"Well, I just did a ton of research at the library, but I couldn't concentrate — they were blasting Oingo Boingo at top volume."Meta-joke wherein the background music builds to a dramatic pace, and one of the characters suddenly turns around and complains about the loud music - revealing that what you thought was part of the soundtrack was music actually playing in the show. Bonus points if a second character apologetically turns the music off. A humorous variation of Source Music (which is any instance where the music the audience hears is actually in the scene). Compare Theme Tune Cameo, for when the show's theme tune is performed within the show. Compare Incessant Music Madness. Not related to Leave the Camera Running, where the camera is set in the same scene for a very long time even if nothing's happening. Contrast Medium Awareness, for when a character is actually hearing the soundtrack. Can be used with almost all Mood Motifs. The inversion is Diegetic Switch, when the music goes from in-universe to soundtrack. See also AM/FM Characterization.
— Stan Smith, American Dad!
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- A Tyson commercial plays with this by having a group of three kids playing video games spontaneously stand up and praise one kid's mom for making them the ready-to-serve chicken wings while dramatic music plays in the background. However, a fourth kid is seen a second later switching off the stereo and the music ends.
- Doubles as a parody of the typical "Mom's the best" commercials.
- Another version has the same thing done with dramatic piano music that hits a bad note as soon as someone says something insulting, at which point the camera shows us that a person was playing the piano in the background.
- In a US Beef Board ad, the usual music (Aaron Copland's "Hoe-down") plays as a waiter brings a steak to a customer...but when the waiter walks past the customer's table, he makes a gesture and the music winds down. Cut to the just-off-camera musicians, who start playing again when the waiter delivers the customer's steak.
- A Heineken commercial opens with a man walking in who is clearly the life of the party. The entire commercial is silent except for the background music, which is provided by a singer whom the entertaining man gets on stage with.
- Red Rock Cider was advertised on UK television in the late 1980s/early 1990s with a series of ads paying homage to Police Squad!/The Naked Gun, complete with Leslie Nielsen reprising his role as Drebin and the original Police Squad! theme playing in the background. In one ad, Drebin enters a nightclub and knocks down the band playing the theme music.
Anime & Manga
- Done in the RPG episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi when Arumi is walking through a forest while highly irritating music plays- causing her to spin around and shout at Sasshi to stop playing that damn recorder!
Sasshi: It's *toot* standard *toot* BGM.
- Happens a couple of times in Cowboy Bebop:
- The episode "Sympathy for the Devil" begins with jazz music playing over a dream that Spike is having, but when he wakes up we see the music is being played by a kid in the bar he was in.
- Same thing in "Jupiter Jazz", with Gren's saxophone tune.
- Played for Laughs in "Cowboy Funk", where Spike's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Andy has a leitmotif that opens with a very distinctive whistle track that starts playing just before he appears. Near the end of the episode, Spike's final encounter with the actual villain of the episode has him testily listening in for the sound of whistling while the villain is trying to give his Motive Rant.
- In the sixth episode of Axis Powers Hetalia, there's a piano playing in the background of the opening scene on a beach. In the final scene, Italy points out that Austria is playing an actual piano sitting out in the surf.
- In one episode of Ouran High School Host Club, Tamaki receives a dramatic 'piano key slamming' sound for his shocked misery. He asked the player of said piano to 'not add sound effects to his misery'.
- During an after-battle feast in One Piece, Brook does this with a piano. He takes requests, but plays what he wants anyway.
- Done with abandon with Macross, though rarely for comedy. More often than not, when a song with lyrics shows up, it is being sung by a character in-show, though Fridge Logic occasionally kicks in when instruments come in when the singer is very obviously solo. Done in several scenes.
- Taken to extremes in Macross 7. Aside from the intro, pre-episode bumper, outro, and next episode preview, just about every bit of music has an in-universe justification. If it's not from Fire Bomber performing music, the music is coming out of a radio or implied to be broadcast over the airwaves. Or it's just Veffidas' habitual drumming.
- Lampshaded in one scene of Macross Frontier, when Ranka decides to start singing "What 'Bout my Star" in an open park. A band just happens to be nearby and they start playing the song too.
- You can frequently hear the Kannagi opening music in the episodes themselves (noticeably so in the karaoke episode.)
- Done in the second episode of Legend of Galactic Heroes. The piano music playing over the narrator's exposition turns out to have been played by Jessica.
- Happens in the first chapter of Shingetsutan Tsukihime, with a violin playing over a long scene featuring Shiki's sister, then cutting to her playing the violin.7
- K-On! uses this in episode 11 of the second season. When Ritsu is telling Mio a 'scary' story about the music room, she mentions how the girl who was going there heard a piano playing, and the music changes to include the piano's sound. After a short moment of Mio freaking out, it turns out that Tsumugi is playing the piano for increased effect. Oddly enough Mio doesn't ask Tsumugi to stop, but Tsumugi stops anyway.
- In the first episode of RahXephon, The music that plays as the fighters are being prepped and launched suddenly becomes muted when Quon takes the headphones off the commander and listens to it herself.
- Movie 6 of Kara no Kyoukai has Azaka Kokutou put her earphones on and play some orchestral music as she is walking towards an old, abandoned building. Justified because the person preventing her from going to the building has a Compelling Voice. The music continues playing until Azaka faces the person behind the events of the movie.
- Inazuma Eleven has a subtle version: Otomura's beatboxing and beat-counting is synced to the background music.
- Sailor Moon has one in the third season. During the mid-season Wham Episode, Uranus and Neptune confront Eudial in a booby-trapped cathedral. As she drops The Reveal (which is NOT pretty) over the intercom, Eudial hammers away at an Ominous Pipe Organ (Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, no less). When Uranus finally arrives, Eudial stops playing, turns around... and switches off the organ music on her stereo. And then give Uranus a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- In Tamako Market, Kunio the owner of the music cafe on occassions. Special mention to Midori suggesting that Dela should go on a starvation diet. As if on cue, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor plays immediately there after.
- Played with in the "Nightmare" a/k/a "Chicken Man and Red Neck" sequence of Robot Carnival. The score and a few effects are all that can be heard, drawing a parallel with Fantasia (particularly the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment)... but the volume of the music actually decreases when the camera moves away from the parade of monsters to a drunk waking up in a nearby alleyway, and then increases when he wanders out. The music is temporarily treated as though it were actually being played audibly in the scene, but of that the film gives no confirmation.
- One of the Anti Villains in Eureka Seven jams the airwaves with techno music - her and her deceased-thanks-to-the-heroes husband's favorite song, which is how the heroes realize who is after them. The BGM only stops playing when her Cool Plane explodes.
- In The Firesign Theatre skit "Nick Danger", from the album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?, a character demonstrates that all they have to do to time-travel is "to fade out the sound and cue the organist!"
- Eddie Izzard uses this trope to poke fun at ominous movie music in his crap horror movie routine. If the cast of horror movies listened to the BGM (or even realised they were being followed around by an orchestra), they'd know they were walking towards their doom.
- A popular Katt Williams routine (featured in film and in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV) sees Williams making jokes as the sound man continually cues up the chorus of Rick Ross' "Hustlin'" ("Ev'ry day I'm hustle-in'/Ev'ry day I'm hustle-in'...").
- The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien: The Nazgûl in Fellowship are followed by Sauron's chamber orchestra, playing the appropriately titled tune, "Theme for Loud Unsubtle Bastards".
- Happened on one occasion to Mike Doonesbury while he was talking to a friend. "Mike, could you please turn your background music down?"
- The Far Side has several of these gags:
- One featured a shot of Tonto knocking on an outhouse door, whispering, "Kemosabe, hurry up, the music's starting!"
- Another one - a group of cowboys at camp looking around: "There it goes again - whenever we settle in for the night, that harmonica starts up!"
- Still another one - a gal standing in the aftermath of a huge bar brawl recounts it to the police: "So this little sailor dude whips out a can of spinach, this crazy music starts playin', and...well, just look at the place!"
- In another Western strip, a sinister desperado is coming into a saloon, and the banjo player nervously says to the pianist: "Bad guy comin' in, Arnie! Minor key!"
- A variation occured in Foxtrot: Paige is dreaming about Pierre, as usual (in particular, her dream is reminiscent of Rapunzel). She tries to make out with him. However, Pierre then uncharacteristically says in a (presumably) American accent "Let's go with U.S. Presidents for $400, please, Alex."note It then cuts to Jason watching Jeopardy! while Paige was napping, with an awake Paige shouting angrily at Jason to turn down the TV, with Jason then sarcastically responding "Pardonnez moi, O Princess." (possibly implying that Paige was sleeptalking).
- The Kingdom Hearts Fan Fic Those Lacking Spines plays this trope straight:
"Who's playing that bloody piano?" Xaldin interrupted.
"Oh," Murray the night janitor lifted his hands from the keys abruptly. "Sorry!"
- Heck, just about any of The Abridged Series will play with this trope.
- In Naruto The Abridged Series, whenever Gaara is referred to by his full title of Gaara of the Funk, there is not only music — "ch ch ch Gaara of the funk!" — but a sequence of hue changes in time with the music.
Naruto: Does that happen every time you say his name?
Kankuro: Sadly, yes.
- Duke in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Additionally, in LK's parody of "Poker Face", as soon as the riff starts, Kaiba asks where the music is coming from and, more importantly, if Joey is going to sing. He does.
- Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged
Ogre: Sir, what are you on?
- This happens (specifically, the Gaara of the Funk example) to Koenma in an episode, but only Koenma sees/hears it, prompting the line:
Koenma: I don't even know anymore, man.
Rimshot: Well, they can't all be winners.
- Kuronue accidentally left on his...iFog
- In Berserk Abridged there's Private Frank who loves his music records even if the other Hawks don't.
Films — Animation
- The Movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children parodied the tendency of the victory tune to play when a battle is won in a Final Fantasy game: the sting plays after Tifa fights against Loz. She looks around confused, only to discover that the music is the ring tone of Loz's cell phone.
- In the church scene of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the vicar's revelation that "a hideous creature has been sent to punish us all!" is accompanied by crashing, demonic chords on an organ. Whereupon the policeman turns to the organist and tells her to knock it off.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the director interrupts the opening cartoon to scold Roger for not following the script. The cartoony background music continues playing throughout the scene until the director yells, "Can we lose the playback, please?"
- It shows up in the original Shrek: When Shrek's rescued Fiona and the group is journeying back to Lord Farquaad's castle, they get waylaid by Robin Hood. Cue fight scene. A lively accordion piece quickly starts up — and even holds a note during the Matrix-style Orbital Shot (where everything stops in place - and Fiona takes the opportunity to fix her hair), and stops again as Fiona knocks out Friar Tuck, who was playing the instrument.
- Inverted, kinda, in Shrek 2. The Fairy Godmother starts singing "Holding Out for a Hero", then the dramatic rescue begins, with the song as BGM.
- This happens three times in Shrek the Third. The first is when the music during the king's funeral turns out to be singing frogs. The second is when Shrek and Artie are about to have a heart-to-heart talk, and Merlin turns on the music for mood. Finally, the dramatic music during a fight scene is actually Captain Hook playing on the piano.
- The Christmas Special Shrek the Halls does with a sound effect: the "squealing kettle" noise that accompanies Shrek losing his temper is revealed to be an actual squealing kettle.
- On the Finding Nemo DVD, there is a short documentary film by Jean-Michel Cousteau (It's called "Exploring the Reef"). In the beginning, he introduces himself and a trumpet fanfare (presumably the main theme) plays. Every time he says his name after that, the trumpets blare, and Nemo, Marlin, and Dory look around wondering where the trumpets are coming from.
- Happens a few times in Flushed Away.
- When Roddy is alarmed and disturbed at finding himself in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer, there's the OoooOOOoooOOO eerie theremin sound which Roddy turns around to discover is just one of the musical slugs whistling at him. The slug stops, looking apologetic.
- Floating by on a buoy/lantern are several slugs singing the initial portion of "Don't Worry, Be Happy".
- "Lonely" (which is ended by the slamming of a window).
- An impromptu song titled "Marcel" which prompts poor Roddy to become ill at his failed cooking.
- The equally impromptu song "Ice Cold Rita" by Roddy whilst being dragged behind the Jammy Dodger on a rubber duckie with a guitar as a paddle.
- The movie ends with the slugs singing "Proud Mary" with great "dance" sequences by the slugs, as well as the frogs who are trying to find their way back to France.
- A variant in Bolt: Rhino the hamster is very familiar with Bolt's TV show, and isn't clear that this is "real life". So, he's often humming the theme music he thinks is appropriate for "the scene". A few times, his humming is exactly the same as the actual BGM.
- In Megamind, when Megamind takes over Metro City, he struts down the street to AC/DC's "Highway To Hell", while Minion walks behind him, hoisting a boom-box in his arms. When Megamind signals to Minion to cut the music, Minion tries to turn off the boom-box, only to accidentally start playing "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton. He fumbles with the boom-box for a few seconds before finally turning it off.
- In Toy Story 3, when we hear a harmonica tune, it seems like it comes from the soundtrack until we see Hamm playing the instrument in his prison cell.
- In Shark Tale - as shown in the first three seconds here
- In The Road to El Dorado, Miguel has a tendency to play background music on a lute. Also, Chel hums the theme to El Dorado while offering to help Miguel and Tulio. When Miguel wants to go and wander the city, the song starts to swell, but Tulio cuts it sharply when telling him not to go out.
- In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, it happens when the penguins steal the car.
(Rico slams on the reverse)
(Kowalski leans on the gas pedal)
(Private plugs in a tape, and "More than a Feeling" starts playing)
- WALL•E opens with "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" playing, which turns out to be a recording the eponymous character plays while cleaning up trash.
- In The Lion King 1½, Timon is trying to think of a place he should travel to for his new home, while dramatic music gets louder and louder until Timon yells, "It's kind of hard to think with all this music!" and then it stops, allowing him to decide to go to Pride Rock.
- The song "When You Wish upon a Star" from Pinocchio (heard during the film's opening credits) is actually sung by Jiminy Cricket.
- The Smurfs opens with a narration about the Smurfs and their idyllic village, set to the Smurfs' theme tune. A moment later, it's revealed that both the music and the narration are part of the Smurfs' rehearsal for the Blue Moon Festival.
- Wreck-It Ralph: When Felix pulls Calhoun out of the NesquikSand, a lovey dovey tune plays as they stare into each others eyes...and then Calhoun looks over Felix's shoulder and sees it's the Laffy Taffy around them that's singing the tune. She scares them off by shooting into the air.
