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Dreadful Musician

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?!
CLANNAD

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).

Hollywood Tone-Deaf is the lighter, and slightly more tolerable, version of this kind of musician. 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, where musicians do actually know how to play their instruments, but without the complexity and pretentiousness.

When adding examples, keep in mind that this trope by definition exaggerates the possible to the impossible. Therefore, this cannot occur in real life (most of the time anyway).


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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. Ironically, though, she used to practice the violin when she was little, with pretty normal results. Probably because she Never Got to Say Goodbye to her deceased parents. Or it could be similar to Tomoya in the movie, where he undergoes post traumatic stress disorder. This could also explain Kotomi's Cloudcuckoolander traits.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon
    • Jigglypuff is an inversion. Her lullaby is so good that any person or Pokémon that hears it falls asleep — which she doesn't appreciate at all and takes revenge on those who do by Face Doodling. For that, she wanders the world following the heroes, trying to find someone who can hear her entire song. She finds one later, but that's because the Pokémon that could hear her was immune to the effects of any sound-based techniques to begin with. At the end she tried to sing again to the Pokémon, but it fell unconscious from a battle it had just been in, and Jigglypuff thought he slept with the song too and left angry. Oh well.
    • Also done in the runaway ship episode of season 10 with Pikachu on cello, Buizel on saxophone, Turtwig on drums and Sudowoodo on piano. Needless to say Staravia wasn't a big fan of Pikachu's band. (On the link you will have to click the link at the bottom 3 times to see Pikachu's band and Staravia's reaction to them.)
  • 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. It should be noted that her singing voice is not provided by her normal voice actress, but by a tone-dead fifty-year old man.
  • Kudo Shinichi/Edogawa Conan, from Detective Conan. Conan's singing is simply horrendous... which is all the more funny given that his seiyuu is a very famous Idol Singer (which leads to a very interesting duet when she gets a cameo in a two-parter episode). And it's not only singing — he also can't play an instrument to save his life. The odd thing here is that, while everyone jokes that he is tone deaf, he actually has perfect pitch and is somewhat decent with the violin. He just really doesn't seem to have an interest in gaining any musical talent beyond emulating Sherlock Holmes.
  • 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.)
  • Rie Tanaka seems to get cast that way a LOT, for whatever reason. See also Eriko in Kimikiss and Xanthippe in Sora O Kakeru Shoujo. Industry in-joke?
  • 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 (for some undisclosed reason) 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). Although even with her lethal music, she's still far better than Caren, a completely unintentional example.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Macross 7, Gamlin Kizaki tried to sing, despite Basara's protest... 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, so if it works...
  • 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 though, seems Kotarou and Negi aren't that good either at singing, scoring a measly 25 and 10, respectively...
  • 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.
  • Once in Gosick, Victorique singing was mistaken for her moaning in pain.
  • 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.
  • In Q.E.D., while So Touma is genius in many ways, his singing really sucks (it petrifies those who hear it) since he's never sung in karaoke before. And he finds that he enjoys it, much to Kana's chagrin.
  • 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.
  • 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, and Yui definitely can't play at the beginning, while the others are decent musicians.
  • In Doraemon, Giant fancies himself a singer, but his voice is so awful it can be weaponized, and even in a world without sound 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.
  • Kanata is not a particularly good bugler when So Ra No Wo To begins. Not surprisingly, since learning how to play was her main reason to join the army in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Aoi from Senko No Night Raid is horrible at playing the violin, but he doesn't let that bother him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dorothy from Märchen Awakens Romance 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 4th round against Rapunzel, but in the finals, Chimera merely slaps her away; Chimera had already experienced much worse than bad singing.
  • Gajeel from Fairy Tail believes to be a good guitar player and singer. Both skills aren't good, but according by other guild members, his lyrics he wrote are quite good. However, his Shoody Doo Bop became a Memetic Mutation.
  • Mana from DokiDoki! Precure sings hilariously and horribly a lullaby.
  • 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.
  • The main character Weed of The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor has several times shown that his singing (he also writes his own lyrics) 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.
  • Kashima from Gekkan Shoujo 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.
  • In Monster Rancher the anime series, the gang is trapped on board a pirate ship, the crew are ghost monsters which can't be physically hit, so Suezo goes belowdeck to the ship's speaker system, and starts singing. The singing is 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*

