it.
  • Kamen Rider Double had a one-off character named Jimmy Nakata, a street musician who invented a rock/rap fusion he calls called "spilk" — which consists of him wailing discordantly on a guitar and screaming at the top of his lungs. His singing makes everyone nearby drop to the ground in agony, kills birds in mid-flight, and even seems to cause earthquakes. Yet he's suspiciously still winning the American Idol-style contest he's in, even against opponents who were in real life members of AKB48. It turns out that his only fan, a girl who's in love with him, hired the Monster of the Week to rig the contest. But at the end, when Jimmy performs without the monster's influence, the judges admit his music was pretty dire, but they admire his passion and encourage him to keep at it.
  • Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses certainly isn't the best pianist around, but Mike tolerates his piano playing on the grounds that it prevents people from noticing that the Nag's Head's jukebox has been broken for years.
  • In Our Friends In The North Terry "Tosker" Cox is convinced he will one day front a successful rock band. He is encouraged by his relatively well-off parents, who buy him musical instruments and let his bands play in the pub they own. He only gives up on his dream when he reaches middle age and his then-wife, Mary, delivers a Reason You Suck speech about how mediocre he really is.
  • In Peep Show, Jeremy and Super Hans play together in numerous bands, from Mama's Kumquat to The Hair Blair Bunch to Curse These Metal Hands to Man Feelings. It takes them eight series to accept that none of these bands were ever any good.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Bulk is not much of a musician on any front except possibly rap, and while Skull may be an ace behind the keys of a piano (particularly with classical music), he is not a good rocker. Bulk and Skull once played so badly they burned out their amp. And Tommy Oliver, many-talented and Badass though he may be, cannot sing to save his life.
    • Played with in Power Rangers Wild Force. The flute org is an absolutely amazing musician — if you're an org. To humans, his playing sounds like nails on a chalkboard. At the other end of the spectrum, beautiful human music sounds horrible to an org.
  • Lister from Red Dwarf is so bad at playing the guitar that he's only allowed to play it outside the ship. The Red Dwarf is a spacecraft. This fact was once used as a plot point when Lister had an evil doppelganger. The false Lister played the guitar amazingly well, because it played as well as Lister thought he could, rather than as awfully as he actually could.
  • Arnie Dogen on The Red Green Show is an accident-prone roofer/country singer who can barely carry a tune.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her two friends decide to form a band — except none of them knows how to play an instrument. Zelda checks on them during practice asking if someone was being strangled. Sabrina then has to resort to using Bottled Talent to make them better.
  • Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley's off-key (and alien disease-affected) rendition of "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Naked Time."
    Riley: ONE MORE TIME!
    Kirk: Please, not again.
  • Jimmy's band in True Jackson, VP. Appropriately, their name is "Diarrhea".
  • One sketch in Welcome Freshman parodied the Prohibition era with student gangsters making bathtub bubblegum. When caught by the teachers, they defeat them by producing violin cases, from which they remove violins, which they then play very badly.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Puppet Shows 

  • I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
    • Every time Jeremy Hardy appeared, he demonstrated his lack of singing ability. After one particularly painful round of One Song to the Tune Of Another, an audience member shouted "More!" Three others immediately replied "LESS!" His character in the Spin-Off sitcom, You'll Have Had Your Tea, is the only one with a singing role, where his natural singing talents are combined with an excessivley posh accent and 90s pop songs by Atomic Kitten.
    • This trait proves to be useful in "Inverurie Jones and the Thimble of Doom".
    Mrs Naughtie: There's only one way to tell the real Laird from the imposter. Ask him to sing.
    Dougal: Steady on! Steady on, Mrs Naughtie, there's only so much flesh and blood can stand!
    • Subverted with Colin Sell. The chairman and panellists make much of his supposedly terrible piano-playing, but in fact (as they know full well) he's a very good pianist being asked to play ridiculous things.
  • Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program was a Trope Codifier.
  • The BBC Radio 4 sitcom The Music Teacher invoked this one at least Once an Episode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The fan-made Cacophonic Bard Prestige Class is for Tabletop Games fans who want to try out this type of character in a Dungeons & Dragons game. It may be intentional, but the class has one tremendous drawback — due to the Charisma limit, the character's magic is unusable (even though the class supposedly continues progression in said magic). The reason this may be intentional is because canon states a bard's spells are cast through song. According to the description of the class, one of the Cacophonic Bard's abilities is to accommodate his/her shortcomings by using the second-highest stat in place of Charisma, as seen fit.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade brings us the Daughters of Cacophony, a vampire bloodline that specializes in madness inducing sounds. Averted in that, despite the name, the bloodline selects good singers — it's their vampiric magic that gives their music its effects.