- Lampshaded in Kung Fu Panda 2. When Lord Shen's wolf raiders attack a musician's village, Po orders them to get with the action music. Sure enough the music turns out to be played by a blind rabbit musician (who continues playing no matter how close he gets to being killed) with other instruments provided by the wolves being tossed by the Furious Five into drums or cymbals.
- At times the soundtrack is played by the Owl mariachis. And Rango even complains when the music takes long to start playing, as he won't start the ride without the score.
- As the Mole Clan attacks the heroes while mounted on bats, a banjo version of Ride of the Valkyries plays. Several of the moles have banjos, and are actually playing the music.
- In The Boxtrolls, when Winnie is directing Eggs to the Boxtroll Exterminators' lair on Curds Way, she points him towards a sign for Milk Street and tells him, "Milk turns into it." This is followed by a Rimshot caused by the one-man band tripping and dropping his cymbals.
- Tim Burton's early short film Vincent opens with a minor key tune that the titular character is playing on his flute.
- In Zootopia, after a Mocking Music sequence Judy Hopps turns off her clock radio and a Lonely Piano Piece plays through the rest of the scene. Then her neighbors yell at her to turn off the depressing music, and Judy turns off her radio for real.
Films — Live-Action
- In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the creepy organ music being played as Harold and Kumar enter Freakshow's home is actually being played by Freakshow's wife.
- Micmacs has an interesting variation: dramatic background music is playing, and the camera moves to a point where a full string orchestra are in view (playing said music), before it turns out that it's actually a bullet-in-the-brain induced hallucination.
- From the Rifftrax narration of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
You know, you've gotta hand it to a teacher who supplies his own wacky montage music.
So, if Ron had taken a little longer on his turn, this dramatic score would be playing while the spider flailed around comically?
I feel robbed of a Record Scratch moment. I mean there was an actual record playing for Christ's sake!
- Variation: in Airplane!, Ted is at a bar where a diegetic band that heavily features trombone is playing, and he sees the legs of a woman standing on a table. The camera then pans up to see that she is playing the trombone.
- Wonderfully embodied in Mel Brooks's 1974 film Blazing Saddles: When Bart rides forth to become sheriff of Rock Ridge, he sets out to a swinging big band tune — and after a few moments, passes by Count Basie and his orchestra, who are set up in the middle of the lone prairie and playing said tune.
- An older example will be the 1944 Film Noir, Double Indemnity. Fittingly dramatic music is played in the scene, with the assumption by the audience that this is background music, until Walter Neff complains to the neighbor that the music is too loud.
- High Anxiety, opens with the protagonist nervously navigating an airport to increasingly tense music. The theme reaches a crescendo and ends just as he exits, prompting the punchline: "What a dramatic airport!" Later, the hero is chauffeured to his new workplace to dramatic chords. These turn out to come from the entire Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, traveling in the coach next lane.
- There's also a few scenes where the Scare Chord plays, and the characters look up at the unseen source of the sound.
- Similarly, the 1988 Blaxploitation sendup I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! has John Slade followed about by a funk band to provide the Obligatory Theme Music. Young Jack Spade, at the end, gains KRS-One and his crew (complete with turntable) to mark his ascent to Black Hero-hood.
- In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Prince Herbert (who is being held in the castle tower by his father, to be forced to marry Princess Lucky against his will) is going to start a musical number, and the background music begins playing, but it is immediately interrupted by Prince Herbert's father, who demands that there shall be no singing. This gag is repeated several times.
- And at the end when he does get to continue the song, the music turns out to be coming from the wedding band!
- Big Money Hustlas features a dramatic sting every time Sugar Bear's name is mentioned. After the first few times, the other characters begin to notice... and then to complain... and on the final time, the Big Bad turns and shoots the sound guy.
- In A Knight's Tale, the opening theme is "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Then the spectators at the 13th century joust start clapping to the beat. The guitar solo at the end is apparently being played on flugel horns, as it cuts out just as the hornblowers stop the fanfare.
- Ricky Gervais in Ghost Town is being chased by a bunch of ghosts, accompanied by lively chase music; then they run past the street violinist who is providing it.
- Later in the movie, he's coming clean to another character about the whole I See Dead People thing and the camera pans away to reveal that the drum music in the BGM is being played by a guy on a nearby park bench.
- Mel Brooks's Spaceballs has a sequence in which Dark Helmet's Flagship becomes a Humongous Mecha and ends with a lot of timpani hits a la 2001. One of Dark Helmet's underlings is later shown to be playing the timpani.
- This happens in The Holiday, when Miles (who writes film music) meets Amanda for the first time he is listening to film music that is eerily appropriate for the scene. You'll only notice when Amanda asks if he wrote the music that is playing in the background.
- Django Unchained delves into this and leads to a funny moment when Dr. Schultz barks "STOP PLAYING BEETHOVEN!"
- The Gag Dub movie Kung Pow! Enter the Fist deliberately hangs a lampshade on this trope by having an actual CGI-inserted character with a boombox play Betty's music ("Baby Got Back"). At one point during the final battle, The Chosen One throws a shuriken into the boombox and turns on his own power up music just as the tide of battle is turning.
"Beware his song about big butts. He beats you up while he plays it!"
- It could be argued that this is even an inversion, since the audience is made aware of it before the music even starts, as Betty usually requests it. There's something inherently bad-ass about having a mook whose entire purpose is to provide you a theme song.
- The 1996 movie Werewolf uses this trope completely out of left field, when one character turns off a nearby radio, causing the background music to abruptly disappear. When the movie was parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000 two years later, Mike responded with "Thanks for turning off the bad soundtrack!"
- Spoofed in the episode Space Mutiny, where a synthesized "aahh" chorus starts up as a crewman shows the mysterious oracular aliens to their quarters. Mike chimes in: "So yeah, we've got an infestation of Benedictine monks in the floorboards — we have set out some traps with fresh bread and brandy, though."
- In a scene cut from the movie, the gang is forced into a shelter when the Satellite of Love passes through a meteor shower. The classic Captivity Harmonica plays as the camera pans past everyone coping — including Crow playing the harmonica.
- Fatal Instinct:
- This Film Noir parody uses a home stereo for tense, dramatic music during a confrontational argument... and after one person finishes, the other changes tracks to THEIR power music and continues to argue, and vice versa.
- Lola Cain is constantly followed by a saxophone player playing her sultry theme (except when he had another gig, and got a trumpet player to stand in).
- Apparently the main character's bathtub faucet is linked to a tense music cue (the resurgence of which leads the main character to remark "Damn faucet keeps turning on all by itself").
- In Bananas, Woody Allen is invited to dinner with the president of the country he's visiting, and as he dazedly lies on his bed harp music starts. Courtesy of the harp player in his closet.
- He needed a place to practice!
- In The Adventures of Robin Hood, the main theme that plays over the opening credits ends with the accompaniment of several drums. As the film starts, we see these drums are in the film itself, calling attention to the town crier.
- Beautify done in the comedy mystery The Radioland Murders which takes place during the first night of national syndication of a late '30s Chicago radio station. The entire soundtrack consists of the evening's broadcast.
- The Company of Wolves has an interesting example of this. The scene is a wedding reception in an outdoor marquee where guests are enjoying themselves and pleasant classical music plays to set the mood. We then cut to three musicians in the tent who are providing the music we hear. Soon however, a horrific transformation takes place and the guests are thrown into chaos and utter panic. The music becomes haut and tense as the traumatic events unfold... and we suddenly see the musicians are still providing the music; not only are they largely unperturbed by what is happening in front of them, but they have changed their music to match the mood!
- Although no-one comments on it, Iron Man opens with several Humvees travelling across a desert as Back in Black plays in the background. Then the scene cuts to the Humvee in which Tony Stark is riding with several other soldiers, revealing that the music is being played on a stereo in the truck.
- Later on, while Tony is working on one of his hot rods, blaring rock music is playing. Pepper comes down the stairs, opens the door, and switches off the music so she can talk to him, causing Tony to complain.
- Rhodes's cell phone ring is based on the 1960s Iron Man cartoon.
- A remixed version of the same music is also playing at the casino.
- The sequel once again starts off with some AC/DC that becomes diegetic when Iron Man enters the expo, if the chorus line dancing in time to the music is anything to go by.
- In Sunset Boulevard, as Joe Gillis enters White-Dwarf Starlet Norma Desmond's parlor, which is tragic and more like a tomb, haunting pipe organ music plays...at which point Norma turns to the pipe organ and comments about the wind getting into the cracked pipes.
- In lesbian film noir Bound (1996), dramatic music builds steadily with the onscreen approach of the antagonist until the old b/w detective movie on the television is switched off, taking the music with it.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, after it's been established that Davy Jones enjoys playing his own leitmotif on his Ominous Pipe Organ with his beard of tentacles, Will challenges him to a game for his soul, and the quiet organ music, almost unnoticed in the background, abruptly cuts off before Jones stomps up on deck to accept the challenge.
- Invoked in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides—Scrum is playing a particularly authentic Spanish tune when Jack and Angelica dance.
- In The Hot Chick, a teenage girl steals a pair of magic earrings from a store, leading her to switch bodies with an older man, played by Rob Schneider. When the girl (in the man's body) returns with her friends to admit what happened and get it fixed, the woman who runs the store tells her the story of how a Pharaoh's wife traded places with a slave, but got stuck after the full moon. As she's telling the story, the drums in the background swell as the store owner's story comes to a climax, and then just before the end, she stops, grits her teeth, and tells the man offscreen (played by Adam Sandler) to stop banging on the drums. The man mumbles that he thought the music matched the tone of the story.
- The Truman Show. "Fade up music..." Also a clever example when Christof is looking at Truman sleep in the middle of the night. As the camera pulls out we see a pianist (actually the film's composer) playing in the studio.
- In Tim Burton's Batman, The Joker often seems to be able to hear the score — most notably in the roof scene at the end when he's dancing to it. He also has a mook follow him around with a boombox, which he uses to switch the background music on and off and even change it from one tune to another. At those points, though, it wasn't background music; it was diegetic.
- Hilarious variation in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: the eponymous heroes are standing in a fast-food restaurant when the main love interest enters, in a reveal complete with a soft-lens, lots of hair tossing, and the song "Bad Medicine" blaring. Silent Bob notices that Jay is rather, erm, excited. To cover it up, Bob reaches over and puts an empty fast-food cup over Jay's crotch - which immediately mutes the music.
- Last Action Hero contains this. After a big car chase with heavy music playing, Jack Slatertakes a tape out of the car's stereo causing the BGM to stop and inserts a new tape with different BGM.
- The Transporter has a non-comedic variation: after every action scene, the fast-paced background music continues playing until the eponymous transporter turns off his car radio.
- In There's Something About Mary, a guitarist and drummer repeatedly play the music that one would assume to be background music, and then the prisoners from the middle of the movie perform the credits song.
- In Euro Trip, when Scotty is fighting the robot street performer in Paris, a nearby busking Buddhist with a guzheng notices the fight and provides appropriate soundtrack.
- In Stepmom, the movie starts with an establishing shot over New York city, set to a classical piece. Cue one character saying: "Mom, turn that off, I hate classical music.".
- Played with in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond plans to use a bank of security cameras on a track to carry an explosive device to where the timed detonator needs to go off. As he rides the security cameras into location, his Theme Music Power-Up plays. As soon as the cameras reach the end of their track, Bond disconnects the cameras from the track and cuts the power to the monitors, at which point, his theme music goes out abruptly, mid-crescendo.
- In the dark comedy Harold and Maude, the music of Cat Stevens is used throughout to build mood. But in one scene, after listening to a song for some time, Maude approaches a couple of police officers and tells them "by the way, you might want to turn off the radio... saves the battery that way." The cop turns off the radio, and the BGM stops.
- In the movie Masters of the Universe, one of the characters is trying to remember a tune. He is having a hard time, and eventually complains about music the viewer had assumed was just background music. Teela pulls out a blaster and shoots a speaker on the side of a building, causing the music to cut off.
- In the 1941 World War I drama Sergeant York, a fight breaks out at a bar. The automatic piano is bumped into "Fast" mode during the fight, then turned back to "Slow" when it's over.
- Joe Dirt plays with this when Joe finally decides to return home his journey montage is accompanied by the song Burnin' for You by Blue Öyster Cult, however as he gets close to home, a group of punks drive up to him and the BGM is immediately replace by the song that was playing in the car's radio (You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet by Bachman-Turner Overdrive) which continues to play until they turn off the radio.
- Inverted in Hero. As Nameless and Sky are fighting, an old blind man with a gu zheng is getting up to leave. Nameless and Sky pause their fight to the death and pay the old man to play dramatic BGM for the rest of the fight.
- In Emir Kusturica's Underground a brass band follows the main characters for part of the movie, providing the BGM. During a fight scene, one of the main characters requests a suitably fast pace song to be played.
- Shaun of the Dead
(in response to "If You Leave Me Now" as Ed tries to cheer up Shaun)
- The jukebox, playing Queen while Shaun and the other survivors started hitting a zombie. One survivor tries to shut it off to keep from attracting zombies, but he can't.
- Also happens earlier in the movie around the time they begin to appear ("We aren't using the Z word!"), as Shaun and Ed talk at the Winchester, "If You Leave Me Now" begins to play on the jukebox. Both times the same lines are spoken in response, however the roles reverse.
Ed: Who the hell put this on?
Shaun: (sniff) It's on random.
Ed: For fuck's sake!
(in response to "Don't Stop Me Now", while the survivors are trying to remain quiet)
Shaun: Who the hell put this on?!
Ed: It's on random!
Liz: For fuck's sake!
- In the 1939 film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty prepares his evil plan while soft but ominous flute music plays in the background. Then, as we move to a different perspective, we can see the shadow of a man playing the flute from another room. One of Moriarty's underlings complains about it.
- In the Swedish 1987 comedy Leif, dramatic music is heard during a board of directors meeting. Intensity increases until the boss gets annoyed and opens a door, revealing the company band, who were practicing in the nearby hallway.
- Hot Rod has a montage of the events right before Rod's big jump, set to John Farnham's "You're The Voice." It culminates with Rod and the members of his crew coming together for a slo-mo Power Walk, only to be joined by a crowd of people who all start singing. The song grinds to a halt when a guy takes advantage of the distraction to rob a store, starting a riot. As people flee in chaos, a bagpipe version of "You're the Voice" starts playing, and eventually a group of men playing the bagpipes is shown.
- Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth has the heroes running away from the villain, and as they pass the band playing the music, they stop and dance. The killer plays sax for a while.
