Sound is a vibration, which can be transmitted to a physical object, such as glass. If the pitch of the sound matches the natural vibration frequency of the object, and if the volume of the sound is loud enough, then the resulting vibration can cause the object to break. In the case of glass (usually wine crystals), the notes that cause resonance vibration are rather high-pitched. As a result, shattering glass has become a fictional shorthand for indicating that a sound (often someone singing) is particularly loud or high-pitched. Or to indicate that they're a terrible singer (an acoustic analogue to Mirror-Cracking Ugly). (While it's possible to crack glass with the human voice, it's not as easy as just screaming; rather, you have to match the note that the glass makes when struck and create destructive resonance by holding the note long enough. So unless you have perfect pitch and excellent lung power — and don't mind something made of glass exploding in your face — Do Not Try This at Home.) Sometimes coupled with Dramatic Shattering. Compare Make Me Wanna Shout, which covers all-purpose (i.e. not limited to brittle materials) sonic attacks. Related to Gale-Force Sound, which affects things other than glass. Frequently happens at the performances of a Dreadful Musician or an operatic Brawn Hilda. It is not, however, an indication that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is making an entrance. Compare Cute, but Cacophonic.
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- One of Memorex's "Is it real or Memorex?" TV commercials, where Ella Fitzgerald breaks a wine glass by singing a high note... and then replaying the recording of Ella singing also causes glass to shatter.
- One Bud Light commercial has two dudes going to an opera with bottles of the beer. Cue one Brawn Hilda soprano aria...all of the bottles pop. Another dude turns around and shows the other two that they should have brought cans.
- One commercial for Diet Mountain Dew ends with a lady topping her two eagle-tattoo sporting co-workers by letting out a piercing eagle-esque scream and shattering all the glass walls. Then she lets out a smaller eep to destroy the glass vase sitting on the table.
- A Skittles commercial featuring Steven Tyler had a Skittles portrait of the singer being tricked into doing this to himselfnote .
- Seen in this Nickelodeon station ID from the 1990s, where a female opera singer with a huge orange "Nickelodeon" wig sings a high note that causes the conductor's eyeglasses to break.
Anime & Manga
- In the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman episode, "Murder Music," has a scheme of kidnapping a rock band, forcing them to perform special music and then have a special ship with giant speakers that emits that music superloud that can shatter whole buildings and drive people insane.
- Hägar the Horrible: When Hägar's wife Helga gets in the mood to sing, she proves perfectly able to shatter goblets with her voice... iron goblets.
Films — Animation
- In Shrek the Third Prince Charming shatters the audience members' wine glasses, opera glasses and even pearl necklaces with his girly high-pitched singing during his play.
- The Adventures of Tintin: The villain hires Bianca Castafiore in order to shatter the bulletproof glass holding a model ship he was planning on stealing.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. The villains have Fievel imprisoned inside a glass bottle, but fortunately his sister Tanya takes the stage at that point, and her song breaks the bottle.
Films — Live-Action
- Parodied in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The fat lady tries to sing high enough to break a glass; when she fails, she just shatters it against her frame.
Fat Lady: It's amazing! And just with my voice!
- In Victor/Victoria, Julie Andrews' character does this with some frequency. By dint of Rule of Funny, it's also capable of stunning people and popping champagne corks.
- In Splash, Madison saying her real name in her native language causes all the TV screens on a department store to shatter.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Roger's glass-breaking "steam whistle" after drinking strong liquor.
- Last Action Hero has this in Movie Land when the Lieutenant screaming after Jack Slater causes his windows to break.
- Sean Cassidy, a.k.a. Banshee in X-Men: First Class. Charles points out all the science to Sean.
- Invoked and parodied in The Absent-Minded Professor: The opening scene features Professor Brainard attempting to demonstrate this with a trumpet and a glass placed on the table. His playing fails to crack the glass but manages to shatter every other glass object in the room, including beakers full of chemicals that fill the room with smoke as the opening credits roll.
- They Call Me Bruce (1982). In a Shout-Out to the above-mentioned advertisement, a kung fu master tries to instruct Bruce how to make a Kiai shout. When Bruce tries it, a nearby glass cabinet shatters.
Master: Was that you?!
Bruce: No, Memorex!
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind: At the Devil's Tower rendezvous, the scientists attempt to initiate dialog with the mothership with the five-note salutation. They play it several times before the ship joins in, quite loudly, shattering some control booth windows.
- In The Saddest Music in the World, Roderick creates a high pitched sound with his cello that makes Helen's glass legs break.
- Enchanted: After Nathaniel fails her for the last time, Narissa screams so loudly, she shatters 'every single glassware in the cavern.
- In The Fourth Bear, Judy's scream is so shrill, it makes a nearby flowerpot shatter.
- The key to the murderer's plan in "The Face of Helen", from the collection The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie.
- The purpose of the screaming clock in The Three Investigators.
- Part of the explanation of the mystery in the Father Brown story The Flying Fish.
