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Lonely Piano Piece
aka: The Lonely Piano

Note: TV Tropes is currently unable to play music from the web page. For optimum viewing experience, hum "Inevitabilis" while reading below.note 

Is the hero in a losing battle against the villain and on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown? Has he or she been broken down? Does the grief of the realization that In the End, You Are on Your Own overtake him or her? Cue the lonely piano piece.

Basically, this is a piece of music that plays in a scene that represents that someone is left all alone and is stuck at a dead end with no allies or means of solving the problem at hand. The music is usually slow paced and the notes are often lower pitched to show that the character has run out of momentum or that he or she has hit rock bottom.

While this can be done with just about any instrument, the piano just seems to be a common instrument to do it with, perhaps because if there's ever a piano being played, there's rarely a second piano. The violin or acoustic guitar are usual replacements.

If a character is constantly lonely, or even an entire cast, this may be a Leitmotif. The Lonely Piano has a tendency to show up at funerals, especially when it's raining, or when it snows. Always expect Angst. If the story has a happy end, you can also expect You Are Not Alone. May play with the One-Woman Wail, though typically the Wail tends towards more epic points. See also Playing the Heart Strings.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto has "Sadness & Sorrow" which is played frequently, especially during the funeral scene.
  • Appears in the final battle of the Soul Eater anime after Maka and Soul wake up to find that the rest of their True Companions have all been defeated. Of course, they were asking for it, given how Soul both plays the piano and uses this for a literal Theme Music Power-Up.
  • Very common in Spiral, mainly because Ayumu, Kiyotaka and Eyes are all skilled pianists.
  • "Love Conservative" from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Like we need to be any sadder watching Nia disappear.
  • All of the Sunlit Garden pieces from Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Alies Grises would be a good starter, but practically all the music in Haibane Renmei would count.
  • A very beautiful piece in the Read or Die OVA when the bad guys get the MacGuffin
  • The power of this trope might reach its penultimate level in the first episode of Noir, when Kirika is in Mireille's living room and the two are discussing Kirika's amnesia. Kirika's "alone in a crowd" theme is so brilliantly overpowering, the Lonely Piano Piece works even when she's not actually by herself.
  • "Elegia for Piano" from Hirano Yoshihisa's Ouran Highschool Host Club soundtrack is often used for this purpose in the series, particularly in uncovering the more depressing pasts of characters. "Sakura Kiss for Piano" is its sweeter brother and a touching recovery piece, also for solo piano.
    • "Nocturne pour Tamaki" is also a solo piano piece. The melody itself isn't necessarily sad, but the few scenes its played for aren't exactly joyous. Considering Tamaki's past, it gives off a more melancholy feel when its played.
  • "Will of the Heart" from the first Bleach soundtrack by Sagiso Shiro, and "Swan Song" from the second, though the latter is a guitar piece.
  • "A Mother's Love" from One Piece, first used during Robin's flashback to Ohara, where her mother was killed, and she was left on her own with no one to rely on, at the age of 8.
    • Done very literally with Brook. With the entire crew severely injured, they try to perform one last song for their whale pet. Everyone begins dying, leaving only Brook left playing piano, asking why they would leave only the accompaniment.
  • Cowboy Bebop does this with piano ("Adieu") less often than other instruments, like saxophone ("Goodnight, Julia"). Session five even manages it on a pipe organ ("Rain").
  • "Rakuen" from Wolfs Rain, which plays when Cheza disappears, leaving Kiba to die alone as the world ends, is heartbreakingly sad. However, once the strings come in and you realise there may still be hope, it becomes incredibly beautiful.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei's theme ("Rei I") is the epitome of loneliness, and appropriately so.
    • "A Hole in the Dream" and "Reliance Leads to Falsehood" from End of Evangelion are two other such pieces (though the latter is played in violin). Several other tunes like that are tucked away in the S2 Works music collection. There are at least two piano versions of "Honeymoon with Anxiety" - the lonely one, and the really, really, REALLY lonely one.
    • "Passage of Emptiness" from The End Of Evangelion.
  • One slowed down version of "Heart Moving" is played on a lone piano during the first season finale of Sailor Moon, when Usagi sits alone after all her friends have sacrificed themself for her.
    • The piano rendition of "Heart Moving" was also used for the last scene of season two's finale when Chibiusa says her goodbyes to Usagi and returns to the future. There are other melancholy versions of songs used throughout the series, usually a rendition of one of the ending credits songs.
    • A quite popular one is played in a climatic episode and through two different scenes. The first one features Haruka angsting over how bloodstained she is and Michiru comforting her via toying with her hands; the second has Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako and Usagi thinking and angsting about the recent reveal that Michiru and Haruka are the Outer Senshi.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has a simple yet heart-tugging piano solo, which coincidentally is titled "Alone".
  • Lyrical Nanoha
  • Axis Powers Hetalia features this in the episode where the Axis Powers are alone on an island. You get a double whammy when it turns out that Austria was playing it, and realize that it could apply to him too.
    • The piano piece is Nocturne Opus 9 No. 2 in E Flat, by Frederic Francois Chopin.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has ''Decretum'', Sayaka's theme which plays during the scenes where she's consumed by her despair.
    • "Inevitabilis" counts even more for being a literal Lonely Piano Piece, and for being a Dark Reprise of Homura's theme for when she finally breaks down and admits everything to Madoka before steeling her resolve for a lonely final battle.
  • Code Geass: This song which plays during the following:
    1) Xing-Ke's promise flashback
    2) Cut finger scene (between Lelouch and C.C.)
    3) Ohgi's confession of love
    4) And, of course, Lelouch's last words before he dies.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai has this with the piano versions of Monogatari, Michishirube, and a few others.
  • Kareshi Kanojo No Jijou with character themes Yukino Miyazawa V (Nocturne) and Arima Souichiro I.
  • Fafner In The Azure uses this, combined with One-Woman Wail, as a remix of the usual ending theme, Separation, to spectacular effect following Shouko's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • All over the place in Black★Rock Shooter anime, but especially in the OVA after Yomi disappears.
  • Nabari No Ou has a piano arrangement of the main theme that serves for such moments in the anime.
  • In the original Saint Seiya, one of these is heard as the empty Virgo Cloth reassembles itself after Ikki's Heroic Sacrifice to defeat its owner Shaka, all of this in front of the very shaken Shun, Seiya and Shiryu.
  • Most of the emotional music in Steins;Gate is piano-based (and, appropriately to the plot, quite lonely-sounding). This reprise of the main theme, Gate of Steiner, takes the cake though, just because of the scenes it tends to be played in.

