We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here
"Can you feel my heartbeat?"
Thub-thub... thub-thub... thub-thub...
— 2PM, "Heartbeat"
The human heartbeat is an evocative sound, one with literally life-and-death significance, so it comes as no surprise that songwriters and composers frequently co-opt the sound to inject a little gravitas
into a song or a scene.
The beep-beep of an electrocardiogram, or a drumbeat intentionally meant to mimic a heartbeat, also count for our purposes.
When a heartbeat is used in a soundtrack, it's common to partially or completely mute every other sound
. The heartbeat then serves either as an indicator that a character is near death, or as an audible indicator of shocked silence
The beat can increase greatly in speed if the characters are in a nervous state. When it becomes very fast and loud, it usually means someone is about to die or suffer a nervous breakdown.
May overlap with Songs in the Key of Panic
in games that use it to symbolize low health. When used properly, it can amount to Paranoia Fuel
open/close all folders
- In Dragon Ball Z the first seconds of Frieza's theme of death "A Chilling Elegy" gives a slow heartbeat with a bell of death sound.
- Princess Mononoke has a loud, dull pulse invade the soundtrack when Ashitaka tries to subdue The Corruption in his arm in the forest.
- In the first season of Sailor Moon, an ominous heartbeat is heard in the core of the Dark Kingdom (Negaverse in the DiC English dub), with Queen Metallia looming over it.
- In the Pokémon episode "A Chansey Operation", an unusual heartbeat sound can be heard when Dr. Proctor listens to Pikachu's heartbeat with his stethoscope.
- There is a heartbeat sound from within Susano-oh's chamber in Blue Seed.
- In Mahoromatic, a "mechanical heartbeat" is heard when Mahoro feels her chest.
- In the last two episodes of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, a heartbeat sound can be heard; one being in the elevator to the core of the Dark Gundam (Devil Gundam in Japan), and another in the core itself.
- In Halo Legends, during "Homecoming", when Daisy is running back home, Halo 1's "Under Cover of Night" plays. The unexpected heartbeat-like drums when Daisy suddenly sees her clone is quite appropriate.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, in the flashback with Sméagol and Déagol, the beat replaces the soundtrack as Déagol is strangled, and stops as he dies.
- There's a song on the soundtrack for Earth Girls Are Easy that also has a heartbeat beginning.
- Laurence Olivier's film version of Hamlet, every time the ghost appears.
- The classic Jaws theme evokes a heartbeat with brass.
- The Terminator soundtrack had, according to the DVD release, a "robotic heartbeat".
- The soundtrack to The Monkees' film Head features a loud heartbeat sound in a spooky scene leading up to the “Happy Birthday” sequence.
- Used in La Jetée at a few points during the experiments.
- A subtle heartbeat sound can be heard throughout the film Alien whenever the xenomorph is about to appear. Pay particular attention when the crew is eating Chinese food.
- In Repo! The Genetic Opera, "21st Century Cure" has a constant pulsing sound all the way through. Other songs in Repo! have that motif, including that one scene in "Depraved Heart Murder in Sanitarium Square".
- Dinosaur begins with the sound of Aladar's heart beating from inside his egg.
- John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) uses background music, most notably in the beginning, that is nothing more than an instrumental heartbeat.
- Sucker Punch features a heart beat during the "Sweet Dreams" introduction.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the scene of Lupin's werewolf transformation features heavy usage of heartbeat-like sound effects.
- The Shining, during the infamous "Room 237" scene.
- 28 Days Later, with "In The House, In a Heartbeat"
- Davy Jones's theme in the Pirates of the Caribbean films is played to the rhythm of a heartbeat.
- In Cloud Atlas, the audience finally hears Hae-Joo's heartbeat as Sonmi~451 does as it slows to a stop.
- The sound of heartbeat accompanies the shots from the killer's point of view in The Prey. When he runs, the beat becomes faster.
Live Action TV
- The finale of 24 Season 2 replaces the usual ticking clock at the end of the episode with President Palmer's heartbeat as he is the target of an assassination attempt.