- Iron Eagle has a flashback scene introducing the heroic teenage pilot, Doug, as he takes an (illicit) flight with his father in an F-16 trainer. The Queen soundtrack blaring over his loops and rolls is revealed to be coming from Doug's Walkman, which also turns out to be his Theme Music Power-Up.
- During the ball scene in the first Anne of Green Gables film, a waltz piece is used for the BGM. When it segues to the next scene, the same tune is playing on a phonograph.
- Used in Yes-Man. The film opens with Separate Ways by Journey over the opening studio titles but then switches to the same song as a ringtone on Jim Carrey's phone.
- Both versions of Funny Games begin with a helicopter shot of a car driving through a country road set to classical music. Then voice-overs of the family in the car begin discussing the music, revealing that it's playing from the car stereo.
- Fritz Lang's 1936 film Fury uses this twice. In a scene where Joe's fiancée Katherine is writing him a letter, a sappy '30s-style romantic soundtrack plays... until Katherine turns off the radio, apparently sick of it herself. Later, as the guilt-ridden Joe wanders the streets, he goes into an apparently busy bar only to discover that only the bartender is there; all the music and crowd noise was, again, coming from a radio that's promptly turned off.
- A variation in Almost Famous is a scene in which "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John plays on the soundtrack. One by one, the characters begin to sing along.
- In one scene in The Cat in the Hat, Sally, Conrad and the Cat are trying to creep up on their dog, who has run off with the movie's Plot Coupon, without startling him. Their movements are accompanied by a set of increasingly tense string chords...until Sally and Conrad turn round to see the Cat playing the chords on his whiskers.
Cat: I thought the moment needed something.
- Earlier on, when Sally and Conrad are arguing about which course of action to take, the Cat announces "There is a third option", followed by a dramatic organ chord. As he announces said option (murder) the camera zooms out to show the Cat standing at a toy keyboard, on which he then plays another chord.
- In Spy Hard, The Chief is talking, while facing the camera, about how horrible it will be if the Big Bad succeeds in his master plan, while a violin is playing in the background. He then gets annoyed and turns around to yell at the violinist standing to the side.
- In Ollie Hopnoodles Haven Of Bliss, after Ralphie and his friends get fired, a sad piece(don't know the name of it) from Carmen plays, until Ralphie picks up a rock and throws it in a nearby window. Cue Record Scratch.
- Used in Going the Distance, as Erin and Garrett go in for a kiss, "Take My Breath Away" starts playing, and they stop. Erin wonders where the music is coming from, and Garrett reminds his roommate Dan (in the other room) that just because he can hear them, doesn't mean he's allowed to participate.
- Dan does it again the next morning after they wake up, playing "I've Had the Time of My Life."
- The Laurel and Hardy short Busy Bodies opens with Stan and Ollie driving to work, with the familiar background music playing. The music comes to an end, so Ollie stops the car; Stan gets out and lifts the hood, then changes the record on the wind-up gramophone which is in there, starts it playing again (it's actually a jazzed-up version of the same tune!) and they drive on.
- Unintentionally used in The Room, when Mark comments about the soft music in the first scene Lisa tries to seduce him. The music is definitely a part of the soundtrack and not established to actually be playing so that the characters hear it.
- In one scene in The Ten, a room full of presumably squatting junkies are laying around, with a strange xylophone piece as the score. As the camera pans back a bit further, it turns out one of the junkies is playing a xylophone.
- In Sucker Punch, a cover of Where is My Mind? plays through a montage of Babydoll's week at the mental asylum. Just as Babydoll is about to be lobotomized, the scene abruptly changes to Sweet Pea (who is playing Babydoll), who demands the music be shut off.
- In A Clockwork Orange, a synthesized version of the Funeral of Queen Mary is heard in the Korova milk bar, first during the intro and in a later scene where Alex De Large and his droogs make a second visit. In the latter, Alex mentions in his narration that said music is actually coming from the bar's sound system, and as he describes its disc coming to a halt, a woman there starts singing a piece from Beethoven's 9th, much to Alex's delight. Some other scenes show tapes and reels being played, serving as the background music; one of them plays a pivotal role during the Ludovico Treatment, making Alex paralyzed whenever he hears the 9th.
- In The Mirror Has Two Faces a romantic operatic aria sung in a tenor voice is heard during a romantic scene. It turns out that someone in an apartment was playing a record of the music.
- Jarhead has a scene where two planes fly over the marines to the tune of "The End" by The Doors, only for Swofford to wail: "That's Vietnam music! Can't we get our own music?"
- The Smurfs mixes the opening narration of the movie with this trope by having an Interactive Narrator called Narrator Smurf doing the honors.
- In War, Inc., when Hauser is asked what happened to his family, he gets depressed and the lively music stops. He then gets up and adjusts the record player, as the needle had slipped off.
- The Norwegian movie Max Manus has a rather horrible version of this. After one of the main characters gets captured by the Nazis, we see him again hanging bloodied in a dungeon somewhere, in the background, eerie, classical music is playing, until the man angrily yells to at least "turn that fucking music off" (roughly translated). Cut to the fat torturer who takes the needle off the LP, silencing the music, and starts a small conversation with his prisoner. He then resumes the music and it becomes background music again as the screen fades.
- Eyes Wide Shut begins with a Dmitri Shostakovich waltz over the opening credits, which continues as Bill and Alice prepare for the party, and ends when Bill turns off their CD player. It's a lightly comic touch that provides a hint of the dreamlike atmosphere that will follow.
- Rear Window opens with a jaunty tune playing over the titles, which then segues into an advertisement, as we see it's coming from a radio across the courtyard. In fact, all the background music in the movie is coming from radios, phonographs, or pianos in various apartments - including one tune that plays a pivotal part, stopping a spinster from taking a pill overdose, and distracting the protagonist from seeing the killer return to his apartment where the girlfriend is casing the joint for clues..
- When 10 Things I Hate About You's Katerina sits her younger sister Bianca down to have The Talk, which also explains her occasional hostility towards Bianca, they are accompanied by a soundtrack of sentimental piano music. After trying to launch into her speech, Kat rolls her eyes in exasperation with the music and turns off the on-screen television in Bianca's room, halting the musical accompaniment, before she continues.
- There's a scene in Urban Legends: Final Cut where the final girl is hiding in a room full of instruments from the killer, who briefly plays the very background music playing in the scene on a piano while looking around.
- Early in the final race of Death Race 3, a cool rap song starts playing over the action. Driver Psycho doesn't like the song, and asks his navigator to change the radio station. She does, and the song is replaced with a driving techno track that Psycho likes a lot more.
- Used to reveal an Imagine Spot in Michael Haneke's Amour: An old man sits watching his wife of over 50 years play the piano. He then suddenly shuts off the CD he's listening to and goes into the bedroom, where his wife lies bedridden from a stroke and can't even speak or feed herself anymore.
- Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh opens the first crime scene with dramatic music playing as the detectives examine the body. Then, they turn and tell one of the junior policemen to turn it off.
- Schindler's List: During the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, a bizarrely upbeat piano piece suddenly starts playing as people who hid away from the SS soldiers are being massacred, until it's revealed that one of the Nazis on the scene found a piano and decided to test his skills.
- The trailer for High School High starts by playing Gangster Paradise, then has the teacher protagonist abruptly changing channels on his car radio, showing it to be a parody of Save Our Students movies.
- Mad Max: Fury Road. As Immortan Joe sets off with his entire army after Furiosa, the music is shown to be coming from a vehicle built solely to house a team of drummers, a colossal set of speakers and a guitarist called the Doof Warrior blasting heavy metal to further psych up his Warboys...with a flamethrower guitar.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service:
- Played with when a grenade goes off in the church massacre and Galahad is briefly stunned, the rockin' Free Bird solo is muted to the sound of ringing eardrums. Could also be considered a play on Musicalis Interruptus.
- When we think we're seeing the end credits start to roll over a background of a cassette tape playing the end song, the camera then zooms out to reveal it's just an iPad app playing the music, after which Eggsy's abusive step-dad tells the mum to "turn that shit off".
- In the German comedy Der Wixxer, after Chief Inspector Even Longer and Dr. Brinkman discover the Wixxer's initials on the car that killed The Monk With The Whip, dramatical brass music is played in the background. Dr. Brinkman turns around and complains to some police officers with wind instruments.
- In the beginning of Kopps we see the two patrol cars driving around in the boring city of Högboträsk while toneless music is played in the background. In the next cut we can hear that the music also is played diegetically in one of the patrol cars.
Benny: Damn it, what a shitty music is that?
- In the original Karate Kid, the music that plays during the beach scene is later revealed to be coming from Ali's radio.note
- In Terminator Genisys:
- Kyle Reese wakes up in the back of a truck after having been inadvertently knocked out by the Pops T-800 when "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones suddenly starts playing. Reese starts asking questions about how the T-1000 located him, at which point Sarah Connor switches off her cassette player, which is the source of the music.
- It happens again when the trio enters the weapons bunker in 2017. Sarah starts playing the same song on the same cassette, listening to it with headphones. We then cut over to Kyle Reese and the Pops T-800 loading bullets into gun clips as the song becomes background music, until Pops's right arm briefly spazzes out, at which point the music cuts off, although Sarah is still listening to it through her headset in the background.
- Played with in Kick-Ass. Hit Girl's first fight is conducted to the Banana Splits song, which ends as the mook in the hallway outside takes off his headphones when he realises something is happening inside.
- Focus has what seemed to have been just the background music revealed to have been playing in-universe as part of the exposition after the song has ended, as part of an extremely insane Xanatos Gambit to swindle a high-roller from Macau. After repeatedly allowing the mark to win increasingly high-stakes wagers that seem to be even chances, the mastermind convinces the mark into a bet where the "odds" overwhelmingly favor said mark—pick out any one player on the field, then give, not the con artist himself, but his girlfriend, heretofore not involved in the action, one guess as to which player he selected. In fact, the con man has replaced #55 with one of his own henchmen—something his date recognizes and knows to pick—and primed the mark to have picked #55 by a series of events involving repeated exposure to the face of said henchman, various instances of the number 5 or 55 appearing, and—the kicker—the fact that The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", with its repeated "woo-woo!" background shouts, had not only been playing over the scene but in the scene—"wu" being "five" in the mark's native language.
- In Artemis Fowl - The Lost Colony, Minerva notices the fitting soundtrack of the scene when Billy Kong is about to kill Soto, but immediately remarks that there is no soundtrack in Real Life. Turns out Billy's cell phone has the torero song of Carmen as its ringtone...
- In Freshman, one of the special powers of vampires is that they get their own personal soundtrack that plays whenever they're nearby. At one point, Tabitha comments that she downloaded hers off the internet.
- A fascinating example in Monk. In "Mr. Monk and the Leper", Stottlemeyer and Disher are searching an apartment. Disher sees a piano and starts doodling out on it.
Captain Stottlemeyer: What are you doing?Lieutenant Disher: Background music. [continues with same riff]Captain Stottlemeyer: You know, they don't keep playing the same thing over and over.Lieutenant Disher: Sure they do. [continues]Captain Stottlemeyer: (annoyed) Hard to concentrate.Lieutenant Disher: Isn't it?[Randy hits a dramatic chord as Stottlemeyer discovers a piece of evidence][Same riff continues, now as actual background music as they examine the evidence]
- Bonus points in that the music Randy is doodling out on the piano is actually the show's old theme music.
- Top Gear did a special parodying the gardening show Ground Force complete with its theme tune, which turned out to be a brass band standing on the lawn. An argument with the trombonist ensued resulting in the destruction of the trombone and the garden.
- There was an episode of the real "Ground Force" that was filmed in Manchester, near the home of the Black Dyke Mills Band (the band responsible for the theme tune and all the incidental music for the program). On the second afternoon of the project, the band set up in an already-completed area and was heard rehearsing, then playing some of the incidental music for a crowd of people who'd gathered to witness what was happening, while the team were there finishing up their project. At the end of the day, when the surprisee (the vicar of a local church) was presented with his new garden and after the champagne was popped, the Black Dyke Mills Band performed the theme with Alan Titchmarsh "conducting".
- In Spaced, an announcement about Tim's ex-girlfriend is met by a Scare Chord, which Tim then reveals is their new doorbell.
- In a playing of Sound Effects from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Ryan plays Noah receiving a message from God. As Noah prays, an audience member mimics a heavenly choir until "Noah" removes his headphones.
- An episode had at several points a guy (Colin Hay, former lead singer of Men At Work) playing a song on his guitar which was very relevant to JD's mental state at the time. It appeared to be simply one of JD's daydreams, until Dr. Cox smashed the guitar at the very end of the episode. But then it turned out to be an Indulgent Fantasy Segue.
- In another episode, we hear a boxing-ring bell as Dr.Cox and Dr.Kelso are about to clash, then Kelso breaks away saying "do you hear that?". Cut to JD in front of the hospital trying to break a jar he caught his hand in against a lamppost, producing the noise.
- In the episode where the four main characters are at a Morbidity and Mortality conference, Turk's ringtone is the opening of Beethoven's 5th... and of course, it goes off at terrible times. And it's always his mother calling.
- Several episodes involve Ted's a cappella band, the Worthless Peons, who tend to sing appropriate songs at appropriate times, even though they rarely know what's going on.
- Not to mention when JD convinces Sean to try to win Elliot back at Turk and Carla's wedding. A romantic reunion seems to be in order when the soundtrack swells and an angelic voice soars over the top... turns out it's just JD singing. "I get excited!"
- One episode involves Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso uniting over mutual irritation at Molly Clock's perpetual cheeriness. At one point she walks (or rather, skips) past them as The Andy Griffith Show theme plays. Turns out it's Molly whistling it, something which others in the hospital soon join in with.
- JD thinks about the beautiful Lisa, the Gift Shop Girl, and angels sing. It turns out it's a boys choir who was brought to the hospital to sing in the trauma ward. They sing again a few moments later in response to her accepting JD's date, and JD yells at them.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Sound of Drums", when Mr Saxon announces "Here come the drums!" and lets the Toclafane into the present day, the chorus of "Voodoo Child" by Rogue Trader ("Here come the drums, here come the drums") starts up. This appears to be a dramatic device similar to the "Dalek theme", "Time Lord theme" etc., until we see Mrs Saxon dancing along to it. Mr Saxon then turns off the PA system.
- A slightly odd example from "Forest of the Dead". The main events of the episode take place in a Library which is also being viewed by a little girl who has become the brain of the Library's computer. The girl watches the Library by flipping through TV channels in her living room. The weird thing is, when the action is focused on the Library, the BGM is normal. When we're seeing the Library from the girl's perspective, the TV displays the Doctor and co. running and shouting (to be expected), but it also plays the BGM through the TV (with a Radio Voice effect).