    Film 
  • The JFK theme has one.
  • We get this in Road to Perdition during the gunfight in the rain late in the film.
  • Elmer Bernstein was the master of this trope. Listen to Far From Heaven and To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • The deeply haunting "Brooks Was Here" from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • "Victor's Piano Solo" from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, clearly playing off the theme of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" mentioned below, until he's interrupted - and similarly, "The Piano Duet" starts this way, echoing the earlier scene, until it's turned right around by the characters.
  • "The Promise", the main theme of The Piano.
  • From Fame, there is "Ralph and Monty (Dressing Room Piano)"
  • Downfall features Stephen Zacharias' ''In The Courtyard of the Reich-Chancellory''.
  • The main theme of the 2007 I Am Legend has a notable piano part with solo sections. Thinking about it, the piano part may represent Neville's solitary existance surrounded by the evidence of his failure and memories of what once was, the strings brass and percussion parts.
  • Oddly enough, the opening piano score from Bad Santa is oddly touching, hearing Billy Bob Thornton monologue about how crappy a person he is while Chopin's Nocturn Op.9 No.2 plays is rather moving.
  • Battle Royale II has Memories, played by Shiori Kitano on a piano she finds in Shuya's base. As she plays, the scene cuts between her in the present, and her remembering how horribly she treated her father in years gone by.
  • "Home Movies" in the remake of Halloween (2007) and its sequel.
  • Clint Mansell's soundtrack for Moon uses mostly simplistic piano tunes, and the sad tunes work well in emphasizing the heart-breaking sadness of the main character's lonely moments.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring had this as virtually its only incidental music, being very driven by silent, stoic acting from Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson and reliant only on a meandering theme.
  • The Social Network has "Hand Covers Bruise", which is the main theme and plays after Mark's girlfriend breaks up with him. The album won an Oscar for Best Original Score.
  • The official soundtrack for Antz replaces "High Hopes" with a soft piano version of the main theme.
  • The Road: ''The Road'' .
  • Lincoln has the end of The Peterson House and Finale. Skip to 9:30.
  • Gravity most notably has the Aurora Borealis track.
  • The Sting features a piece called Solace, done both as a piano solo only and as well as an orchestral version. And yes, it's played during the rain.
  • The Pianist features one performed in-story. Szpilman, who has been hiding from the Nazis, starving, cold, and alone, is discovered by the Nazi officer Hosenfeld. On discovering that Szpilman is a musician, Hosenfeld requests a piece, and Szpilman hesitantly obliges with Fryderyk Chopin's haunting "Ballade in G Minor," to tremendous emotional effect.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has The End of the Line. A melancholy song for a serious low point for the Captain. Because he has to fight his old friend.
  • The film version of The Snowman has a piano version of 'Walking in the Air' playing when James realises his snowman has melted. What makes this all the sadder is that this is the end of the film, and the melody plays over the closing credits, leaving the audience alone to weep.