  • Done deliberately by the Slaaneshi Noise Marines of Warhammer 40K: due to centuries of self-inflicted sensory abuse, they get a bigger kick from the hideous noises they produce than actually playing music. Their victims, on the other hand, are screwed.

    Video Games 
  • Kirby, in both the video games and cartoon series, has a "microphone" power that creates an extremely powerful attack. In the game, it instantly kills all enemies on the screen. In the cartoon series, it lets him defeat a ridiculous number of Monster of the Week-level foes all at once, because his singing is just that bad. It leaves the castle in ruins, and makes his own allies shiver in dread. And yet you can't help but love it.
  • The fourth boss in Ristar is a vulture-like bird whose singing is so bad it fires deformed musical notes at you and distorts the game's background music.
  • Don Mole of Dragon Quest VIII. His harp playing is so bad, it can stun everyone in battle, except for him. He digs his own funky tune, after all. After you beat him and take away his harp, his minions thank you for ending their aural torture.
  • Shin Megami Tensei
    • In Shin Megami Tensei I, during demon negotiations, one of your options might be "Sing". Sometimes, the demons like it, and your hero's done a successful serenade. However, he might also be met with a response along the lines of, "ARGH! Shut up, I think I'm going to die!"
    • Aleph from Shin Megami Tensei II is a very bad singer, and will drive demons into a incoherent rage when he does so. Many believing he's trying to kill them.
    • In the original Persona, "Sing" is a negotiation option the MC and Elly have. As in its predecessors, some demons are less than entertained by your musical ability. In Elly's case, though, they tend to bitch about her choice of genre.
  • In Commander Keen, one of the enemy-types you encounter in the final world of Invasion of the Vorticons is a little green guy who, according to the manual, "has the worst singing-voice in the galaxy, but believes that he has the best. Thus, he sings constantly." Their soundwave projectiles pass through solid barriers and kill you on contact — making them among the most dangerous foes you can face. In fact, they're so dangerous that the Mad Scientist Big Bad, Mortimer McMire, has several of them attached to his Humongous Mecha as multidirectional weapon hardpoints.
  • This is the entire point of Team Chaotix's Team Blast attack in Sonic Heroes. They immediately give an impromptu rock concert, but their singing and instrument playing is so bad, it makes all nearby enemies explode into rings. Since collecting rings builds up your Team Blast meter, sometimes unleashing the Team Blast gives you enough rings to be able to immediately unleash it again.
  • The piano lady from Light Crusader.
  • Edy Nelson from Valkyria Chronicles is completely tone deaf. In the DLC episode "Enter the Edy detachment", if you get an A rank, she sings for her squad. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Mabinogi, Instrument Playing is a skill. People seem to think they should be paid for playing music. Some should be paid to stop. Bonus points for a midi-to-song-for-lute system.
  • Achmed Khan, in Backyard Skateboarding, sings "Skate Rock" horribly. However, the backing music is incredibly catchy.
  • A Game Mod for Unreal featured the Hanson Grenade, which stuck to the target and blasted "MMMBop" by Hanson continuously. It gave away your position, drained your health, and in the words of Unreal game designer Cliff Bleszinski, "will drive your ass insane."
  • In Vay, the heroes need to get a valuable gem from a legendary monster, who turns out to be willing to give it up in exchange for a song. None of the heroes turn out to be particularly good singers, so they go back to town and hire the traveling bard Lynx. Unfortunately for them, Lynx turns out to be not only a Dreadful Musician, but also Can't Take Criticism. Cue Boss Battle.
  • Harpy of the Puyo Puyo series is a notoriously horrid singer. So much so that in one of the short Puyo Puyo anime clips, in a Crowning Moment of Funny, she gives lessons to Seriri (who normally sings so beautifully she captivates people) and makes her sing as awfully as her.
  • One of the Dark Brotherhood's targets in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an Orc who has the dubious honor of being considered the worst Bard in Tamriel. So many people want him dead that Astrid actually has to draw a lottery to determine whose contract to honor.
  • In The Sims Medieval a Sim can get the negative mood buff You Call That Music if they hear the court jester play the fiddle badly.
  • The main character in Augmented Fourth is thrown into the Orchestra Pit (i.e. a bottomless pits) after the king violently objects to their performance of "Ode to a Duck".