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

    Comedy 
  • Henny Youngman.
  • Similarly, the 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 (primarily the blacksmith, Fulliautomatix, who tends to smack him with a sledgehammer), up to the point of tying him up and gagging him whenever they have a celebration. Which they do at the end of every book — except for the one book where he saves the day, and they tie up the smith instead. He becomes so bad in later parts of the series he starts causing horrible rain storms just by playing a few notes.
    • The "Normans" (Vikings) come to Gaul to learn the meaning of fear, a concept they cannot understand (and even then, the main reason they want to learn it is because they think it will give them the ability to fly). Not even a severe beating from the super-strong Gauls teaches them to fear — but Cacofonix's singing does.
      • Notably, Justforkix enjoys Cacofonix's music, implying that his music may actually be just too modern for anyone else to like!
    • In The Mansions of the Gods, Asterix arranges for him to get an apartment to drive the Romans out. The Roman civilians leave after Cacofonix bursts into song, but the legionaries move in. So it's back to good old brute force to finish the job.
    • In Asterix 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. 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" in the English translation). It caused a near-apocalyptic storm that caused most of the animal population of the forest to run away, including a dragon.
    • If Fulliautomatix doesn't shut him up, the gods themselves will with a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
      • It's said that Cacofonix is the ancestor to bad musicians everywhere. Likewise, it's also said that Fulliautomatix is the ancestor of music critics everywhere.
    • His voice is said to be indistinguishable from, variously: a badly-played carnyx (an ancient Celtic instrument a bit like a huge, hoarse-sounding metal vuvuzela), yodelling, and a middle-aged man screaming in agony.
    • Several books seem to imply that Cacofonix can actually be a competent musician if he doesn't use his lyre or sing, which sadly for him is exactly what he does most often! At the very least he can conduct perfectly well, and the villagers enjoy his violin music in the earliest story.
    • In the film adaptation of Asterix and the Big Fight, Getafix's hallucination causes him to imagine Cacofonix as some sort of glam rocker. His singing and playing, in Getafix's altered state of mind, is pretty good!
  • Bianca Castafiore in the Tintin books seems to fulfill this role to judge from other characters' reactions (and she's a professional opera singer). Either that, or the main characters of the comic simply don't like opera (esp. the captain). Of course, there is a world of difference between an opera singer at full blast in a theater and a taxi... This is a blatant case of authorial preference. Hergé hated opera and always found it rather ridiculous. The only people shown to appreciate Bianca's singing are Professor Calculus (who is "slightly hard-of-hearing") and Colonel Sponsz (who wants to get into her knickers). The diva was inspired by 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. The last frame shows him using it against Longtarin... 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 whatsoever 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. Also 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), so much so a Running Gag is every time he sings, stunned birds drop out of the sky. While at first he seems to think he's good at it but he later admits he knows how awful he is. However, Lilly manages to teach him how to howl wonderfully, in the process causing her and him 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.
  • The main character of Happy Feet is the only penguin among his peers that can't sing to save his 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 brilliantly talented, provided he can 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 barely seems to realise he's doing it.
  • A Japanese interactive film Super Voice World features the "player" character meeting various seiyuu 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" earn 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".
  • Chalk "playing the violin" up as another thing Inspector Jacques Clouseau (in the original The Pink Panther) isn't good at.

    Literature 
  • Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger books:
    • Jon-Tom, the eponymous Spellsinger, can work magic with his music... but has absolutely no vocal talents. And 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 3/4 of the family are in denial about it enough to insist that all of the eligible maidens play a musicale every year.
  • Discworld
    • 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. Although it was mostly the result of the catastrophic combination of the nature of the player and the divine quality of the instrument in question. It is worth noting that this was entirely intentional and done for a very good cause.
    • Soul Music also 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. Apparently Terry Pratchett is fond of this trope.
    • 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.
    • 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 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.
    • 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.
    • There's even a song about it — "When You Play the Violin" by The Gothic Archies.
  • 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.
    • Although it's not quite as crude as it may appear in some adaptations: The novel puts it in perspective by specifying that Mary's pretentiousness about her performance works against her. In contrast, the romantic heroine doesn't really sing or play any better, but is more modest about it.
  • 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.
  • Disaster Area from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. Hosting one of their gigs on your home planet will literally leave it in ruins. It did once turn a vast desert into a verdant field, though. So there's that.
  • "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:
    thumping 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Auction Kings, a downplayed example comes in the form of Cindy. 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.
    • Paul himself had an expensive guitar he wanted to take lessons to play. After never getting around to it, Cindy convinces him to auction it, as valuable guitars were in high demand at that time.
    • The broken Calliope sounded awful when it was first turned on. After Delfino got some help fixing it, they were able to auction it.
    • The player-piano also sounded awful pre-repairs. Again, after some love from Delfino, it was ready for auction.
    • Averted by Jon, who was able to learn to passably play the Stumpf Fiddle in time for the auction.
  • Ross's FX-heavy keyboard compositions ("The Sound") in the Friends episode "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lister from Red Dwarf is so bad at playing the guitar that he's only allowed to play it outside the ship. Please remember that 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.
  • Private Dobbs, the inept fort bugler from F Troop.
  • 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.
  • Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley's off-key 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.
Although, to be fair to Riley, he was affected by an alien disease at the time.
  • 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.
    • If you watch the episode, Nick really isn't that bad a drummer, but he didn't know the song he was told to play well enough, leading to him bombing. Daniel, Ken and Sean, on the other hand, qualify for sure.
  • 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 actually kills birds in mid-flight, and yet he's still winning the American Idol-style contest that's going on at the time, which draws suspicion. Gets a slight twist near the end: when the judges are freed from the Monster of the Week's mind control, they tell Jimmy his music was pretty dire, but they can't call it out-and-out bad because he was showing real passion in his performance.
  • Despite Reba starring a well-known excellent singer, two of her character kids are actually this when singing.
  • 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.
    • Britta herself has an atrocious singing voice, as demonstrated in the Christmas Glee Club episode.
  • 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, which they remove violins from, and then play very badly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jimmy's band in True Jackson VP. Appropriately, their name is "Diarrhea".
  • 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.
  • Arnie Dogen on The Red Green Show is an accident-prone roofer/country singer who can barely carry a tune.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The way Frasier solves his insecurity complex in "The Perfect Guy" is by revealing his Foil to be one of these.
  • 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.)