- The Master's theme in Doctor Who is made up of a repeating "boom-boom-boom-boom" sound, most often in drums. It's the heartbeat of a Time Lord's twin-hearts, and the "sound of drums" in his head.
- Donna can hear a heartbeat in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End", a presage of the Clone Doctor that is going to be born.
- The heartbeat sound made by Dalek technology, mildly averted as attention is never drawn to the sound.
- In "The Last Day", a minisode featuring Gallifreyan soldiers, this is heard, but it's noticeably a standard one-heart heartbeat. So they aren't Time Lords, then.
- The trailer for Zagreus has a creepy heartbeat in the background while the Ironic Nursery Rhyme is recited.
- This happens in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop whenever Chi Soo goes into kiss Eun Bi. She asks her friend (Dong Joo), after the first time, if it's common to hear your heartbeat and bells when somebody is about to kiss you.
- Happens in Kyle XY, when Jesse flashbacks to when she met her next door neighbor in a hotel. She hears a heartbeat as it slows and dies, which happens to be her mom's heartbeat, as her neighbor brutally killed her.
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? uses it extensively from around the middle of the game (£32,000 under the old system) onwards to crank up the suspense. In most incarnations, the final question's music is literally nothing but a Heartbeat Soundtrack.
- "Teardrop" by Massive Attack was remixed, to play up the heartbeat sound of the drum beat, when it was made the theme to House. There's also an alternate theme when it's shown on Channel Five, apparently because they couldn't afford the music rights, which also has a heartbeat motif.
- A pulsing heartbeat sound can be heard in the background during encounters with the Prophets in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- The opening theme to Torchwood: Miracle Day has an electrocardiogram beep over it.
- Lampshaded in the Boy Meets World horror movie-themed episode:
Angela: Alright, you're the horror film expert, what's that?
Shawn: That's the sound of our beating hearts. It signifies our heightened fear, and the fact that something horrible is about to walk in that door, right NOW!
(door opens, revealing Eric and Jack standing there)
- In the episode "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19) of Supernatural, after the ghost squeezes Dean's heart.
- Also, the ending of the song has more heartbeats.
- Britney Spears uses it in Heart at the end as a finale. This song is written to her heart.
- Delta Goodrem features this to create artistic tenstion in "Extraordinary Day". A song about her dealing with her mortality to say the least.
- The intro of the trance track "Return from Flatline" by Nexus uses this along with an EKG beeping and flatlining, hence the name.
- During the "sound effect" section of ACDC's "Jailbreak" the first sound mentioned is "Heartbeats... They were racing". A bass heartbeat then continues under the remainder of the section.
- Swedish band Kent uses it to great effect on "Cowboys".
- Nelly Furtado opens "Try" with the sonogram of her daughter Mavis.
- The beginning and end of "This Is Gospel" by Panic! at the Disco.
- The beginning of "Third Eye" by Tool.
- "Six feet Under" by Funker Vogt.
- In the original attic of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, the only sound effects were screams of various ghosts and the loud beating of the bride's heart. Made for a great Mood Whiplash between the madcap ballroom song and the catchy "Grim Grinning Ghosts" number.
- Comedian Pablo Francisco employs this to humorous effect in a routine mocking movie trailers.
- In lieu of any theme music, Gorgar has a heartbeat that speeds up as the game progresses.
- In Scared Stiff, a similar sound plays after making a shot in the "Stiff-O-Meter" wizard mode.
- A variation appears in Gottlieb's James Bond 007, a time-based pinball game. A rhythmic background beat plays throughout the game, speeding up as the player runs out of time.
- Rescue 911 has the "Life Force" Wizard Mode, available after rescuing fifty lives. The entire game goes silent except for a single heartbeat that gets faster and faster as the player runs out of time to finish the mode.
- An operator setting in Stellar Wars allows the game to play a "Sweep" sound that beats faster as the player gets closer to spelling STELLAR WARS.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean, opening the Dead Man's Chest causes one to play, in time with the beating of the heart inside the chest.