  • Soleil from Fire Emblem Fates is said to be one in her profile. While the player never actually hears her sing, Soleil's regular voice clips can get rather high-pitched and loud, reinforcing the description somewhat.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight features a character named Johnny Charisma, a singer infected with the Joker's blood. While the player doesn't hear a song he sings to Batman because Batman is tripping on a combination of the Joker's blood himself and the Scarecrow's fear toxin, so he hallucinates the real Joker singing instead, once he's defeated, Robin expresses disbelief that he's a professional singer and that Alfred could do better—in a tone that suggested Alfred himself is a crappy singer.
    • From the same game, we also have Professor Pyg, whose attempts to sing along to his favourite opera music reach a truly cringeworthy level of off-key.
  • Team Fortress 2 has Demoman's "Bad Pipes" taunt where plays the bagpipes badly and we mean badly. The strange thing is the original taunt submitted "True Scotsman's Call" has his playing the bagpipes beautifully with drums, flutes, pipes, and bagpipes playing along. Why did the team change it to something so grating and obnoxious is unknown but it may have to do with licensing music.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is a pianist who couldn't play a lick of piano as a cover for his actual job as professional poker player. It's frequently mentioned by the main characters that calling him a pianist is an insult to pianists everywhere, and examining the seat by the piano in the bar he works for will elicit a comment on how it's the most painful seat in the house.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest Spin-Off The Program, apparently Brigadier General David Adams is one of these, judging by a recent announcement where he randomly bursts into the Star Spangled Banner — the narration specifically states that he wasn't any good.
  • While Lindsay can play the piano very well, The Nostalgia Chick is horrible at it. Todd in the Shadows was hurt enough by her playing that he gives in and does the crossover review she wanted to do with him.
  • The premise of Jayuzumi's video "Bad Violin Trolling" is subjecting a lobby of people in Call of Duty: Ghosts to sound clips of dreadful violin music. The reactions range from surprisingly calm to hammy and stupid.
  • Both MJTR and Thayne have played themselves up as horrendous singers in Analog Control. This is particularly played up when the two reenact an atrocious song being sung by a user in Habbo Hotel, which they refer to as "i lvoe u".
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared:
    • The Healthy Band from the fifth, in stark contrast to the previous teachers. Bread Guy mutters all his lines, Spinach Can sounds mentally handicapped, Steak Guy consistently mispronounces "organs" and doesn't even try to find a word that rhymes with "grey", and several lines of their song are just "doo doo doo doo doo".
    • The Lamp in the sixth sounds drunk, has an even more grating singing voice than the Healthy Band, and one of the only two couples in what we hear of her song that even sort of rhymes is rhyming "your friends" with "your friends".
    • Also in the sixth, in Red Guy World, the music in the bar is provided by a Red Guy stiffly mashing the keys of a piano, though it's unclear if this is considered good music in their world.
    • We only hear snippets of their songs, but when Red Guy messes with the simulation machine in the sixth, each of the rapidly cycling teachers' songs (if you can even call them that) sounds more repetitive and less coherent than the last, and one of them claims that "planets live inside the Moon".

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: Sheen has a singing so bad that it puts to sleep some creatures that are actually angered when they hear any other music. In another episode, his lack of singing ability is mocked by other characters. In song. He becomes angry.
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots features the Goblin Cleevil and her Gob Flute: a loud, cacophonous instrument played with the nose. Given the way she talks about it, goblin music is supposed to be cacophony. She is forbidden from playing it within the city limits.
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood: Weasel. "Beautiful Dreamer" is a favourite.
  • Eddie Storkowitz in an episode of Birdz. He masks it at first by lip-synching to stage-fright-ridden Gregory's much better voice during rehearsal, then come the day of the show, he fakes a sore throat and ropes Gregory into being his understudy.
  • Danger Mouse has cotton in his ears while Penfold practices the saxophone in "Who Stole The Bagpipes?".
  • Tucker Foley in Danny Phantom. He has a terrible voice for singing, and once used it to get some teens out of another musician's trance.
  • Daria
    • Everyone in Mystik Spiral. Though if you exclude the silly lyrics, "Freakin' Friends" is actually rather competent.
    • Jane has also proven to be as talented as her brother in the singing department. When she firsts meets Tom Sloane, she proceeds to purposefully torture him with a horrible rendition of "Old McDonald Had a Farm."
  • The Davincibles: the Tenors, Aka and Pella, who are both recurring villains.
  • An episode of Earthworm Jim takes this Up to Eleven with a pair so bad that their music could, quite literally, destroy the universe if they were only a little louder.
  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: In the episode "Pain in the Ed", Ed is forced to take violin lessons. Even for a beginner he's dreadful, and whenever he plays he produces a bark-peeling, stone-splitting cacophony enjoyed only by Cloudcuckoolander Johnny 2x4. It's so bad that even the music notes come flying out and smack Eddy in the face. Ed is painfully aware of how bad he is.