- And a straight example in "The Stolen Earth", when Sarah Jane complains about Mr. Smith's fanfare that plays every time he reveals himself in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
- Echoed in The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 3 story "The Wedding of Sarah Jane" when Luke asks Mr. Smith to open up "quickly and quietly", he, for once, doesn't play the BGM as he turns on.
- In the Third Doctor episode the Mind of Evil, an eerie, spooky music plays over a limousine driving down a road. The next shot is The Master, in the back seat, listening to a transistor radio. He turns the radio off — and the music stops.
- "The God Complex" is set in an 80s hotel full of nightmares. And cheerful music, which the Doctor, thankfully, shuts off. It's not long before it starts up again...
- This happens with the Headless Monks "Attack Prayer" in "A Good Man Goes to War." The audience hears ominous chanting and assumes it's Mood Music...until the characters realize it's coming from the Monks.
- An episode of the British comedy show Dead Ringers spoofed Doctor Who with this trope, with the Doctor and Rose being cornered by the show's background music, which was drowning out their dialog. The Doctor then turns on the subtitles so that he and Rose can understand each other.
- In the episode "Father of the Bride", while Frasier has the apartment filled with caterers, musicians, and florists to create his vision of Daphne's wedding, Martin starts to reminisce about Niles' Sunday school classes. As he says "It seems like just yesterday..." the harp music that heralds a Flash Back start to play. Everyone turns to look at the auditioning harpist, who apologises.
- In another episode where Frasier's agent tries to seduce him, the events conspire to create a diabolic atmosphere. A red blinking light outside, steam from the shower, and Ominous Latin Chanting, from a choir practising downstairs.
- In Eureka, as Jack Carter and his daughter mend fences after a prolonged argument, heartwarming music swells...
Carter: "S.A.R.A.H. [the house's AI], what are you doing?"
S.A.R.A.H.: That was such a beautiful moment, I thought musical accompaniment seemed appropriate.
- He also reminds the house in a later episode that she/it is supposed to have the night off while he's dining with the love interest, so enough with the music.
- A lightly different take from an episode of The IT Crowd, where the classic B-movie "DUN-DUN-DUUUN!" sting is Moss's ringtone. Naturally, he gets calls whenever there's a dramatic revelation.
- Chuck, in the series of the same name, goes to face his boss at the electronics store. Spaghetti Western music swells... and Chuck looks at a co-worker who sheepishly turns off the hi-fi.
- Lady Dynamite: Sexy saxophone music plays while Bruce recounts being repeatedly sexually assaulted in a frat house. After a long pause Maria wonders aloud where the music is coming from.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- In the infamous Cheese Shop sketch John Cleese's character enters to the sound of folk music, and actually passes one man playing a bouzouki inside the shop, while two other men are dancing to the music. Cleese is briefly puzzled about this, but, aside from casually mentioning it one time, he seems to forget all about them when the shop owner enters the scene. Besides this, the music is not further acknowledged, before near the end of the sketch, where Cleese suddenly turns around and shouts for the assembly to "SHUT THAT BLOODY DANCING UP!"
- Similarly, one bit opens with a slow pan over a storm-tossed coastline, with Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture playing in the background, only to be suddenly interrupted by the record skipping. The camera then pans down to show a phonograph on the ground.
- The Goodies:
- Tim Brooke-Taylor's character often starts playing "Land of Hope and Glory" while he delivers an inspirational speech. Causing much confusion in America, where the piece (better known by its formal title of Pomp and Circumstance #1) is used almost exclusively as processional music for graduation ceremonies.
- Also, in the "Stolen Musicians" episode, the villain of the week is named 'The Music Master'. He sits constantly at his organ, and any time a dramatic statement is made, he plays a corresponding chord.
- This trope was the basis of a few sketches in the Australian sketch comedy show Comedy Inc.:
- For example, one sketch featured people on a beach enjoying themselves until the Jaws theme starts playing and everybody starts running out of the water, then suddenly we cut to a woman lying in the sand yelling "Knock it off, will you!" to the person next to her... which turns out to be a orchestra cellist in full formal garb and instrument.
- Another sketch featured a stereotypical Western gun duel getting ready to start, complete with Spaghetti Western flute score... only for one of the duelists to suddenly shoot the previously unseen flautist.
- Corner Gas:
- In a slightly different example, Brent is at his job in a gas station, when a friend tells him that he may own an antique worth quite a bit of money. Immediately, the classic *cha-ching!* noise is heard — then Brent glances down and closes the cash register, commenting that he needs to get it fixed to stop it from popping open at random. Later, at an antiques shop, the man at the counter confirms that they have a valuable antique, and the *cha-ching!* is heard again; the antiques dealer closes his register, and Brent says, "Yours does that too, huh?"
- In "Rock Stars," scene transition music plays after a punchline... and then Hank and Oscar stare at Brent, who tells them that that's all he's figured out for the song he's playing on electric guitar.
- The end of a first-season episode of Lost has typical end-of-episode uplifting "everything will be okay"-type music playing as the pans over the beach, centers on Hurley. After a moment, his Discman skips and dies, and the music goes with it.
- Several episodes before and including that one show Hurley pressing play on the Discman, cueing the background music.
- Arrested Development:
- When Michael Bluth ominously warns his lazy family of the hard times they'll have ahead due to his departure, appropriately ominous drumming is heard in the background, drawing to a climax until he turns to its source, his Man Child brother practicing his Native American drumming. This is also a Callback In that the character's lessons in native American drumming rituals had already been referred to in the episode.
- In Season 4, there is a running gag where "The Sound of Silence" plays whenever GOB spaces out, a la The Graduate. In one instance, it is revealed to be played by a mariachi band behind him, much to his relief.
- In one scene in season 4, Gob and his entourage strut by the camera, to the sound of the sort of hip-hop music generally seen in shows when an entourage is strutting by the camera. Gob is carrying a boom box playing said music. Someone tells him to shut it off.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Ted is playing the piano while flirting with a girl. They both begin to lean in for the kiss, and the girl says, "we're not going to kiss tonight." Cue Scare Chord.
- In "Arrivederci, Fiero", The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" is heard whenever Marshall is driving the Fiero. It seems like this is just the car's leitmotif, but it soon becomes clear that the song actually is playing constantly, having been stuck in the cassette player since 1994.
- In "The Pre-Nup", Barney is receiving an intense lecture from his boss when Psycho Strings come in. It turns out it's his boss's ringtone for his ex-wife.
- A season 3 episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids entitled "Honey, It's a Billion Dollar Brain" had a trio of trombonists playing a dramatic sting several times whenever someone mentions the brain of the deceased Orson Hughes. At one point, Wayne got fed up and told them to leave their trombones behind. However, they switched to kazoos and played "London Bridge" on them.
- One episode of America's Next Top Model had a judge announce, "We're going to China", to which another helpfully cried out, "Bwuuunnnnnggg!" Of course, any subsequent mention of China was still accompanied by the standard extra-diegetic "you are now in China" Gong Sound.
- On Family Matters, as Steve and Carl set aside their differences in a manly hug and make-up, sentimental music swells in the background. Carl then asks where the music is coming from and they're shown looking under the sofa cushions.
- And on a noir-esque episode, Laura's character has drums playing every time she walks; they eventually start looking for the drums.
- In the Western-themed episode, dramatic music plays whenever anyone mentions the notorious "Two-Gun Urkel". Initially, the townsfolk look around for the source. But after it plays when Sheriff Carl and Two-Gun agree to a showdown, Two-Gun says "In the meantime, let's form a posse and track down that dang orchestra!"
- In one episode, the background music starts, he heads out, wanders to a Motorcycle shop and stares at a bike longingly. The background music is playing on his iPod when he can't hear man talking to him over it.
- In another episode, "Baba O'Rilley" begins playing at the end of a triumphant scene. Cut to House, playing air-piano on his desk with one hand and conducting with the other. Another character walks in and starts mouthing words, to which House replies "Sorry! Can't hear ya!". The other character reaches over and pauses the song before it crescendos. Made even better by House ending the conversation and attempting to send the other character off with the flourishing piano intro. Jewish Folk music starts playing.
- Played with Life On Mars:
- In the first episode, when Sam first ends up in 1973 the title song comes on the iPod in his car, then he gets run over and the music stops. It fades back in gradually as background music, possibly still on the iPod. He wakes up in 1973, and it is (presumably) BGM until he approaches the 1973 car, when it switches to playing on the car's 8-track. It continues like this until he walks away from the car, when it swells up as BGM and keeps going in the background. The entire track is used, switching from diagetic to non-diagetic and back again, with no clear indication of exactly what Sam is hearing.
- Furthermore at the end of the track, there is the faint sound of a telephone ringing. This ends up occuring just as Sam walks into the police station for the first time, leading to one of background characters picking it up. Not only was this intentionally timed to coincide, the production crew found the exact noise used in the track and used it for all of the phones at the station.
- Throughout the episode, the music is often stopped by someone stopping a record player.
- When the monster attacks in the episode, "Paradise Lost", drums can be heard, presumably for dramatic effect. Except halfway into the ep, Quinn says "Do you hear that? It sounds like drums"
- In the Western parody "Way Out West", a fed-up Rembrandt snaps "you're really getting on my nerves" at a harmonica player just outside the window.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Francis' German bosses bring their son to the ranch. He sets up an electronic keyboard and adds sound effects whenever Francis is working in the lobby. It makes Francis nuts, but of course the kid stops as soon as anyone else walks in, making Francis look crazy.
- At the end of episode one of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Precious is seen alone in a room at the end while some saxophone music plays in the background. She then gets up, and takes the record off from where the music was being played in the background.
- In LazyTown episode "Rockin' Robbie", when Robbie is moaning about how the others are listening to a music we hear his signature theme playing in the background. He then yells stop the music, which then stops and we cut to the speakers shaking (as though they have just stopped).
- Reno 911!. Season 6 opened with Lt. Dangle discovering the camera crew outside the station house. He's shocked to find them there, assuming that his show has been cancelled. As he recaps the events between seasons (including the deaths of three Deputies), in studio audience laugh tracks play at the worst possible moments. Finally, he walks over to the desk officer and shuts off her TV.
- Happens occasionally on Two and a Half Men, with Charlie playing piano. He'll occasionally play music appropriate to the scene.
- In episode 4 of Psychoville, whilst David and his nan are murdering a man in his flat we hear music playing in the background. When the man gets put in the trunk we find out that the man had the radio on and the score was from an Alfred Hitchcock film.
- A running gag on Green Acres. Whenever Oliver Douglas makes a rousing patriotic speech, fife music to the tune of 'Yankee Doodle' starts playing. The other characters- especially Lisa- then comment on the music, to the puzzlement of Oliver, who can't hear it. There were frequent variations, like the fife player using a different song than usual, or forgetting to stop playing after Oliver's speech has finished.
- The only time he ever heard the fife was when he listened to one of his own speeches, on a tape recorder. "Is that a fife?"
- In "Good God Y'all", Sam and Dean are walking warily down an abandoned main street while "Spirit in the Sky" blares in the background...until Sam stops and turns off the car radio that's playing it.
- In the episode "Monster Movie", haunting 50s music plays on the soundtrack, as we view in on Dean, who then meddles with his car radio complaining about how bad the local station is.
- Also in "Free to be You and Me" a montage to Lynard Skynard's "Simple Man" ends with Dean turning off his car radio.
- "Changing Channels". An Elevator Going Down scene with accompanying song turns out to be on a medical soap opera that Dean is watching on TV. Later he becomes Trapped in TV Land on the same soap opera.
- Charlie is doing a Fashion-Shop Fashion Show to "Walking on Sunshine", until Dean gets exasperated and turns off the music which is playing on her smartphone. Charlie then gets annoyed at him for interrupting her montage.
- In FlashForward (2009), an episode begins with a flashback (so to speak) to the Blackout, with people falling to the ground and a bus driving headlong into a pond to an upbeat Bjork song. The music stops when a man on the sinking bus wakes up and takes off his headphones.
- Later that same episode, a chase through a trailer park features a trumpet in the background music. At one point in the chase, a character runs past the trumpet player.
- This happens in an episode of Dani's House where after someone says something shocking, a "dun-dun-dunnn" is heard, which turns out to be Toby's ringtone.
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where Dr. Forrester fires Frank and hires Torgo to replace him plays with this trope a lot. Torgo's theme plays whenever he walks, plays sped up when Dr. F hurries him along, and all the while Torgo is oblivious to it. Frank, too, gets in on the act with the title theme from The Rebel Set playing on his Walkman providing BGM during Torgo's job interview.
- An episode of My Family involves Ben having taken up the hobby of listening to Opera. He's listening to the opera when he learns his daughter was nearly assaulted, the music changing to a surprisingly appropriate mood just as he does.
- One episode of The Mighty Boosh has a plot revelation accompanied by a trombone riff. Howard turns around and tells Lester to stop playing the trombone.
- Happens in the pilot for the new Nick Sitcom Big Time Rush - the four main characters were just fired by their producer for goofing off during a recording, and sad acoustics are playing the background, which we later find out is the "guitar dude".
- Used repeatedly in the Stargate Atlantis episode "Vegas". First when a man in a hotel room is ill, ominous music plays in the background, before he suddenly starts banging on the wall and demanding that his neighbor turn it down. Later, Sheppard drives away from the city to "Solitary Man," and eventually inverts this by turning up the music in his car, allowing the audience to hear it over his plot-relevant flashbacks. Also, when the Wraith's hideout is introduced, Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" (don't ask — Wraith apparently like hardcore music) plays at the backgr— wait, is that a boombox on the bed?
- Played with in the Good Luck Charlie episode "The Case of Mr. Dabney", in which Mrs. Dabney says things to Bob that reinforce Gabe and P.J.'s suspicion that she killed her husband, punctuated by ominous-sounding music coming from a murder mystery playing on TV. Only the third time, it's not coming from the TV.
- The Carol Burnett Show did a soap opera parody — while Carol's character says something dramatic, the organ music gets louder and more intense until she shouts "Knock it off!!!"
- The Season 4 finale of 30 Rock has Jack and Avery reuniting after Nancy leaves, with dramatic music in the background. They're clearly speaking, but you can't hear what they're saying, so at first you think it's one of those classic montages - then Jack tells the guy to turn off the loud music as they can't hear what they're saying either.
- An episode of Bones has the main characters looking at a strange-looking body found by a UFO-hunter in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, the X-Files theme starts playing. A few seconds later, they find a cell phone that's playing the theme. Fittingly, this episode is called "The X in the File."