- Played for Drama in "The Glass Collector", a Whoniverse short story in the book Time Lord Fairy Tales. The heroine's screams of grief, rage, and horror are sufficient to destroy jars of collected tears and more importantly People Jars.
- In Chronicles of a Strange Kingdom, after a failed coup, king Shellar gets fed up with his Nobility Counsil to the point he snaps for the first time in his life and gives them an epic dressing-down, brutal and vicious enough to cause terrified obedience, several heart attacks and a bad case of stutter. He only calms down after his voice blows out several windows in the room.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has a scene where Ms. Martin tries to give London singing lessons. They start with the simple "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do", but once London reaches the last Do, the note shatters a glass on the table in front of them.
- iCarly: There's a video where a girl sings a note so high it shatters one of her mom's really good glasses.
- MythBusters tested this one (explicitly referencing the Memorex commercial with Ella Fitzgerald above) and managed to replicate it. Jamie wasn't able to hold the right note long enough to break the wine crystal (he made the mistake of singing an octave too low), but Adam was, and the metal singer they brought in to give vocal lessons was able to break it without even using any amplification. The show did highlight how difficult the latter feat was, however; even the metal singer (Jaime Vendera) required 20 attempts to break even one glass sans amplification.
- In The Goodies episode "The Stolen Musicians", Cilla Black's voice can not only shatter glass, it can bring down an entire building.
- Get Smart:
- Da Chief went undercover as a singing waiter and used his ability to shatter glass with a high D to break a mook bad guy's glasses, distracting them enough to shoot the bad guy.
- Another time, a Brawn Hilda opera singer is recruited to hit a high note to shatter an unbreakable glass cell holding a captive scientist — when her note breaks all the glass in the vicinity except the booth, she squares her shoulders and just walks right through it.
- In one of the episodes of the Batman series, Batman and Robin get trapped in a glass dome. They break free by making a glass-shattering voice of F sharp above high C.
- The Amanda Show has this when Amanda demonstrates the audience if she can break a wine glass with her voice. All the glass around the studio breaks, but not the wine glass until she just purposely breaks it herself.
- An episode of Bonanza revolved around a man with a glass-shattering voice. The Cartwrights had to protect him after he broke every glass in Virginia City and the enraged beer drinkers came looking for revenge.
- Is presented by Jonathan Creek as a solution to part of the mystery in The Judas Tree
- CSI NY did this in "Not What It Looks Like". A bunch of women dressed as Holly Golightly used a frequency on an iPod to shatter glass counters in a jewelry store so they could make off with the jewels.
- Played with by real-life opera star Renee Fleming on an episode of "The Late Show with David Letterman" where she delivered "The Top Ten Opera Lyrics," giving a demonstration that "As a pro, my voice can shatter stuff." She cheats and smashes the glass on the floor instead, saying, "Close enough!"
- On Supernatural, angels' natural voices tend to shatter all the glass in the vicinity. This is one of the reasons they need human vessels.
- In an episode of That's So Raven Raven's grandmother came to visit and demonstrated this ability which she taught to Chelsea who then uses it in her own singing audition. However, as the episode's main storyline was how Raven's friends became annoyed with how Raven's visions tended towards dragging them into embarrassing situations they force her to promise not to tell them about any visions she gets and she got a vision before the audition. You can obviously guess what happens when all the judges are wearing glasses...
- The first case of Stick With Me Kid (covering the first two episodes) invoked this with a chemical that, when sprayed on glass, would make any loud sound shatter it. It was used to post-date a diamond theft and replacement with a fake by spraying it on the (actually already swapped) diamond's case during the day and simply tripping the alarm at night.
- A Running Gag on Parker Lewis Can't Lose had Principal Musso's screams of rage shattering the window in her office door.
- In the Diablo Swing Orchestra's song "Balrog Boogie", there's a sound effect of breaking glass as singer Annlouice Loegdlund hits the high notes in the second verse.
- There was a Spitting Image sketch in which Margaret Thatcher's voice was so high it could shatter the glass in people's spectacles, until she was coached to speak more deeply. (The sketch ended with her sounding like Adolf Hitler.)
- The Muppet Show:
- In one episode, special guest Ethel Merman shows Miss Piggy and Kermit what note you need to hit to shatter a glass.
Kermit: Did you also double as an air-raid siren during The War?
- A series of newspaper comics had Piggy trying to do it herself. Her first attempt cracked the table.
- In one episode, special guest Ethel Merman shows Miss Piggy and Kermit what note you need to hit to shatter a glass.
- Exaggerated in an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, where Mariah Carey's ultrasonic voice shattered the arena's lights, made nearby dogs suffer and caused Jim Carrey's head to explode.
- Dungeons & Dragons, starting from AD&D2, has the "Shatter" spell that breaks fragile objects through sound.
- The Atavism "Siren's Treacherous Song" in Beast: The Primordial allows Siren-like Beasts to make sound blasts through the expenditure of Satiety, which in addition to doing lethal damage and deafening anyone who hears it, also shatters any glass in the immediate area.