- Tazz's WWE entrance theme started with a heartbeat... then went into an electrocardiogram... which then flatlined.
- Richard Wagner often used Dramatic Timpani this way in his music dramas: e.g., in Die Walküre, at the opening of Act I, Scene III and the opening of Act II, Scene IV; and in Goetterdaemmerung, in Waltraute's monologue and Siegfried's funeral march.
- City of Angels has heartbeat-like incidental music cues for the last couple of scenes in the Show Within a Show.
- Samiel's Leitmotif in Der Freischütz.
- The Emperor Jones by Eugene O'Neill does the accelerating-with-nervousness version with the Jungle Drums of the angry natives out to kill Jones. The stage directions specify that the drums start "at a rate exactly corresponding to normal pulse beat—72 to the minute" and grow gradually louder and quicker with each scene. The operatic adaptation by Louis Gruenberg painstakingly notates this.
- In Chrono Trigger, the inside of Lavos' shell replaces background music with Lavos' heartbeat and breathing, which get louder and faster as the party approaches the core.
- MOTHER 3 utilizes this to the player's advantage: When an enemy is put to sleep, a heartbeat track in sync with the current battle music plays very prominently, making it easier to pull off combo attacks. The only exceptions to this are the fights against the Masked Man, who apparently lacks a heartbeat.
- Meteos — the planet Globin. Well, it is shaped like a red blood cell...
- World X-7 has no soundtrack but a heartbeat.
- And World X-8 has, among other creepy noises, an accelerating heartbeat.
- In Dungeons Of Daggorath, the heartbeat represents your health/stamina. As you use your weapon, run or take damage, the heartbeat goes faster and faster, until the screen fades to black. If you are fighting a monster at the time, you die. As you go deeper into the dungeon, your heartbeat increases more slowly.
- In Risk of Rain the main theme has a heartbeat segment somewhere, although you likely won't hear it without a headset.
- In Samurai Shodown 1, The first part of Amakusa's stage theme is a really creepy sounding heartbeat. Creatively, arranged soundtracks replaced this with slow, steady taiko drums.
- Dance Dance Revolution has a song called "Healing Vision" that, near the end of the song, has a heartbeat segment. The song at this point slows from 196 BPM to 49 (and yes, you step on the panels in time with the heartbeats). "Healing Vision -Angelic Mix-" has heartbeat segments at the very beginning and at the very end, and ECG beeping for the rest, with a flatline at the pause and last section of the song.
- Call of Duty 4: In the last moments of Pvt. Jackson's life after the nuke goes off, all you can hear is the gusting wind and his own heartbeat.
- GoldenEye: The Facility theme at one point features a sudden drop in volume, leaving nothing but a faint heartbeat, before gradually returning to normal.
- From Touhou, the track "Fires of Hokkai" (from Undefined Fantastic Object) starts with a heavy drumbeat similar to this, leading up to the final boss.
- Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas play a heartbeat sound in the background when your character's health is extremely low. The "Level Up" four-beat military drum tune sounds like a heartbeat as well.
- The first two entries in the Mass Effect series plays a heavy heartbeat sound when the player character is low on health, the third game to a lesser extent. Also in the first two games, the background soundtrack playing during the culmination of a potential romance employs an instrumental version of this to increase the drama of the interaction.
- Oracle Of Tao has it in a few significant times. Several of them are romantic scenes, however, there are two major instances where it is used in a non-romantic setting:
- The first is when the main character, Ambrosia has an existence crisis, and start to fade away. She remembers her friends, and this sound happens right as as she winks back into being.
- The second is a steadily slowing heartbeat when Ambrosia dies of old age.
- The track Spooky Scape from Saya no Uta has a heartbeat in the background. It plays throughout most of the song, but it's difficult to notice except towards the end.
- The Ecco The Dolphin series' generally haunting soundtrack does this from time to time, for example in the themes for Sea of Darkness and (appropriately) Heart of The Foe.
- The ambient opening movie to Katawa Shoujo features both a heartbeat and the sound of a monitor. As Hisao has heart arrhythmia, it also shows up at various points in the game when he's having problems, usually starting very faint in the background and layered in with the oftentimes happy music, but it generally gets louder and faster.