    Pro Wrestling 
  • WWE seems to have a thing to use this trope on their poor fans.
    • Jillian Hall had this as her gimmick.
    • And in the early 90s there was the theme song of The Mountie and The Quebecers which was sung by the wrestlers themselves badly.
    • Every time the Foreign Wrestling Heel wants to sing his national anthem.
    • Heck, even when it's supposed to be a good thing, you have people like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who by his own admission "can't sing worth a damn", singing America The Beautiful in a duet with Lillian Garcia (who can sing quite well).
    • Randy Savage's Be a Man Rap CD.
  • More recently, WWE is implementing this trope with Heath Slater. Everybody hates his singing, except for one Michael Cole. This led to Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal coming together as the Tag Team 3MB (3 Man Band).
  • WCW wrestler "Heavy Metal" Van Hammer, whose initial gimmick was of a wrestling heavy metal guitarist. He wasn't very good at either. He would bring his guitar to the ring and do Air Guitar. Despite WCW pushing him as hard as they could and despite his Real Life friendship with Diamond Dallas Page, he never really accomplished anything in WCW or anywhere else, never winning a title in any promotion.

    Radio 
  • Every time Jeremy Hardy appears on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. After one particularly painful round of One Song to the Tune Of Another, an audience member shouted "More!" Three others immediately replied "LESS!"
    • Naturally, his character in the Spin-Off sitcom, You'll Have Had Your Tea, is the only one with a singing role. Made funnier since 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!
  • Jack Benny on The Jack Benny Program was a Trope Codifier.

    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.

    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
    • Potentially, the Protagonist 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 also 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 passes through solid barriers and kills 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 have 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 payed 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.
  • The Doom Rickroller WAD turns a boombox playing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" into a demon-slaying weapon.
    • The "Never Gonna Give You Up"-playing boombox has also become part of a Half-Life mod, as shown in this video.
  • 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 is also unable to take criticism. Cue Boss Battle.
  • Harpy of the Puyo Puyo series is a notoriously horrid singer. So much 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 make 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. Playable Bards generally aren't this though.
  • The main character in Augmented Fourth was thrown into the Orchestra Pit note  after the king violently objected to their performance of "Ode to a Duck."

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, who 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 insullt 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 

    Western Animation 
  • 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!
    • Later on, though, it's revealed that he's pretty good at playing the flute (to the point of being able to lead animals with the sound a la Pied Piper of Hamlin). Just don't ask where he keeps it...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Smurfs: Harmony Smurf, as specified in Comic Books. Which becomes crucial in one story where he saves the day.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • At times, though, his persistence pays off!
  • 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.
  • 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. After the Robot Devil tells her that she lost, she replies, "And now for the drum solo!" and hits him over the head with the fiddle. It's also inverted with the Robot Devil: Fry points out that a golden fiddle would be excessively heavy for a fiddle, and sound terrible. The Robot Devil concedes that it's more of a style thing than anything else... then proceeds to perform superbly, on that golden fiddle he was just admitting was useless.
    • Also, 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. To be fair, most are if they don't have robot hands. (For the uninitiated, a holophoner is a clarinet-like instrument that displays holograms as well as music. The complexity of the music directly correlates to the quality and content of the holograms. To get a rough idea of what it's like to play one, try imagining learning how to use 3D-modeling software without tutorials or instructive videos, and combine with the entire process of learning an instrument, from learning your basic scales to becoming an orchestra-level musician.)
  • Seńor 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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").
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Looney Tunes short Three Little Bops, the Big Bad Wolf only wants to join the pigs' jazz combo, but he blows a squawking toneless horn.
  • Zig-zagged by Spencer on The Lionhearts. He's actually a good guitarist, but when it comes to singing...
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pinkie zigzags this trope. In some episodes, her singing weirds out everypony 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.
  • In Grojband, when it comes to coming up with good lyrics, Corey Riffin does a bad job (But only without the use of Trina's diary).
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood: Weasel. Beautiful Dreamer is a favourite.


The DragonslayerCharacters as DeviceThe Driver
Dramatic TimpaniMusic TropesDrum Roll Please
Drama QueenCharacter Flaw IndexDrowning My Sorrows
Drawing StrawsComedy TropesDresses the Same
Dramatically Missing the PointAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Dystopian Edict
Comic BooksImageSource/Comic BooksEpic Battle Boredom

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