- An interesting variation occurs in the Sanctuary episode "Kali, part 2". Will starts doing a Bollywood-style dance in the middle of a crowd of confused onlookers accompanied by a troupe of dancers who are shown to not actually be there in order to summon Kali who is appearing to him in his mind (It Makes Sense in Context...sort of) so the viewer assumes the music isn't real either. However, when the dance ends, a guy turns off his stereo.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Ned Bigby is... The Revenger. *DUN-dun-dunnnnnn... DUN!*
- Played with in the "Sheep" episode of Father Ted, when Dougal has a BBC sound effects record which keeps drowning out Ted (making the sound of artillery fire when he coughs, for example), and adding dramatic music cues during Mrs Doyle's revelations. At the end of the scene, Mrs' Doyle's footsteps are accompanied by some horrific squelching and crunching noises. Ted tells Dougal to put the record of... but it's already off.
- Also played with in an episode of Sonny with a Chance. When Sonny walks in on Tawni (who is wearing a bald cap due to a gossip column insulting her hair) sad violin music is playing. However, during the resulting conversation, Sonny pulls back a curtain to reveal Zora playing the violin. At the end of the scene, as Sonny leaves, more music begins to play. She pulls back the curtain and starts to tell Zora off again, but Zora (who is actually looking at her cell phone) looks up and says, "That... wasn't me."
- In The Avengers episode "The Town of No Return", Ominous Pipe Organ music began while Mrs. Peel was talking about disappearing townspeople to a priest in the church. The priest went on explain that mice get into the pipe organ sometimes.
- Seen in the 2010 Christmas special of Miranda: Miranda is having a traditional Victorian Christmas. She asks for the music to be stopped, and the cellist (who was off camera up until that point) obliges.
- The theme tune for Jonathan Creek is a classical piece by Saint-Saëns. In the episode "No Trace of Tracey", the opening credits segue into a character listening to Saint-Saëns on the radio. When the radio then changes to Vivaldi, he turns it off.
- On the CBS version of The Match Game, it was frequently mentioned that the show's theme was the "most forgettable music" on TV. Oft times as a gag, the music director would cue up "Stars And Stripes Forever" or "The Stripper."
- On an episode of the Brit Com After You've Gone, Diane psychs herself up to write up another time table for the school she works for to the tune of "The Eye of the Tiger". She yells for Alex to turn his music down.
- The Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Night of the Dead Living" is full of this. It gets a little aggravating to the viewer.
- Also happens in "Fire, Part 2." Arson detective Mike Kellerman is driving to a meeting with Giardello about transferring to homicide while Live's "I Alone" plays in the background. When Kellerman parks at department headquarters he also turns off his tape recorder, ending the music.
- The "Stealing Home" episode of The Thundermans introduces Raoul the professional commercial actor to a riff of Dramatic Guitar Music. Nora immediately asks where the music is coming from and Raoul introduces his cousin Gustavo, who is paid to follow him around with a guitar. Then another guitar riff plays, causing more confusion as it isn't Gustavo playing it this time. Then Gustavo's cousin comes into frame, also holding a guitar.
- In one episode of The Troop, a dramatic chord plays anytime they talk about a villain played a sponge. Eventually a character gets fed up and asks where it's coming from, leading to another apologizing and saying they need to change their ringtone.
- In the original Kamen Rider, bad guys lie in wait at a wedding to steal the bride's blood. The piano player, who is also one of the goons in disguise, begins playing dramatic "oh noes, incoming badness" music just before the bad guys make their move.
- In Kamen Rider Faiz, President Murakami's scenes in his office at Smart Brain HQ always include Ominous Latin Chanting, but it's not until an underling walks in and the audience needs to hear the following conversation that we realize he's listening to the BGM on a CD player while working or drinking wine.
- In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric dramatically enters a student hearing like he is a big-time lawyer while the theme from The People's Court plays in the background. He then opens up his briefcase and turns off the tape recorder playing the music.
- Pixelface: In "The Problems of Dr. Nigari", Kiki is tending to the dying plant Stephen Badgeworth and sad music swells in the background as she tells him she cannot save him. She then turns around and asks Romford if he's playing sad music. Romford admits he is and stops.
- An episode of CSI uses this to lampshade the franchise standard of forensics montages synced to music. Hodges turns off the BGM playing on his iPod when one of the other CSIs comes into the room for the results of the montage.
- An episode of Castle has the opening where they find the body of the Victim of the Week. It then cuts to a panning shot of NYC set to "Taking Care of Business", when it cuts to Castle's apartment, his mother is singing along to the music.
- Modern Family: A conversation between two characters in "Yard Sale" is punctuated by a dramatic sting of organ music. This is then revealed to be a customer testing a elecronic keyboard who announces "I'll take it!".
- In the Hustle episode "Eye of the Beholder", after Mickey announces they're going to steal one of the crown jewels, we see Danny prowling around their hotel room in black clothes and a ski mask, while the theme from Mission: Impossible plays. Then the others come in, and Mickey switches off the stereo and asks Danny what he's doing.
- Sherlock: Moriarty's "Stayin' Alive" ringtone.
- And once again, when he is listening to Queen's "I Want To Break Free" while arriving at Sherrinford maximum security prison complex/black site.
- The Adventures of Shirley Holmes: The background music from one scene of Shirley spying on a new student in "The Case of the Rising Moon" turned out to be a student playing a flute.
- Banshee: The song playing over the episode ending montage in "The Truth About Unicorns" comes to an abrupt halt when Lucas slams his fist down on the off button of the radio in Sugar's bar.
- The third opening to Everybody Loves Raymond. Debra throws a stuffed animal at the stereo to shut it off.
- In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Aftershocks", a mutated Raina contemplates a Frogger-style suicide, accompanied by ominous music. It swells as she begins to cross the highway. Cut to Skye in quarantine listening to the same music, apparently part of Bobbie's "quarantine survival" playlist. She quickly turns it off when she spots Fitz.
- A Touch of Cloth: They like this gag. The first episode alone has the music during a chase scene performed by a local band, and the ethereal music during a scene where two distraught parents are brought in to see their daughter's corpse revealed to be sung by a choir boy.
- Danger 5. Tucker is about to be killed by an assassin when Jackson provides a distraction by turning off the action music, which is playing on a tape recorder.
- Daredevil: A flashback to Wilson Fisk's childhood in the 1970s starts by cutting to a typical Hell's Kitchen street as "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones plays in the background. Then we cut to inside the Fisk family's apartment, where the song is playing on the radio, and Fisk's mother asks for it to be turned down.
- Parodied (like everything else) in Angie Tribeca. Apparently there's a guy at the precinct whose only job is to sit behind a sound board and provide enough "hubbub" so that the place sounds really busy. Lieutenant Atkins yells at him to turn it down.
- In another scene, bass music plays as Tribeca and Geils have a conversation in their car; it's revealed that there is a bassist playing in the back seat.
- In Farscape, during the Space Western episode "Different Destinations", there is a pan over the inside of the besieged fort to the sound of a harmonica playing "Home on the Range", that ends by revealing that Harvey is playing it.
- Scottish comedy duo Hale&Pace doing Psycho: Women in shower. Dramatic music. Women screams. Woman gives peeping tom musician a beating.
- When Bob Hope guest hosted The Muppet Show he sang a country song and asked where the music was coming from. The horse explained that there was a tape deck in the saddle.
- A scene in a Muppets Christmas Special has Kermit and the others fretting over the future of their theatre whilst harp music plays in the background. One of them then apologises that she was practicing her harp.
- The establishing shot of the island in Muppet Treasure Island features jazzy BGM, before pulling back to reveal The Electric Mayhem.
Zoot: I'm confused. Are we with the pirate dudes, or the frog captain?
Floyd: Hey, man, just play the gig. Don't get involved in the politics.
- In The Muppets, Kermit's big entrance involves him being brightly back-lit while a Cherubic Choir is heard singing... and both lights and music turn out to be from a passing bus full of choir singers.
- Sesame Street has several instances of the characters hearing the score.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent's first steps on an alien world are accompanied by haunting, ethereal background music... which turns out to be the Robot Buddy, Marvin, humming. Later in the same episode, a self-consciously inspirational speech from Zaphod Beeblebrox is nearly drowned out by a swelling, triumphal fanfare: Marvin again. (The fanfare was Thus Spake Zarathustra, best known from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The earlier ethereal bit was a Pink Floyd instrumental — which caused copyright issues, and the joke was cut from the home audio release and most of the later versions of the series.)
- In The Goon Show, every time a character was monologuing about having fallen on hard times, the same sentimental melody (the Standard Snippet "Hearts and Flowers") would play on the soundtrack. These sequences always ended with a this gag; the only exceptions are those that begin with an "I'll just put the BGM on" gag.
- Sometimes this doesn't even appear in the script, but got ad-libbed in as the audience expected it.
From "The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler":
Bloodnok: We must eat it or die.
Bloodnok: We must!
I'll stop playing this violin then! *Music Stops*
- Even seen in the dramatic one-woman play Golda's Balcony; a weary Golda Meir repeats the line "I could do without that music" several times.
- The Mighty Boosh: Howard plays a tape of his own dramatic score in the radio show episode, "Jungle".
- Repeatedly in I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue spin-off Hamish and Dougal, including a Scare Chord that turns out to be the Laird practicing on the organ, and then keeps happening, even when logic suggests the organ can't possibly be present.
- Also repeatedly in In Search Of Mornington Crescent. At one point a scene with spooky electronic music turns out to be being recorded in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. For no reason whatsoever.
- At least once in Bleak Expectations, where old Pip, recapping for a journalist, mentions the name of the Boarding School of Horrors he attended, at which point thunder crashes and an organ plays an ominous cord. He shouts at his daughter to please stop playing the organ in a thunderstorm while he's talking.
- Multiple levels in the "First Love" episode of What Does The K Stand For? a show where comedian Stephen K. Amos recalls his teenage years in The '80s via a monologue with dramatised bits. He describes how when he had his first kiss he thought he heard a gypsy violin, and one starts up in the dramatisation. Then he says he suddenly realised there was a gypsy violinist who happened to be passing. And then he sarcastically comments that the gypsy violinist was apparently playing the harmonica solo from "All Rise" by Blue even though that song wouldn't be released for over a decade.
- In the Radio 4 sitcom Gloomsbury, scene transitions are indicated by a brief burst of 20s jazz. In the episode "Two Broads Broadcasting", one such transition is interrupted by the sound of a radio retuning from the jazz to Vera and Ginny's poetry.
- In the stage version of The Producers, "'Til Him" is a touching song about Leo and Max's friendship. When it gets to Max's part of the number, he is accompanied by a swelling chorus of little old ladies until he tells them "Please, don't help me".
- Earlier in the song, after Leo finishes his verse, a very moved Max says "Leo, I never realized...you're a good singer!"
- Earlier in the show, the song "King of Broadway" features a section where Max reflects on his past glory while standing in the alley outside the theatre where his latest play just opened and closed. A mournful violin accompanies his speech, getting increasingly maudlin the more pathetic his story becomes. The violinist turns out to be a street performer whose help Max also declines.
- At the very beginning of "If you've got it, flaunt it," Ula hits a tuning note, which then proceeds to segue into the piano melody, to Max's confusion.
- In the musical of The Wedding Singer, Robbie and Julia first meet at one of his wedding gigs and shake hands. Suddenly everything freezes as they stare at each other, and a high, angelic tone plays. The tone stops after George whacks his keyboard a few times.
- In Lano And Woodley The Island, every time salt is mentioned there is an ominous "BUM BUUUUUUM" sound effect. At one time, Col mentions salt and nothing happens; he immediately stretches his arms out as to say "Well?" and the BUM BUUUUUM goes off, prompting a "Keep it snappy, keep it snappy!" from Col. Unfortunately, the sound guy seems to get too enthusiastic- the sound henceforth occurs at the mention of words like "insult" and "assault", prompting Frank to eagerly play with it, much to Col's chagrin.
- In the stage adaptation of Going Postal, Mr. Groat waxes lyrical about the days when "we were postmen!" During his speech, uplifting music begins playing, provoking a startled reaction from Moist. Just before the big finale at the end of the speech, Moist tells them to cut it out.
Moist: And maybe we'd better bring Gladys along as well. It sounds like Vietnam out there.
- Later on, Reacher Gilt tells Igor to contact Mr. Gryle. The name is repeated about four times, and each time is accompanied by a more dramatic DUN DUN DUNNNN. By the fourth time, the music is so over-the-top that Gilt waves at the techies at the back of the theatre, saying "No, too much! Too much!" The music stops. "That's strike two."
- Not exactly part of the show, but some fireworks were going off halfway though one performance. The actors handled it admirably, and even ad-libbed a few lines.
- In Spamalot, the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Herbert's father tries to stop the music over and over again is repeated. But this being a musical, he's eventually overruled and a Crowd Song starts. He later unsuccessfully tries to stop the show's closing number.
- There's a touring concert going around Sweden with Supersnällasilversara and Stålhenrik, using the same sort of music as the TV show. When the villain goes into her Freudian Excuse flashback, Sarah pulls out a violin and plays the flashback music herself.
- In One Slight Hitch, P.B.'s Walkman music can be heard by the audience, and stops when she turns it off as ordered by her mom.
- At the end of Flashdance: The Musical, Alex begins her audition to a vinyl record of "What A Feeling", before the orchestra and company take over the song.
- "SPY Fox in Dry Cereal" provides the trope image. He's chasing after the villain and the road ends ahead, he pushes the "Eject" button expecting the truck to propel him into the air so he can catch the villain. Turns out it's just the cassette tape ejector. (Pressing it again does the job, though.)
- Battlefield 4: During the prologue mission "Baku", one of the soldiers tries to turn off the radio (playing Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler) as your car is sinking, saying he doesn't want to die to the tune of this song.
- On first entering the dinosaur shrine in Conker's Bad Fur Day, a heavily dramatic piece of music begins... whereupon Conker looks to the camera and requests something less overblown. A bouncy, upbeat theme then begins.
- Before the fight with the Haystack Terminator, ominous pre-boss music starts playing. Conker says he doesn't like the sound of that music, and Frankie agrees saying he reckons there's gonna be a fight soon.
- In the RPG-Maker game The Bad Guy, the protagonist discovers the hard way that all the background music of the game comes from an orchestra playing in the top of a hill.
- Thanks to the game's ability to play music both in and out of vehicles, Scarface: The World is Yours has this. You could be listening to non-diegetic music, make Tony enter a vehicle, and then have the track in question become part of the game world, played on the vehicle's tape deck.