    Live Action TV 
  • Partial Trope Namer, The Incredible Hulk's end piece "The Lonely Man".
  • Over half the Tear Jerker sequences in Doctor Who. The other half is Playing the Heart Strings.
  • Scrubs has a piece which repeats quite a lot.
  • Red Dwarf actually did this with Rimmer in "Better than Life", but it was short lived, while he stands on the observatory, staring out. Lister comes up and the music stops, and a serious scene goes on. It works really well, especially for a comedy.
  • An episode of Kamen Rider Den-O focuses on a nameless pianist, whose music is his rendition of the series' battle tune. The third iteration in particular seems quite lonely.
  • In Chojin Sentai Jetman has Maria, who constantly plays a tune on a piano. During The times when Maria is hurt or dying, this plays.
  • The end of the final episode of season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the Buffy theme music being played over it, slowly, on a piano.
  • The piece "Win One for the Reaper" from LOST plays during the funerals for most of the characters who died as well as during other sad moments in the series.
  • The very end of the Warehouse 13 season 3 finale.
  • Sherlock has one of these as a recurring theme throughout the series that's usually played when referencing John's past (hence the title 'War' on the soundtrack), but becomes even more of a Tear Jerker in The Reichenbach Fall when the theme is extended in the track "Prepared To Do Anything" and played when Sherlock steps off the roof.
  • Parodied by comedians Hale & Pace. The character walks across a street, and the piano plays - the character hears it and begins to experiment with the effect - pull back camera to reveal that he's standing on a giant Steinway.

    Music 
  • The first movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven is often used for this when the soundtrack is not original.
  • A non-soundtrack example would be X Japan 's Es Dur no Piano-sen by Yoshiki. On the Jealousy album, it is the first, introductory track to the album, to convey this kind of atmosphere, that of the lonely calm before the storm... literally, because the next track is Silent Jealousy.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Songbird was the closing song of their concerts for many years, played by Christine Mc Vie alone at a piano.
  • Tom Waits' is a master of these: Martha, Lonely, Tom Traubert's Blues
  • Peter Gabriel's rehashed version of "Here Comes The Flood" from the album Exposure is the Lonely Piano Piece for the entire human race.
    • Not to mention "The Drop" from the album Up.
  • Singer-songwriters who are piano-based (e.g. Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Rufus Wainwright) are likely to have songs like this. Rufus even has a whole album of lonely piano pieces (All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu).
    • Oh Amanda Palmer...
      "I think I'll wait another year..."
    • Literal with Eric Carmen's (or should we say Rachmaninov's?) "All by Myself". Joo of Igudesman And Joo exaggerates this trope to its logical extent by playing and singing this song, slowly sounding more and more depressed, sobbing uncontrollably and singing unintelligibly by the end of the first chorus.
    • Yiruma's musical output is comprised almost entirely of these, many of them highly effective Tear Jerkers despite being instrumental.
  • Efterklang's song Mimeo on the Parades album.
  • Punk rock band Hüsker Dü had two on their concept album, Zen Arcade: "One Step at a Time" and "Monday Will Never Be the Same."
  • DHT - Listen To Your Heart (Unplugged version)
    • Likewise, the piano version of Groove Coverage's cover of "Moonlight Shadow".
  • Christina Perri's song "The Lonely" is entirely about this. It's just Christina and her piano singing about how all she has is the loneliness. Possibly subverted since the song is actually about her being in a relationship with loneliness.
  • Dream Theater frequently write songs like this, such as "Wait for Sleep," "Vacant," and "Far from Heaven."
  • Kate Nash with the songs Old Dances and Little Red
  • "From My Hands" by VNV Nation.
  • "A Little Bit Longer" by The Jonas Brothers
  • Elton John, "The Bridge".
  • Supertramp, "Downstream".
  • A rare organ example: J.S. Bach's chorale prelude Nun, komm', der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659) is quite dreary and sad compared to his other chorale preludes and has been described as one of his saddest works.
  • Erik Satie's Gymnopédies are this. The first one is the one that most people tend to remember.
  • One Day I Will Fly by Evening Star, inspired by Scootaloo, everybrony's favorite flightless pegasus.

    Theatre 
  • Jekyll & Hyde had a few of these along with vocals, backing up "Lost In The Darkness", "No One Knows Who I Am", and "Sympathy, Tenderness".
  • In Spring Awakening there's a slow, sad piano-only accompaniment to Moritz's monologue before he commits suicide. Observant viewers will note that it's the piano that accompanied Ilse's half of their Counterpoint Duet.
  • Pippin: "I Guess I'll Miss The Man" is a Lonely Acoustic Guitar Song.
  • In the ballet Petrushka, the centerpiece of the 2nd Tableau is a pianistic depiction of Petrushka's loneliness.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 


You're leaving this page all alone? Cue the Lonely Piano while this page weeps at your absence.


Simple Score of SadnessScore and Music TropesNostalgic Musicbox
Lonely FuneralSadness TropesLosing the Team Spirit
Literal CliffhangerDrama TropesLoved I Not Honor More
Lonely at the TopTear JerkerManly Tears
Drone of DreadMusic TropesOminous Music Box Tune

alternative title(s): The Lonely Piano
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