- The A Nightmare on Elm Street PC game had this and only this for its soundtrack.
- This occurs in Kuon whenever an enemy is approaching. The quicker the heartbeat, the closer the danger.
- A song used in Tomb Raider 2 and 3 (and 1 in the PC version) is mainly composed of a heartbeat along with some other Hell Is That Noise sounds.
- Asteroids handled it pretty masterfully — the heartbeat's speed increases as you take out asteroids.
- Final Fantasy:
- In Final Fantasy VII, the theme of Sephiroth "Those Chosen by the Planet" makes use of a pulsating heartbeat, along with synth vocals. It's also there in his other two themes, "The Birth of a God" and "One-Winged Angel". Although it's drowned out by the other instruments.
- "The Landing" in Final Fantasy VIII starts by playing a slow heartbeat. In this case it likely signifies the calm before the battle.
- You can hear a heartbeat pounding as time slows down in Final Fantasy X with Tidus's overdrive Blitz Ace.
- From Cave Story, "Pulse".
- The aptly titled Heartbeats from online game Colour My Heart uses this.
- Mother 3:
- Anytime an enemy falls asleep. The heartbeat drums in rhythm with the battle theme that's currently playing, which can help the player to learn how to tap along with it in order to rack up damage. This can be especially helpful for tracks where the beat isn't quite obvious, or ones that have an unusual time signature.
- Also used as an indicator that things are getting serious when the Ultimate Chimera is around; the music doesn't change, but you hear Lucas' heartbeat speed up as the beast closes in on him and his party.
- Earthworm Jim 1 has a heartbeat in the music for its 'Intestinal Distress' level (for the Sega Genesis version).
- Used extensively in Manhunt.
- The main theme of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Nerevar Rising. This actually has an in-game justification of sorts: the MacGuffin of the main quest is an actual gigantic heart, belonging to the dead god Lorkhan.
- Secret of Mana has In the dead of Night which plays during the intro.
- Seiken Densetsu 3's Ghost Ship theme prominently features a heartbeat. The game also has Political Pressure, which is featured in areas like the Valley of Flames, Cave of Darkness, and the Moonreading Tower.
- Darius Force has this for the final boss theme of Galst Vic
- The briefing for the final mission of Ace Combat 04 has the faint sounds of a heartbeat and machinery in place of the usual soundtrack.
- Both versions of the hotel in Silent Hill 2, and the Meat Moss-covered alternate hospital patient wing in Silent Hill 3, as heard in the OST track "Heads No. 2". The series as a whole uses heartbeat-like controller vibrations when the hero's health is low.
- Used as a low-health warning of sorts in Rift, along with desaturated graphics and muffled standard game sounds.
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes uses this in basically all the music on Dark Aether. Heartbeats also appear in the Title Screen and Agon Wastes music. The first Metroid Prime has one in Tallon Overworld's second theme.
- Portal 2 uses two distinct heartbeats with a BGM Override for dramatic effect in the final portal shot of the game.
- The SNES port of Populous had a heartbeat superimposed on the game's ambient music track. The heartbeat played at about 120 beats per minute as long as the computer player wasn't winning by a large margin over the human player. If it was, the heart rate would increase as the computer came closer and closer to victory and decrease if the human player made a comeback. The heart rate capped at a ridiculous 480 BPM, just before the computer wiped the human player off the map, and stopped completely when the human player lost their last follower.
- In the Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Snap, a heartbeat sound is heard when Mew tries to fly back into the bubble in the Rainbow Cloud, the final stage of the game.
- Another Pokémon example appears in Hey You, Pikachu!. Toward the end of the song "Goodbye Forever Pikachu," soft beats resembling Pikachu's heartbeats play, to heartbreaking effect. This theme is reused in Hey You, Pikachu!'s Spiritual Successor, Pokémon Channel, as the track "Stargazing."
- In the adult anime PC game Brave Soul, a pulsing heartbeat sound is played during Marin's sex scene.