- In Metal Gear Solid, prior to fighting Psycho Mantis, his distinctive, synth-choral Leitmotif starts playing in some odd situations, such as during an unrelated dialogue sequence (Otacon comments that he can hear music, which hints at some fourth-wall breaking Mind Screw). It later transpires that this music was actually Mantis's own 'singing', which enables him to control minds. Before the player realises this, however, it's quite mindbending to hear characters comment on the BGM:
Meryl: Wait. There was supposed to be a guard here...
Snake: What happened to the music?
- What makes that line even odder is that it implied that Snake could hear the BGM already and noticed it's changed (rather than noticing music for the first time)
- In Chrono Trigger, just before the last* fight with Dalton, he is seen standing atop a recently-modified Epoch, monologuing, then strikes a dramatic pose... which activates the game's main musical score (Chrono Trigger), presumably coming from speakers on the Epoch itself. He is visibly and vocally annoyed at this, and complains until the BGM becomes something more fitting (A Shot of Crisis).
- Inverted in The King of Fighters 2003: Adelheid's sister Rose plays the piano in the background (Chopin's "Revolutionary Etude", in fact) but as the BGM progresses, it's obvious that she's not playing this at all.
- Miranda's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 demonstrates that the infamous elevator music is playing in-game and annoying the characters just as much as the player when she hits the control panel and demands the elevator speed up, both significantly increasing the speed of the elevator and shutting off the music.
- In Banjo-Tooie, an ominous theme (aptly named There Comes Trouble...) always starts playing when the duo is about to face a boss. Eventually, Kazooie points this out by declaring: "Here, the music changed. Every time that happens we always end in a Boss Battle" before, obviously, fighting the Big Bad's Dragon for the third time.
- A bit of a variation in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials & Tribulations: Godot seems to be aware of his own theme song due to the fact that his cell phone has it as his ringtone - or maybe it's his theme song because he uses it as his ringtone.
- Also, Klavier Gavin's theme song (Guilty Love) just so happens the best-selling single of his band, and he apparently plays a recording of the song by way of an introduction to, uh, himself, much to the annoyance of the judge.
- Also, Klavier's theme song appears in the flashback case BEFORE the song was actually written
- When you examine Luke Atmey's gramophone while he's in his office, Maya says "So that's where this music is coming from!" - "that music" being Atmey's theme ("I Just Want Love"). The guy is such an egomaniac he composed a tune for himself (and yes, he tells you so).
- Also, Klavier Gavin's theme song (Guilty Love) just so happens the best-selling single of his band, and he apparently plays a recording of the song by way of an introduction to, uh, himself, much to the annoyance of the judge.
- On the Sound Beach stage in Fatal Fury 3, before the fight starts there's dead silence... and then, in the background, Terry Bogard's pet monkey jumps on the "Play" button of a boombox. At that point "Big Shot" starts up.
- Also implied in Krauser's castle in Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special, in which there is an opera singer on a balcony overhead in the stage introduction. Of course, she's obviously not the only one performing.
- In Max Payne, usually the music is deep background and not noticeable (expect in scripted heavy action scene). At one point in Part One, however, Max gets into an elevator playing really upbeat muzak. If the player has Max blast out the speaker, the music stops and Max says, "Thank you."
- Time Hollow. "Phone's ringing, dude."
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the background music becomes louder and more intricate as The Hero ascends to the top of The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. In the final room, the hero finds Big Bad Ganondorf playing an Ominous Pipe Organ as he waits for the hero to arrive.
- Likewise for Saria's Song, which you find her playing on the Ocarina in the Sacred Meadow. After you learn the song, it becomes the normal background music, inverting this trope.
- Malon also sings along with the Lon Lon Ranch music (Epona's Song), even at night when the background music isn't playing, and when you first meet her at Hyrule Castle.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna will also occasionally hum her character Leitmotif to herself.
- Also in TP, the Skull Kid in the Sacred Woods plays Saria's Song on his horn.
- In Space Station Silicon Valley, the background music comes from speakers placed around each level, and one mission involves destroying all the speakers to stop the music.
- Tales of the Abyss featured Ominous Pipe Organ music in one scene, along with the Big Bad playing an organ. Made more confusing by the fact that he stops playing the organ in the middle of the scene, and the music keeps going.
- Although when he bangs the keys out of annoyance at the heroes, you do hear it over the BGM. And then while he's talking, he turns to the side and starts playing the organ again with one hand.
- In Glider PRO, turning off a stereo will silence the game's background music.
- In Psychonauts, the Player (and Raz) hears the 'Muse' crying in the dressing room. And upon getting the Beautiful Bonita's attention, she promptly starts speaking a bit before cuing someone off camera to turn off the waterworks sound. Raz's expression is priceless.
- All the Hymns in Ar tonelico are sung in-game and heard, though Fridge Logic kicks in when you can use the singer in battle and they can, apparently, sing two complicated songs at once. It helps that each Hymn is usually accompanied with massive effects somehow. One scene in the first game has the Hymn BGM cut off abruptly when the singer is knocked out.
- The Embassy level in Mission Impossible (1997) has diegetic piano set to the chords of the non-diegetic ambient music.
- Explicitly employed in Persona 3. The opening theme, "Burn My Dread," is actually the piece that the Main Character is constantly listening to in his "Atlus Audio" MP3 player, as evidenced during his arrival at Tatsumi Port Island and during the Final Battle.
- In Chaos on Deponia, the main character can hear the background music from where they are (presumably there is a local orchestra) and you actually have to mute the music from the options to pass a puzzle (The music is catchy and therefore makes him forget what he was thinking.)
- In Suikoden II, one of the first dungeons you visit is an old, abandoned castle, now inhabited by the dread Vampire Lord, Neclord. It's filled with zombies, bats, and assorted undead. As you fight your way through it, a spooky pipe-organ tune plays to enhance the atmosphere, and when you finally reach the apex of the main tower, you find Neclord... playing the pipe-organ. When he notices you entering, he turns from the keyboard, and the BGM stops in mid-note, turning to a shocking silence.
- Occurs in Umineko: When They Cry EP 4. When the background music "Monochrome Clock" starts playing, Ange complains about it, prompting Amakusa to turn off the radio.
- Used in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. The BGM in Belinsk is actually being performed by the band in the middle of town; you can request different songs, including the musical MacGuffin Sveta asked you to signal her by.
- In Final Fantasy VI, during the famous opera scene, Locke has just discovered that mutual annoyance Ultros is planning to sabotage the opera. Once he tells the impresario, the background music makes a dramatic chord... and we pan back to the stage, as the scene has shifted from a celebration to a battle.
- In Covert Front Episode 1: All Quiet on the Covert Front, the quiet waltz-like music that plays over haunting pictures from the war is revealed to be coming from the protagonist's radio.
- In Xenon 2 Megablast when a level is done there's a shop screen to buy powerups. The shopkeeper alien presses a button, and the music stops.
- Beneath a Steel Sky has a jukebox in the bar. You can choose the music under which you go into tunnels.
- Submachine: Future Loop Foundation opens in silence. The first puzzle you have to solve involves switching on a tape player...
- In the first level of the Genesis version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, Michael throws a coin into a jukebox, starting up "Smooth Criminal", just like in the movie/music video.
- In Perfect Dark Zero's Nightclub Stakeout level, the music is normal BGM until you enter the club, where it becomes diegetic. Then it switches off once you trigger the fire alarm.
- The tape room at the beginning of Leisure Suit Larry 5 has a boombox that plays songs from the game's soundtrack.
- In Spec Ops: The Line, the Radioman blares music from speakers scattered around Dubai. It serves as a Shout-Out to countless Vietnam movies.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generation it's implied that the battle music is actually being played by the mechs' sound systems, as the pilots sometimes mention their mech's BGM Select when rattling off Techno Babble.
- In Goshogun, one of the villains runs around with his battleship blasting the Blue Danube; in its SRW appearances, this is represented by his BGM overriding everyone elses' (including "Trombe!").
- Early on in The Reconstruction, one of the party members complains about the "nauseatingly cheerful" fanfare that plays every time someone joins the group. Since he's promptly told by the bureaucrat they're talking to that all complaints must be filled out in triplicate, apparently this is standard Wadassian guild-registration procedure.
- Halo: Combat Evolved: In one of the cut-scenes, some Marines are heading into battle while generic Heavy Metal plays. One of them asks "Why do we always have to listen to the old stuff?" and their sergeant replies that it is part of Earth's culture.
- One of the secret areas in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter brings the player to a tiny film set based on the final battle from The First Encounter, complete with the final boss music from that game playing. Shoot out the speakers and the music stops.
- Fallout 3: In the Tranquility Lane VR simulation, Betty occasionally whistles along with the background music. This musical phrase is played to activate the Failsafe terminal.
- The Hatoful Boyfriend Holiday Star's question-and-answer session, set up as a radio booth, is already very meta, but in one episode the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain hijacks the booth and, to cover up the usual hosts yelling at him outside, he puts on his theme tune.
- Miror B. from Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness appears to be aware of and in control of his own theme, as it stops whenever he says "Stop the music!" and resumes whenever he says "Let the music play!".
- It's made even more notable in his second battle in Colosseum when he says "Never mind that" right after declaring the music, and the standard Cipher Admin battle theme plays instead of his own during the fight.
- In Batman: Arkham Origins, when Batman starts heading toward the penthouse, all of a sudden, Bane arrives, set to the tune of Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville", grabs Batman and tosses him into the penthouse where The Joker lives. The Clown Prince of Crime tells the Dark Knight that "it's a tradition in my house to open one present on Christmas Eve." He then chooses one of the detonators and uses it to blow up an empty construction site before laughing and singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas"... while the background music starts to sound more like Looney Tunes, as the Joker had been watching Bugs Bunny's "Rabbit of Seville" while he is doing the atrocity. Enraged, Batman grabs the Joker as the explosion rocks the building, cutting out the TV signal.
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has an absolutely EPIC use of this trope in mission 26 with the admiral of the protagonists' carrier group putting the same song that was sung by anti-war protesters earlier in the game on the radio and on loudspeakers during a naval battle. Also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming due to the battle taking place to protect a group of Yuktobanian ships that defected from their warmonger admiral when the latter blew away one of his own ships for refusing to attack the Yuktobanian prime minister whom the Yuktobanian admiral just declared a traitor for trying to make peace with Osea.
(whistle of feedback, The Journey Home starts playing)Anderson: "Commence battle! We are not alone!"
- Bonus points for an enemy pilot actually complaining about the music if the mission goes on for long enough, revealing that they're really weirded out by the Soundtrack Dissonance of an anti-war song accompanying their fleet getting utterly demolished by four planes that just won't fucking die.
Enemy pilot: "Why do we have to listen to the enemy's music?!"
- The song also returns in the next mission, being sung by a chorus of friendly fighter pilots as they fly in formation with the player's squadron towards the final battle. The mission's proper BGM doesn't even start until after the singing is over.
- Bonus points for an enemy pilot actually complaining about the music if the mission goes on for long enough, revealing that they're really weirded out by the Soundtrack Dissonance of an anti-war song accompanying their fleet getting utterly demolished by four planes that just won't fucking die.
- The final mission of The Saboteur is accompanied by a haunting piano version of Nina Simone's Feelin' Good, being played by a despondent Nazi general. You have the option of killing him and playing the rest of the mission in eerie silence.
- All three Bioshock games have record players and radios, many of them being the source of music in certain rooms; smashing or simply interacting with them can shut the music off. Special mention goes to Sander Cohen's apartment in the first game, where a record player is on while two splicers dance to a piano tune (which Cohen wrote, "Cohenscherzo") that's coming from it. Cohen orders you not to disturb the splicers, but that clip of shotgun shells jammed under the player is very tempting...
- In Episode 3 of King's Quest (2015), King Graham climbs the tower and finally sees the beautiful princess held captive. As they look at each other, romantic musicnote swells...and suddenly another girl enters the scene, playing the music on a lute. For extra points, the musician is actually an important character, since she's another captive princess, meaning she might be the one Graham is supposed to marry.
- In Don't Starve Adventure Mode, the final level is scored by an incongruous ragtime ditty. Sure enough, you eventually find a phonograph, which you can turn off. If you do, the imprisoned Big Bad thanks you because the music was driving him crazy. And then you can turn it back on to spite him.
- In Undertale, the music can usually be relied upon to be the one thing that isn't diegetic - but there is nonetheless a piece of flavour text that pops up during the boss fight against Muffet which informs you that the nearby spiders are clapping along to Muffet's boss music.
- This Weebl & Bob, as part of a general riff on CSI: Miami.
"Are you paying The Who to follow us around again?"
- In The Demented Cartoon Movie, Evil Blah has to kill the Ominous Pipe Organ twice (literally, the second time).
- In the Zelda fan-flash-series "Unknown Origin", the famous Item Get!! sound suddenly plays when Link gets a new sword. He apparently heard it and looks around confused, when he notices that another character is abusing a record player nearby. That's where the sound came from.
- In Red vs. Blue, the radio on the Warthog is always set to a polka station, so if you hear it getting louder, it means that it's gonna run you down.
- In Keegan's Truck Chronicles, a car chase sequence begins with the song "Mickey" by Toni Basil, and then the character in the chicken suit turns the radio off, bringing the music to an abrupt end.
Scotty the Great: I liked that song.
Theodore Nigent: Your radio privilages have been revoked.
- Ned's Revenge at one point had the title character kill a couple to heavy metal music... and then he changes the station on the radio and the music changes to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!.
- While pretty much every Team Fortress 2 Freak has a leitmotif, Christian Brutal Sniper is notable in that he has to pull out a radio and switch it to "Millionaire's Holiday" for his to start. He often pulls this radio out of whoever he's just killed.
- RWBY does this in the first episode: the show's main theme tune begins triumphantly blazing as Ruby strikes an Ass Kicking Pose, ready to take on some robbers... and then she clicks a switch on the headphones she was wearing, and the music shuts off.
- Inanimate Insanity II: While a conversation between Marshmallow and Paintbrush is in progress, a piano is heard in the background. Paintbrush suddenly wonders where it comes from, and going through a hedge she finds out that Lightbulb was playing the background piano.
- In "The Grey Knights discover the Wulfen" by Bruva Alfabusa, when Grand Master Coven holds up a picture of a Digganob the fan song "‘Ere we Go" by HMKids plays. It keeps playing softly even at the end of the video.
- Red Mage from 8-Bit Theater has a nervous habit of going Dun-Dun-Duuuun at tense moments.
- In a Concerned strip, Frohman finds a group of soldiers preparing themselves for an aerial attack due to them hearing the techno music that usually accompanies action sequences in Half-Life 2. After standing there with their weapons drawn for a few moments, Gordon realizes it's his cell phone, much to the soldiers' annoyance.