    Edd: Why Ed, I didn't know you played an instrument.
    Ed: In my mom's dreams, I can!
  • Futurama
    • The Robot Devil challenges Fry and Leela to a fiddle contest with a golden fiddle. Fry asks Leela if she can play the fiddle. She says no, but she used to play drums, and it's pretty much the same. She then proceeds to play appallingly.
    • Zapp Brannigan sings so badly that the glass covering the escape pod button shatters before the hand reaches it. He empties an entire restauraunt this way in "Amazon Women in the Mood".
    • Fry on the holophoner, a clarinet-like instrument that also displays holograms whose quality and content correlate directly to the music. It's incredibly hard — like a learning a 3D-modeling software as if it were an instrument. And also, you need robot hands.
  • Ninki in the BBC kids' show Kerwhizz is an enthusiastic singer with a truly horrible singing voice.
    Kaboodle: Oh no! Get a doctor! Ninki's ill!
    Kit: (laughing) She's not ill, Boodle, she's singing!
  • Señor Senior Jr. from Kim Possible wants nothing more than to be a pop star singer. Too bad his singing voice is more evil than anything even Shego can dish out.
  • Zig-zagged by Spencer on The Lionhearts. He's actually a good guitarist, but when it comes to singing, he just blows.
  • Hen in the Little Bear episode "Diva Hen". Possibly a reference to Florence Foster Jenkins, including an excerpt from one of Jenkins' favorites ("Der Hölle Rache").
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In Three Little Bops, the Big Bad Wolf only wants to join the pigs' jazz combo, but he blows a squawking toneless horn.
    • In The Mouse That Jack Built, the mouse expy of Jack Benny plays a violin that makes the hungry cat wear earmuffs while he's waiting to snatch him.
  • Coop of Megas XLR harnessed his horrible singing voice for good by literally weaponizing it with "The Jammer", a robot-mounted karaoke system that amplifies his songs to the point where they can destroy an entire space station. It's so dangerous and cruel to use there is more safety features around activating it than his nukes.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie zigzags this trope. In some episodes, her singing weirds out everyone else, in other episodes it's so good she can start a Crowd Song and in still other episodes, it enrages them into a starting a war. There is only one thing for certain; keep her away from the flugelhorns.
  • Pinky and the Brain: Yoko Ono expy Yoyo Nono in "All You Need Is Narf". She has one (mercifully very short) song, in an unmusical voice and with discordant intervals.
  • In Ruby Gloom, both Ruby and Misery audition as vocalist for Frank & Len's band and sound horrible. Averted in that when Misery sings in her sleep, she's a fantastic singer, the only problem being how to make sure she's asleep when she needs to perform.
  • Samurai Jack: the Scotsman's bagpipe playing is horrendous, enough to drive the otherwise stoic Jack to his knees in pain. This is weaponized when they face off against some Enthralling Sirens and the Scotsman's music is loud enough and bad enough to break Jack's brainwashing.
  • The Smurfs: Harmony Smurf, as specified in Comic Books. This becomes crucial in one story where he saves the day.
  • South Park
    • Cartman's rendition of O Holy Night is nightmare-inducing. His version of Come Sail Away, however, is a different story.
    • In the episode "Worldwide Recorder Concert", the kids' recorder playing sounds jumbled and clumsy in act one. And that's before they all sound the dreaded Brown Note that causes the entire human race to spontaneously void their bowels.
  • Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants is a terrible clarinet player, but still persists on practicing loudly. He seems somewhat aware of this, and it is a running gag on the series. In "Band Geeks", he got a visit from Animal Control after a practice session, who mistakenly thought he had a dying animal on the premises. And somehow he still thinks he's a talented musician. Funnily enough, later in the episode when he plays a few notes, he's actually not that bad.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • Star's crush Oskar Greason can drive people to agony with his terrible keytar playing, but Star seems to like his music.
    • As seen in "Brittney's Party", Brittney Wong is shown to be a terrible singer when she tries to entertain the guests at her birthday party with karaoke.
  • Total Drama
    • Chris McLean is a terrible singer, which is probably why his being in a boy band is an off-limits topic of discussion.
    • In Action, Lindsay is revealed to be a terrible singer and might be tone deaf.
    • Sugar, to the extent that she actually was eliminated due to this.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man has Spidey express a belief he's a good amateur flute player—a belief constantly undermined by his actual playing, which is so off-key, it caused everyone to cringe.
  • The X-Men episode, "Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas", shows that for all the talents Cyclops has, singing isn't one of them.