- In Custom Robo, a heartbeat sound is used for Rahu's chamber.
- In Radiant Historia, an ominous heartbeat-like sound is heard just before the villains' secret weapon is used.
- Rez features this at the very end of Stage 5, once you've cleared the Boss Rush and are on your way to Eden's chamber. Bonus points for tying into the image flashes you see as each phase of Eden is reawakened— which all feature some aspect of life, including a TMI-cam-like view of a capillary with pulsing blood.
- In FEAR, a heartbeat is heard during the part where you're in an elevator with Alice and you must leave it to turn the power back on again.
- In Madden NFL, you will hear heartbeat sounds when attempting a last-second potential game-winning field goal. Probably used to show how nerve-wracking such situations are for the kicker.
- Used for suspense when opening certain doors in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica.
- Heard in The Journeyman Project if your oxygen runs low in the Mars Maze. In all cases, an EKG flatline sound is heard when Gage dies or otherwise gets Game Over.
- The Halo soundtrack pieces "Destroyer's Invocation" and "Dread Intrusion".
- Desire has a music track like this, appropriately enough named "Beat".
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword:
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, the last few seconds of "Alexander's Suicide" are coupled up with Last Note Nightmare, as they are incurred by Alex's heartbeat slowing down to a stop via "Drink Me" potion.
- The Intellivision game Night Stalker had a constant heartbeat sound in the background.
- In Jak and Daxter, a heartbeat plays if you swim when there is a Lurker Shark in the water. It get faster the closer the shark gets.
- In Superman for the Nintendo 64, a heartbeat sound starts playing when Superman's health gets low.
- In Persona for the Playstation, the track "Awakening" (played when someone calls their Persona for the first time) has a brief period in the beginning with and obvious heartbeat sound. It continues through the remainder of the song in a more subdued form. Sadly, this song, like most of the others, wasn't retained in the Updated Re-release.
- Abuse uses this as a Critical Annoyance.
- Resident Evil:
- In the Ar tonelico series, some of the songs, such as EXEC_SPHILIA/. and both versions of Rustling Throb have heartbeats as part of either the main melody or as background sounds. Even one of the soundtracks' bonus songs, Planet Gene, opens and closes off with the sound of heartbeat.
- The soundtrack of Mondo Medicals consists entirely of heavy breathing and what appears to be a heartbeat.
- The aptly-named "A Heartbeat Away" track from Myst III, which plays as you explore J'nanin.
- Demon's Souls has the tower of Latria, which takes this trope Up to Eleven by having said heartbeat being the only sound you hear the entire time in the second zone. No wonder: the heart in question is approximately the size of a large house, swollen by demonic infestation, suspended in the middle of the place by heavy chains. Appropriately sickening.
- Vanquish has the Critical Annoyance type.
- In Max Payne, activating Bullet Time will start with a 'crack' kind of sound effect, then drown out the soundtrack, backing the action with dull, measured heartbeats while it is in effect.
- The FMV shooter Blood Bath has a pulsing bass soundtrack that gets faster as you take damage.
- The Rom Hack Banjo-Kazooie: Eraserhead Edition (requested by the Game Grumps as a joke, but then a bunch of people actually made it), has, per the request "No music, but a heartbeat. And, like, a couple arguing in the background".
- Tomodachi Life uses a heartbeat along with a violin in a rare romantic sense, when a Mii is ready to propose to his or her sweetheart.
- Far Cry has this during Shell-Shock Silence moments.
- Homestuck uses it a few times:
- Almost always when Jack Noir flips the fuck out. note
- The opening of "Black", the theme from the one year anniversary update.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Baljeatles", Doofenshmirtz's evil plan involves broadcasting his heartbeat over the Tri-State Area. At the same time, Baljeet is performing a rock song, which suddenly has a cool beat—and which speeds up during the second verse as Agent P fights with Doofenshmirtz.
- Occasionally, on Dave the Barbarian, Twinkle the Marvel Horse's more nihilistic lines are underscored by a heartbeat sound while the other background music goes mute.