- Referenced in this◊ Narbonic strip, as an obvious omen of trouble. "Where's that ominous music coming from?"
- The Order of the Stick
- A minor Running Gag has dramatic moments being underscored with an appropriate "Dun Dun DUN!" The source of it inevitably turns out to be Genre Savvy bard Elan. He can apparently even do this when the dramatic event in question is happening too far away for him to be aware of it.
- His brother rather does not approve.
Nale: I'm not saying 'dun dun dun' for you.Tarquin: That's not how I raised you, young man!
- His brother rather does not approve.
- Also, when Varsuuvius makes a pact with demonic forces for more power, the Ominous Latin Chanting that results comes from a choir of castrated pedophiles.
- A minor Running Gag has dramatic moments being underscored with an appropriate "Dun Dun DUN!" The source of it inevitably turns out to be Genre Savvy bard Elan. He can apparently even do this when the dramatic event in question is happening too far away for him to be aware of it.
- Pintsize from Questionable Content on more than one occasion including this strip where one of Pintsize's friends is responsible for the sound effect.
- In RPG World, elevator music to the Big Bad is Ominous Latin Chanting. What's more, the lyrics are taken from Sephiroth's theme, "One-Winged Angel", with Sephiroth replaced with the Big Bad's name.
- In Sluggy Freelance Torg's "ominous crash of thunder" ringtone is played at just the right time.
- In Strange Candy, it is revealed at one point that the Oom Oom chanting in the background track of the Big Bad's lair is in fact a Oompa Loompa record stuck on the "Oom".
- In Homestuck's Act 6 Intermission 4, whenever Gamzee approaches Caliborn, Elevatorstuck plays. The second times it happens, directly after he finishes shooting him, Caliborn complains about the music and the person he's talking to says they were doing it on purpose and that, in punishment for shooting an innocent person, they will play it every time Caliborn shoots him.
- One of several gags in the CollegeHumor video Realistic Hollywood Sex Scenes.
- The second RP of Darwin's Soldiers has Alfred turns on a Humvee's radio during the Chase Scene and Primo Victoria by Sabaton starts playing. Cpl. Stern then immediately orders him to turn it off. Word of God states that Primo Victoria is indeed supposed to be the background music.
- Joked about in The Nostalgia Chick's review of Labyrinth when Sarah is running around.
Chick (as Sarah): I gotta find that drum machine!
- A non-musical variety of this is done in this Youtube video.
"You're playing your voiceovers in the HOUSE now?"
- Something of a Running Gag in Unskippable.
"Dude playing the pipe: this is not the time!"
- In one episode of The Fuplers, as Kevin is considering deleting his mom from facebook, dramatic music plays. Dean then looks to his side to find Lindsay is humming this music, which then turns into weird babbling.
- Done by Stuff You Like's Sursum Ursa a few times in the Sherlock Jim vs. Moriarty review.
Music: *dramatic crescendo*Sursum Ursa: Where is that music coming from?
- A variation is done by Tobuscus in his Let's Plays: he frequently comments on the game music as if it were occurring in the scene.
- In Avatar: The Abridged Series short, Zuzu's Date, once June spells out that she wants to have sex with him, his voice deepens, he turns on all the lights by clapping, and produces music from his burning soul.
- There is a Running Gag in the Kill la Kill Parody Shorts where a guitar strums whenever someone calls Aikuro by his preferred name... HIDALGO (guitar strum). It's actually his neighbor practicing his guitar.
- Doubly subverted in Moral Orel in the episode "Dumb". Sad violin music plays in the background as Joe yells at his elderly father. The music stops and we hear a voice on the radio say "That was 'Sad Violin Music #7' by Ludwig VonStopmotionanimationname." The camera then pans out to reveal that the voice was actually Joe's half-sister, who happens to have a ridiculously deep voice. Then a voice on the radio says "That was 'Sad Violin Music #7' by Ludwig VonStopmotionanimationname."
- Also happens in the episode "Courtship" which heavily features the song "You" by Peter Blood. When it's used at the beginning of the episode, we hear a Record Needle Scratch when Doughy asks his parents a question. Turns out they're playing a record of "Silly Sound Effects."
- Happens several times in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.
- Particularly used in "Scary Berry", with the best example being Mac popping up to a dramatic sting... or, well, a pale a capella imitation thereof from an imaginary friend.
- In the same episode, Berry spots Bloo, and romantic violin music plays—and a violin imaginary friend walks behind her, playing itself.
- The entire episode is a series of these.
- Goo once created a violin friend for some sad mood music, although in this instance it wasn't played straight; the audience is never led to believe that it was just background music.
- Johnny Bravo did this in an early episode. Whenever the villain's plot was described, an ominous tune would cause the characters to look around in surprise and confusion until finally, one of them wonders aloud "Who keeps doing that?"
- In a much later episode, Johnny sees a big shining sign advertising just the thing he needed at the moment. Cue the sound of a choir chanting. After a zoom-out, there's an actual boy choir standing right next to the sign.
- At the start of an episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series, eerie music plays as Sabrina works at her cauldron. She asks her aunts to turn off the magical speakers.
- In one episode of Danger Mouse called The Bad Luck Eye of the Little Yellow God, whenever the name or plot of Big Bad Baron Greenback was mentioned during a mission briefing from Colonel K, a dramatic piano sting was heard. Eventually, an annoyed Colonel K hits the button on his desk's intercom and asks his secretary to do her piano practice somewhere else.
- Also, in "Play It Again, Wufgang," all the world's music has been stolen by cut-rate composer Wufgang Bach. DM and Penfold are prepared with an emergency tape "in the radiation-proof glass-fronted box that was given to us by our scientific branch that can resist any attempt to break into it and contains any sort of background music we need for our activities while saving the world." This tape is apparently necessary, as certain activities are apparently impossible unless the appropriate background music is playing (When the recording of the theme song stops playing, the Dangermobile drops out of the sky, because that song has to be playing for the car to fly).
- Several examples in The Simpsons:
- In "Mother Simpson", when in a tank, Mr. Burns plays an audio tape of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"... but it turns out that Smithers took that tape and over-recorded it with his favorite song: "Waterloo" by ABBA.
- In "The Springfield Files", a paranoid Homer hears the theme from Psycho... only to have it turn out to be an actual orchestra on a passing bus. This may be a direct lift of the scene from High Anxiety (see above in Film).
- In "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", when Homer and Grandpa get run out of a hick town to dueling banjo-style hillbilly music, Grandpa blames Homer's poor salesmanship, until Homer points out that they only started the chase when Grandpa turned on the "getaway music". He switches it off, and the hicks stop, make disappointed noises, and return home.
- Incidentally, the song playing was "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Flatt and Scruggs.
- Also happens in "In Marge We Trust", Reverend Lovejoy has a revelation, sunlight beams through a window and a dramatic chord plays on an organ. It turns out Marge is sitting on a keyboard just off-screen.
- In "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", when Homer walks into the living room and sees everyone from town in his living room, some Christmassy music can be heard. He then barks at Lisa to stop playing it on the piano.
- Yet another episode plays with this: The Simpson kids hear spooky noises coming from their attic and decide to investigate. Homer dismisses it until stereotypical spooky music starts playing. At this point he angrily declares that it's one thing to scare his kids, but messing around with his theremin crosses the line, and he leads the family into the attic.
- In "Mobile Homer", while Marge and Homer are looking through a holiday album (of Homer getting repeatedly injured) a song is playing, only for Marge to reach over and turn it off, courtesy of a nearby casette player.
- Happens during The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror story "It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse". The school dance scene has music licensed from the Peanuts Halloween Special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which it parodies, but Milhouse rushes in to shut off the iPod-dock stereo that's playing it.
- The same episode features Marge's voice replaced by a trombone, as with all adults in Peanuts. Naturally, she is playing a trombone.
- In the "Return to Camp Wannaweep" episode of Kim Possible, Ron is stressing out over having realized they're back at Lake Wannaweep. Anxious brass music plays until Ron turns to address the kids playing it. They in turn apologize and say they thought they were at band camp.
- In the "Fiddlin' Around" episode of The Replacements, K has a flashback to rescuing the World's Best Symphony Orchestra. Dramatic music is playing as they are trapped on a boat headed for a waterfall, cut to a closeup showing the Orchestra actually playing the music. They switch to a last stand dirge just before K stops the boat falling over the edge.
- Animaniacs did this when spoofing the Three Billy Goats Gruff, as whenever someone said "troll" there was ominous organ music - shown to be played by Wakko. At one point, Wakko said it and Dot took over the organ duties ("Well, someone had to do it!").
- Parodied in Yin Yang Yo!. A season 2 episode has a villain who's fueled by power drained from other warriors and a funky horn section that plays his theme music. He's so dependent on that theme music that he's easily beaten when his horn section is defeated, even though he's powerful enough to beat all of the protagonists.
- An episode of Histeria! about The American Civil War featured the classic scene of a soldier writing letters home to his girfriend, but ends up with the entire camp going insane from the violin constantly playing a forlorn "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" throughout the sketch.
- Used thrice in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- In the first season episode "The Blue Spirit", the atmospheric background music as Zuko returns to his ship turns out to be Uncle Iroh playing the tsungi horn purchased in a previous episode. Iroh then admonishes Zuko that he "missed music night" (shown later).
- In the third season episode "The Painted Lady", the fog, spooky music, roaring and giant footsteps all turn out to be sound effects supplied by the Gaang.
- In the Grand Finale they pull the same trick as in the first season, with Iroh playing inside his new tea shop.
- South Park
- The opening to the episode "Kenny Dies" contains multiple ones in sequence.
- Also featured in "Cripple Fight"; Big Gay Al is sadly packing away his old boy scout things, to a sad piano tune, until he finally gets exasperated and tells his (previously off-screen) piano-playing friend to stop being so depressing. Which culminates in a Crowning Moment of Funny when he changes his tune to a very upbeat arrangement of the Too Fat Polka.
- The episode "Mecha-Streisand" has Japanese singing to the Gamera theme when Barbara Streisand, Leonard Maltin, Sidney Poitier, and Robert Smith transform. After awhile, Chef looks to the side irritably, revealing a nondescript Asian character holding a microphone, and asks "Do you really have to do that?"
- The episode "Starvin' Marvin in Space" plays a cheezy little song about how liberating flying is whenever Marvin is using his stolen space ship to travel around the world. When the boys join him, Cartman complains about the music.
Stan: This is great!
Cartman: Yeah, but where's that crappy song coming from? Can we turn that off?
Marvin turns the music off
Stan: Yeah, that's better.
- Family Guy
- The Star Wars-parody has heroic music swell as Chris/Luke looks over the desert at sunset. Then the camera pans over to John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra, whom Chris acknowledges and thanks for their hard work before asking to do the theme from The People's Court. Then they're killed in the Empire's attack, and we have to make do with Danny Elfman. Well, that is if Chris/Luke didn't decapitate him with his lightsaber... Peter/Han gets really into the TIE Fighter battle music.
- Also, in the episode "Holy Crap" (the one with Peter's father), there's a Running Gag involving a band that plays appropriate emotive chords at Peter's request.
- And in the "Viewer Request" episode (the last episode of the original run) Peter gets three wishes; one of them is to have his own theme music, which follows him everywhere.
- There's also the episode where Stewie gets a job following fat people around with a tuba.
- And John Williams is alive again in the third Star Wars parody, switching from the tense music of the Speeder Bike chase to the theme of Entertainment Tonight.
- A Cutaway Gag about a film literally called "Distracting Trumpet." As Italian mob members discuss business, a solitary trumpet plays in the background and gradually increasing volume. As the discussion continues, the characters end up shouting at each other and a pan out shows they have a trumpeter playing their discussion.
- In the episode "Baby, You Knock Me Out", during the fight between Lois and Deirdre Jackson, Peter begins to sing the Survivor song "Eye of the Tiger" untill he is interrupted by Quagmire to focus on the fight.
- When we get Roger's origin on American Dad!, while they're hunting the alien, Stan goes to look in the room where the spooky theremin music is coming from.
- In "Bully for Steve", when Stan starts bullying Steve to toughen him up, Steve retaliates by paying Stan's old bully, Stelio Kontos, to beat the crap out of Stan. Throughout the ensuring Curb-Stomp Battle, the BGM (sample here.) is an ominous chanting of Stelio's name. At the end of the fight, Stelio calmly turns his theme music off, takes the radio it was playing from, and leaves.
- Another episode combines this with a Brick Joke. A montage set to "Weird Science" shows Stan in a library, trying to find a way to heal his injured dog. But when he gets home, he laments that he couldn't get any work done because "They were blasting Oingo Boingo at full volume."
- "Finances With Wolves" has an unusual and humorous twist. Klaus gets a new body, then proceeds to knock Stan out so he can seduce Francine. We get a Montage of him getting cleaned set up to Earth, Wind & Fire's "September"note ; when we cut back to Stan, he's singing the song to himself as he wakes up, immediately wondering why on Earth that particular song is stuck in his head.
- In "Dope and Faith", when Stan sees the man he's sure will be his best friend in the church doorway, a soprano-style high-pitched voice is heard. Cut to Stan, and it turns out he's the one with the high-pitched singing voice.
- Pinky and the Brain
- In "The Real Life" episode, parodying MTV's The Real World, a troubled and angry Brain walks about the house while a parody/pastiche of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" plays in the background... until Brain opens a door in the house and angrily tells the director of the reality show to 'turn that insipid maudlin music off', though maybe not in those exact words.
- In another Pinky and the Brain sketch, "Where Rodents Dare", the mice have mailed themselves to Switzerland to overthrow a conference of world leaders. During the flight sequence, a snare-drum march is heard. Cut to the shipping container, where Pinky is playing the snare drum, and Brain has become very annoyed...
- In "Brainy Jack", the All-Knowing Singing Narrator is revealed to Pinky, who is sitting on the rear of Brain's horse singing. Brain tells him to stop this as it it makes it very hard to sneak up on people.
- The first episode of Legion Of Superheroes season 2 opens with Superman and Brainiac 5 fighting the Dominators. Brainy gets hit, and some really melodramatic BGM plays as he dies in Superman's arms. Then it abruptly shifts into "Music terminated, simulation complete." Yes, Brainy programmed his simulation of Superman reacting to his death to have melodramatic music.
- In the Transformers: Beast Wars episode "Changing of the Guard", when Rattrap discovers that piloting the makeshift mini-sub is "kinda cool", a cheery sea-shanty-esque tune plays - then we cut to Silverbolt on the shore, listening to the music through his handheld communicator and staring at it in confusion.