- LEGO Adaptation Game:
- Willie's special ability in LEGO Indiana Jones is to scream, which breaks nearby glass.
- The same ability is possessed by Syrena and Philip in LEGO Pirates Of The Caribbean.
- And by Black Canary and Man-Bat in LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes.
- In LEGO Harry Potter, you use Mandrakes to break glass, but your character has to put earmuffs on first.
- If you play the Tentacle mating call recording in a room with glass fixtures in Maniac Mansion, it will shatter them. This includes if you mail it to the Three Guys That Publish Anything.
- In Ghost Master your ghosts can learn the Shattering Song power, which is a wail so loud that it breaks glass and greatly scares people. It can also be used to free some of the restless spirits.
- In Syberia, one of the puzzles requires you to acquire a special cocktail so an aging opera singer can recover her singing voice, which she naturally tests with this trope.
- In The Crystal Key, you have to use a portable Arkonian radio and tune it to one of its dead stations, one that emits a high enough frequency that can shatter the glass panel protecting the last piece of the Crystal Key.
- In one episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures, Katie and Sadie's singing is so bad that it cracks Lemon Meringue's mirror, which wasn't even in the same house.
- In one episode of DuckTales, someone brings in a bird whose calls shatter all glass within a very large radius of itself. This becomes a problem for Scrooge when the glass cases he keeps his non-money valuables in shatter too.
- The Simpsons:
- When Bart's class visited the Springfield PD, Bart lined up about 20 megaphones, turned them all on, and said "Testing" into the first one. This shattered glass for miles around.
- Parodied in another episode where Lisa hitting a high note seems to cause a glass to shatter, only to reveal Homer has shot the glass with a BB gun.
- In one instance when the family visits the movie theater, a short parody of the THX sound test is played. The sound is so loud it shatters Hans Moleman's glasses — then another guy's teeth, the emergency exit signs, parts of the ceiling, and culminates in making a poor sap's head explode. Even then, Grandpa is implied to have not heard it clearly.
Abe Simpson: Turn it up! Turn it UP!
- In one episode of Futurama, Zapp Brannigan's terrible karaoke shatters the "In case of emergency, break glass" glass in front of the button for the escape pods, which was about to be broken anyway by the fleeing "audience."
- In an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine "Thomas, Percy, and the Squeak" an opera singer named Alicia Botti sees a mouse in one of the coaches and her scream shatters windows around the dockyard.
Gordon: Definitely a coloratura!
- In the VeggieTales episode "Princess and the Pop Star," Princess' high notes cause one of the band member's glasses to shatter on multiple occasions.
- In one Making Fiends episode, Vendetta's kazoo-playing shatters a mirror.
- In the The Fairly Oddparents episode "Chip Off the Old Chip", a Running Gag involves Timmy's terrible voice winds up breaking some glass, while Chip Skylark's voice makes the glass magically unbreak. When Timmy and Chip wind up switching voices, Timmy now has the ability to fix the glass Chip broke with Timmy's awful voice.
- In The Smurfs, Harmony's playing the triangle at a pitch that makes Brainy's glasses crack in "Smurphony In 'C'", and Denisa's scream that makes the vials in Gargamel's hovel shatter in "Denisa's Greedy Doll".
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- The episode "Nuthin' Special" has Buttercup trying to find out what her special power is, only to be matched and one-upped by Blossom and Bubbles. One of them is their "sonic scream," which shatters every glass window in the downtown area. The crowd gathered around seemed to be more interested in this sibling contest than in the collateral damage to the city.
- The episode "Tiara Trouble" from the 2016 reboot has Bubbles able to sing so high it shatters glass. She uses it to defeat a possessed Princess Morbucks by shattering the cursed tiara she's wearing.
- The Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper" has a parody of this, when Pacifica sings a high note and shatters a plastic cup.
- Kim Possible uses her painful attempt at a high note to break through a layer of ice in one of Drakken's death traps.
- An episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy has Nazz yodeling, which breaks several objects, including drink glasses, a vase and Ed.
- In the Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Bottle Shocked", one of the obstacles Mickey has to avoid while trying to return to Minnie with a bottle of champagne is an opera singer whose voice threatens to shatter everything in the vicinity made of glass, the bottle included.
- Played with in an early Code Lyoko episode as it's not initially realized that sound (supersonic and generated by XANA) broke the "glass" in question. Rather the plastic cup happened to break when Yumi, angry at Sissi, squeezed it while lecturing her. Still this trope is lampshaded when Ulrich points out that it's a plastic cup, not "Venetian crystal" while tending to Yumi's cut hand.
- A Family Guy Cutaway Gag involves Peter's great-aunt Ella Fitzgerald Griffin hitting a high note and breaking a glass cup, the shards of which blinded Ray Charles.
- Bugs Bunny makes opera singer Gionvanni Jones ("Long Haired Hare") hold a note so long it literally brings down the Hollywood Bowl.