Simple Score of Sadness

A soundtrack can be very useful for setting the scene. The style of music tells you what the mood's going to be, and awesome moments need booming soundtracks with lots of instruments making up the sound to be even more awesome.

But with depressing moments, it's the other way around: you only need a slow and soft melody with very few instruments to know that what's happening or has just happened is supposed to be a Tear Jerker - if not for the audience, then for the characters at least.

Subtropes include Nostalgic Musicbox, Lonely Piano Piece, Playing the Heart Strings and One-Woman Wail.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Film - Animated 
  • "Sally's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas is noticeably softer and simpler than the rest of the movie's soundtrack. In the song, Sally talks about how she's afraid Jack will never notice how she feels about him.

    Film - Live Action 

    Live Action TV 
  • In a show that wasn't afraid to break out the electric guitar for fight scenes, it's worth noting that Buffy and Angel's love theme pretty much always sounds like this. Especially when Buffy has to send Angel to hell in order to save Earth.
  • The Incredible Hulk's "The Lonely Man" closing theme - piano solo.

    Theatre 
  • The third act of Tristan und Isolde has Tristan waking to the sound of a shepherd's pipe playing a long, unaccompanied and very mournful old melody.
  • Some versions of Les Misérables - most notably the 10th Anniversary Concert - have "The Sewers", a simple instrumental version of "Bring Him Home" that plays as the dust settles from the final battle onto the bodies of the revolutionaries, or as Valjean carries Marius's unconscious body through the sewers. The 2012 film uses the same music as Javert inspects the wreckage of the barricade and the bodies of the revolutionaries, and pins one of his medals onto Gavroche's body.
    • Then there's "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", which starts simple and sad as Marius suffers his Heroic B.S.O.D. - and in the movie, begins completely a capella to emphasize how truly alone Marius is. Same goes for "Turning", which is about peasant women (in some versions, it's implied to be the Revolutionaries' girlfriends/lovers, as it's the same actresses playing both) singing about the outcome of the revolution and sometimes cleaning up the bodies and blood from the very men they're singing about.
  • In Hamilton, "It's Quiet Uptown" is one of the simplest, saddest songs in the show. It consists of Angelica observing the Hamiltons' tandem Heroic B.S.O.D. following the death of their son Philip, and Eliza is so distraught that she only utters one line in the entire song.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The song that plays when Yue sacrifices herself to revive the Moon Spirit.
    • Iroh's song as he burns incense for his son in 'Tales of Ba Sing Se'.
    • Also, the music playing during the final Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula. There is just something so final about the score, probably because it's only slowly beating drums and string instruments playing a series of chords. It's oddly fitting for this action scene in Sozin's Comet. Definitely a Tear Jerker, especially since it follows this exchange:
    Azula: I'm sorry it has to end this way, brother.
  • In the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, this is used when Amon takes away Lin's bending.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SimpleScoreOfSadness