- Transformers: The Movie had something similar; during Starscream's coronation, a trumpet fanfare plays in the background each time the 'con is about to be crowned, interrupting the ceremony. Eventually, Starscream chides someone offscreen to "Get on with the ceremony..." ...and we cut to the Constructicons, holding trumpets, looking confused as to what they did wrong. Immediately afterward, Starscream's crowning gets interrupted by the fanfare again, and he decides to quell it by shooting the trumpets clean out of the Constructicons' hands in mid-song.
- In Cats Don't Dance, Danny and Pudge start dancing on the deserted sound stage, and mood music swells up behind them. It's not immediately clear that this trope is going to be used, which makes it somewhat mind-screwy when Danny looks up and says, "Wait...where's that music coming from?" Turns out it was Woolie the Elephant playing his piano in a trailer across the street.
- Hey Arnold! "Olga Comes Home" has Olga crying in her room sadly to sad classical music... and in the last scene, Helga enters the room and turns off Olga's stereo.
- In the first Screwy Squirrel cartoon, Screwy is being chased by a dog when suddenly the music starts repeating as if it were a broken record, and the action goes back and forth accordingly. Screwy then walks over to a record player, adjusts the needle and the chase resumes.
- Shaun the Sheep has one episode where he tries to get Timmy off a tightrope by swinging on a trapeze. His attempts are accompanied by a drumroll and cymbal clash, which we then see is being played by one of the sheep.
- In the Earthworm Jim episode "The Book of Doom" any time said book is mentioned, and referred to as "the book," there is a jarring electric guitar chord that accompanies it. This goes on repeatedly until Evil the Cat gets sick of it and hits the henchman who had been playing the guitar off-screen.
- In a horror-themed episode of the Italian produced Rat-Man animated series, Rat-Man is in a bathroom of a cinema. He goes to open a bathroom stall while some dramatic chords gets louder and louder in the background...and as soon as he opens the door, we see a violinist practicing in the stall, which bows and then leaves the scene. The joke is replayed later after Rat-Man gulps a cup of poisoned tea, as the same violinists appears on the scene playing the same chords.
- Phineas and Ferb
Baljeet: Is that absolutely necessary?
- "MOM! Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence!"
- One episode has Dr. Doofenshmirtz plotting to squash Perry the Platypus with a piano suspended over the door, accompanied by piano music. We pan up, and see someone playing the suspended piano, who then turns around and gives a creepy yet hilarious slasher smile.
- In "Bowl-O-Rama Drama", each time Baljeet mentions "The World's Most Pointless Book of Records", a trumpet fanfare is heard. After a while, it is revealed to us that Buford has been playing a trumpet right behind him.
Buford: Why, does it bug ya?
Baljeet: A little.
Buford: Then yeah, it's necessary.
- In "Attack of the 50-Foot Sister", which takes place during the Tri-Stare Midsummer Fair, Doofensmirtz's usual "Doofensmirtz Evil Incorporated!" jingle is somewhat muted over the bustle of the fair, which happens to be at the foot of his building. Cut to Doofensmirtz complaining that he can't hear the quartet that's actually singing it in his studio over the noise.
- There's another time where Perry the Platypus actually crashes through the window and interrupts the quartet as they're recording the jingle.
- In "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", after Candace has finally busted her brothers but starts to miss them after they're sent to reform school, there is a sad montage of memories of them, set to a song. Cut back to Stacy playing a guitar and singing the song; Candace tells her to stop bumming her out.
- In the special "Summer Belongs to You", Phineas is inspired, resulting in the musical equivalent of the Idea Bulb. Just as it chimes, what appears to be a Commercial Pop-Up ("You're Watching Television!") cuts off the bottom third of the screen. It goes away when Phineas notices it, revealing Ferb holding a triangle.
- In the title sequence, Phineas conducts Ferb and a group of penguins on horns for a few bars and on guitars a few bars later. In "Thaddeus and Thor," they build a treehouse where one floor has a scoring section.
- In "Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet Max Modem", as Dr. Doofenshmirtz explains his evil plot to stage an alien invasion, spooky theremin music starts playing... and then we see Doofenshmirtz walking away from an actual theremin.
- In "Candace Loses Her Head", the dramatic music during the volcanic eruption is revealed to be played by a nearby orchestra.
- An episode of The Emperor's New School has a dramatic chord sounding whenever Kuzco or Kronk say "Condor Patch". Kuzco, amused by it, says "Condor Patch" several times in order to make the chord play.
- Parodied in "Sidekicked to the Curb" by having the supposed background music actually playing on the radio previously reporting the "villain"'s antics: "Breaking news alert: the Whammer has been spotted trying to steal two yachts from the marina. Yowza. Now back to all climactic battle music, all the time."
- Also parodied in "The Young and the Meatless", where The Butcher and one of Lady Redundant Woman's duplicates fall in love. Each time they see each other, they Meadow Run accompanied by romantic music, which is revealed each time to be the result of the same malfunctioning boombox.
- Teen Titans has one in the episode where Mad Modd traps them in an elaborate school. When they chased him to the music, Robin upturns a statue head (of Mad Mod) and turns a switch to stop the music after a Scooby-Dooby Doors Sequence.
- In Storm Hawks, Dark Chick Ravess is often accompanied by minions who play her leitmotif on violins.
- SpongeBob SquarePants
Mr. Krabs: That's a 4/4 string ostinato in D minor! Every sailor knows it means death!
- In an early episode, Plankton pulls out a tiny record player from Hammerspace so his Evil Laugh can have some appropriate background music. At one point, the record is on the wrong side, and he laughs to a song teaching the alphabet before noticing and flipping the record... and laughing again, but to the right music this time.
- This happens a few times in the episode "Clams" (a parody of Jaws/Moby Dick), ominous orchestral music plays every time the giant clam is approaching. Eventually, Mr Krabs opens the door to the hold, revealing a live orchestra inside, causing the clam to show up.
Mr. Krabs: This really is the world's smallest violin. See?
- When Mr. Krabs takes Mrs. Puff on an expensive dinner date, there is "imported" piano mood music playing in the background. As soon as she mentions it, the scene cuts to live-action footage of a scuba diver playing the piano in a tank of water.
- Also happens in a later episode, "Sing a Song of Patrick", when SpongeBob tells Gary that "he can play his record later" immediately after the music has a dramatic buildup.
- And Mr. Krabs once played sad music on a tiny violin.
Plankton: Would you stop playing that tiny piano?SpongeBob: (hides piano behind his back) Sorry.
- In "Ugh," the show's prehistoric episode, there's a series of cuts between Spongebob, a stick, and some fire, all accompanied by the dramatic sound of a barbershop quartet. At one point, the camera cuts to the live-action footage of the quartet itself (complete with a woman wearing a mustache) for no discernible reason.
- In The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water, Spongebob and Plankton are sneaking into the Chum Bucket to get Karen, and have to get the key to Karen's cell. Plankton starts tiptoeing and we think it's regular cartoony tiptoeing sounds. But then he stops and we see that it's just Spongebob standing there playing a tiny piano.
- In Duckman the family is trapped in their basement by an overzealous security system with gun turrets. When they finally decide to make a break for it, suitably epic music starts up as they burst out of the stairway. As gunfire and the camera follow them past a record player, it's promptly shot to bits and the music fizzles out.
- The animated Mother Goose and Grimm series did one episode where Grimm and Attila went to look for Mother Goose's ex-fiancée (in order to restore Humpty Dumpty). Everytime a dramatic moment occurred an organ music would play, leading Grimm to go to the other side of the room and tell the lady playing it to stop. This went on for several times.
- In the Raggedy Ann and Andy short "The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile," Raggedy Ann is trying to help Aunt Agatha remember how much fun Halloween was while a slow banjo tune is played in the background. The scene then cuts to Raggedy Andy, who is playing said banjo. He even throws in a harmonica solo near the end of the scene.
- In one Futurama episode, Zapp Brannigan is called to the White House while patriotic American music plays. It is shown to be Kif playing as a one man band.
- Used in multiple episodes of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, usually in relation to the chase song—in fact, there are multiple episodes where the gang actually turns on the song before the chase starts. Furthermore, the kids (and often the monster) are always shown dancing using the same three steps over and over while the chase song plays.
- A Running Gag in a Jimmy Two-Shoes episode is the constant dramatic "dum-dum-dum" sounds actually coming from prizes Lucius is giving out at his carnival. This trope comes up in a few other episodes too...
- In fact, this trope mostly comes up during 'serious' heart-to-heart moments, with the violin music being played by an in-universe source. At one point, Jimmy tells the players "Whoa, not that serious." and they do something a little more up-tempo.
- Played hilariously in Chowder, where in one episode, Endive is trying to force Schnitzel into marrying her. When things go awry, she yells at Margret to "Cut the music." We then see Margret literally cutting a stereo system in half with a pair of oversized scissors.
- Played straight in Daria, a show that typically used mostly-contemporary pop music as incidental music during scenes and establishing exterior shots. Occasionally the source of the music would be revealed to be Jane or Quinn's CD player.
- In one episode of Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, Grizzle actually manages to take over Care-a-Lot and immediately sets up a throne. As he ascends the stairs leading to it, regal background music plays, only to be revealed to be coming from speakers built into the throne itself.
- In an episode of American Dragon: Jake Long where Jake is summoned before the Dragon Council because of his tendency to go outside rules, his grandfather explains that despite his rough edges, Jake does have what it takes to be a true dragon. As he speaks, emotional violin music is playing in the background until Jake's grandpa yells "Fu!", to which the talking dog playing the violin replies "What? I thought you were trying to create a mood".
- The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "C Flat or B Sharp" is set to the Hungarian Rhapsody. Partway through the cartoon, the out-of-control piano is shown to be playing as it careens down the hall... presumably the rhapsody in question.
- There's also the episode "Prom-Ise Her Anything", which had Sneezer playing romantic music on a sax to bring the right mood to a scene twice. The second time, he turns to the camera and remarks, "I also play at bar mitzvahs."
- Rocko's Modern Life when dramatic martial arts music plays as the sun rises on the day he must face his childhood nemesis, Dingo. The music is played on a boom box.
- In an earlier episode, after Rocko breaks the ice that Heffer's adopted (which he assumed Heffer knew), the sound effect of a dramatic heart beat is heard. It turns out the beating heart is from the Wolfe family's dinner, which the dad has in his mouth.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Dungeon", a upbeat xylophone tune plays whilst Finn and Jake escape from a cage... only for it to be revealed that the Guardian Angel is playing it, who's then promptly cut off as the cage lands on top of her.
- The first episode of Martha Speaks does this with a Suspiciously Similar Song version of "Yakety Sax".
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated once had a scene where after a few second we see it's Mr. E playing the background music on a keytar.
- Also briefly happens in a Lady and the Tramp-esque scene with Scooby and Nova, where the music is revealed to be played by a violinist at the party.
- In Thundercats 2011 Wandering Minstrel Wilykit is often revealed as a provider of previously atmospheric flute music, particularly while playing an appropriately mournful tune in the smoking ruins of her home city of Thundera.
- Arthur has a few examples.
- One episode has a singing narrative when Buster returns from extended traveling with his father. Twice the singing Moose is acknowledged.
Moose: (upbeat tune) He's a sad sad Bunny, A sad sad bunny, TV isn't funny when you're a Sad Sad Bunny.
Buster: Hey, that's not very sad music.
Moose: (repeats the song, slower and more solemn)
(later, at the end of the episode)
Buster: So how long has the singing guy been here?
Arthur: I thought he came with you. MOM! THERE'S A SINGING MOOSE IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE!
- "That's a Baby Show!" opens with D.W.'s favourite TV character, Mary Moo Cow, performing in Arthur's bedroom. Arthur interrupts the performance and orders the music to stop - at which point we see that what we thought was background music was actually being played live by three musicians.
- One episode has a singing narrative when Buster returns from extended traveling with his father. Twice the singing Moose is acknowledged.
- The music playing when Sasha dancers her way into the hangar in the first episode of Titan Maximum turns out to be Leon's copy of her latest album.
- In The Fairly OddParents! "Fairy Idol" special, Jorgan would make his usual dramatic entrance, only for a ridiculous nursery tune to play.
Jorgan: Binky! Track seven!Binky: Sorry! (Changes tracks on the boom box, starting the dramatic music)
- The Looney Tunes Show: In "Itsy Bitsy Gopher", Daffy makes a dramatic statement regarding Tosh's fate to Mac, accompanied by a dramatic organ sting. Daffy and Mac look round to see Lola playing the organ in the corner of the antiques store.
- One episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius opens with a spider crawling across the screen with ominous music playing. Jimmy then yells at Sheen to turn the music off.
- A running gag in one episode of Archer had a dramatic sting whenever Cheryl caught her brother interviewing her friends about her mental stability. Cheryl seems to be the only one who noticed it, implying that it's all in her head. She tries to ignore it, because "It's non-diagetic."
- Hilariously and brilliantly played straight in the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "A Glass Of Warm Ed" involving Ed sleepwalking throughout the episode. At one point he still manages to walk around the house, despite being captured by his friends all while light and dreamy BGM is playing. Cut to a VERY angry Sarah upstairs pounding on the floor of her silent bedroom, screaming, "Ed! Shut up!"
Eddy: Give it a break, will ya?!Double D: *Chuckles*
- Another episode had Double D playing background music where the Eds open up a hula school, and he is lassoed into setting the mood by playing traditional hula music on his steel pedal guitar; once Sarah and Jimmy interrupt the lessons, he then switches the mood to sound more like the show's style of music scoring, that is until Eddy shouts at him.
- The Secret Show: Omnious music was mentioned every time somebody mentioned the Bermuda Trapezoid. A band was revealed to be doing it when Victor Volt asked them if they'd do that every time somebody said "Bermuda Trapezoid"? And yes, they did repeat it after Victor asked the question.
- Throughout The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Fan", Sarah uses a portable cassette tape player to provide different music relative to the scenes she's imagining while interacting with Gumball and Darwin. Taken to an extreme at the end of the episode where Gumball is forced to abide by Sarah's music due to the player getting stuck, until he simply destroys it and cuts off all the music entirely.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Appleloosa's Most Wanted", Sheriff Silver Star announces that some sabotage at the rodeo is the work of "...Troubleshoes" as some ominous harmonica music plays. Then it turns out the harmonica is being played by a nearby rodeo clown, who sheepishly backs away as he realizes the sheriff is staring at him.
- This happens in Atomic Puppet during a football game against alien invaders. As Joey tries to rally the demoralised team at halftime, melancholy music plays...which turns out to be coming from Robo-Ron's built-in gramophone.