People in Real Life usually don't have music following them everywhere they go. But often people do find they've got some underscoring happening in their life — be it from their car radio as they're driving, a band at a bar, or a street musician outside. Source Music, also known as diegetic music, is Truth in Television in this regard: it's music that the characters can hear (or perform) themselves, and that would be playing even if the scene were happening in real life. Of course, the music usually serves a dramatic purpose as well: either it helps establish setting and character, or it comments on the action happening in the foreground. See also Suspiciously Apropos Music, AM/FM Characterization and Left the Background Music On. If Source Music becomes Background Music in mid-stream, that's a Diegetic Switch.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- An instrumental version of "Let's Stay Together" plays in one episode of Monster, when Roberto and Eva are dancing. In Another Monster, Eva says that this is one of Tenma's favorite songs.
- Given the realistic nature of the show, all the music in BECK is either played live, on a music player, or played in an Imagine Spot.
- The music in one scene of the Cowboy Bebop episode "Black Dog Serenade" seems to be diegetic, in that the music stops suddenly when the view cuts to Fad turning off a monitor before going to confront the episode's bad guy.
- Macross has diegetic music almost everywhere courtesy of there being at least one character who is an Idol Singer. In general, if the song has lyrics, it's probably diegetic, but the score is generally extra-diegetic.
- Macross Seven was unique in that it had no score, just a guy who really, really, really likes to sing and play the guitar and quite often broadcast it over the entire battlefield. Incidentally, this made all the music of Macross Seven diegetic. Any other instances of music was clearly being played from a radio, such as Sharon Apple's music from Mylene's car radio.
- Macross Frontier toyed with the line several times, such as during the first episode in which Sheryl is giving a concert at the same time as a battle with the Vajra takes place outside the fleet, cutting between the two locations but never stopping the song, but no one seems to be aware of the other. There's no indication the soldiers could hear Sheryl's song, or that anyone at the concert was aware of the battle taking place. Except the Vajra, who we learn much later in the show attacked because they could hear Sheryl's song through fold waves.
- Frontier also gives one of the few cases (possibly the only case in all of Macross) of music with lyrics being used as extra-diegetic: the epilogue of the series has the two lead females talking while the background music is both of them singing the series' main theme song.
- Lampshaded and played straight in W.I.T.C.H.. The recently arrived at Earth, Orube, comments how funny the TV seems to be here, and the one thing that catches her attention most is that people inside the movies always seem to be accompanied by music in some scenes. At the end of the comic she decides to go out and in that same moment her neighbor is playing the piano, she approves of his playing skills and decides that tune to be her personal soundtrack.
Films — Live-Action
- All the music in Dracula (1931). There was no real musical soundtrack in the film because it was believed that, with sound being such a recent innovation in films, the audience would not accept hearing music in a scene if there was no explanation for it being there (e.g., the orchestra playing off camera when Dracula meets Mina at the theatre).
- The China Syndrome is notable for having only diegetic music. The soundtrack for the movie was disliked and scrapped. In fact, when 1000 copies of Michael Small's original score was released in 2009, it sold out within 24 hours.
- American Graffiti is another example where all the music is diegetic (save for The Beach Boys' "All Summer Long", played over the closing credits; which is just as well, given that that song came out in 1964 and the movie is set in '62).
- Mogambo is another example of a movie with only diegetic music. There are various scenes where African tribesmen are chanting or singing, and Ava Gardner sings a song in one scene, but there's no score.
- Laura features multiple scenes at parties and restaurants where live music is playing; all of these are variations on the film's main theme.
- Matt Monro's "From Russia with Love" is heard over the radio in the film with the same name.
- The 2001 short film My Chorus' revolved around this trope: the main character, Ed, is followed around by a barbershop quartet which provides the diegetic music for his life.
- Used twice for comic effect in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. The first time is when John Slade leaves his apartment and is immediately followed down the street by a jazz band waiting outside, playing an instrumental version of the Shaft theme. When he meets up with Jack Spade, who asks who these men are, John remarks that they're "his theme music. Every hero should have some."
- At the end of the film, a pair of rappers and a DJ with a portable turntable arrived to meet Jack after he becomes the big hero. John Slade asks who they are and Jack repeats the line about theme music. They then perform the music that is used for the ending credits.
- The Coen Brothers are fond of this trope:
- Almost all music in The Big Lebowski is revealed to be diegetic at some point. The only exception is the stranger's theme song and the music during one of the dream sequences. The music in the first is shown to be from the Dude's Walkman.
- Literally all music in O Brother, Where Art Thou? is diegetic, remarkably for a film crammed wall-to-wall with music.
- Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" is played through transistor radio headphones at various points of A Serious Man.
- Occurs in The Crow when T-Bird pulls up in his car and turns it off, stopping the music as if it had been coming from his car radio.
- Academy Award-winning Polish film Ida has pop music playing on the radio, and a couple of scenes with a band playing in a nightclub, and one character plays records on her stereo. But the only score is a Bach piece that plays over the last scene.
- In Oldboy the main character's phone rings with a digitized version of the song "Cries and Whispers" which plays occasionally in a non-diegetic fashion during the film.
- Almost all the music in Casablanca is played on a piano by the character Sam.
- Quentin Tarantino is a fan of this trope:
- Reservoir Dogs: K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies, specifically when Mr. Blonde tortures the cop while dancing to the radio
- Kill Bill: when Elle Driver is walking through the hospital she whistles a tune; there is a Diegetic Switch.
- Also, with The 5, 6, 7, 8s in the House of Blue Leaves scene.
- In Part 2, when Budd is in his trailer listening to a record.
- Death Proof: Jungle Julia calls a radio station to request a song.
- Any point in Jackie Brown when someone is in their car, a song is likely to be playing on the radio.
- All of the music in Rear Window is ambient sound heard in the courtyard set, and is a major part of a pivotal moment.
- Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 both have scenes where street musicians play the theme song from the old Spider-Man television series. The third features the (insufficiently strong) singing voice of Mary Jane Watson.
- A lot of the music in Rio Bravo is source music, from the playing of Deguello to wear down the besieged to Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing and whistling. This was a conscious choice by director Howard Hawks to the overpowering non-diegetic use of the theme tune and song in High Noon. Funnily enough, Dimitri Tiomkin composed the score for both films.
- Apocalypse Now has the infamous scene in which Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is played during a helicopter raid as a means of "psychological warfare".
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Three Kings, when one of the soldiers wants to listen to heavy metal music while going into battle. Another soldier criticizes his musical choice and suggest they go into battle with something soothing to calm their nerves and plays an easy-listening song which also provides a little Lyrical Dissonance..
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones' theme is a haunting combination of a tune first played from a music box and then played on an Ominous Pipe Organ, and actually comes from his musical locket which is his only memory of the love he used to have, and is played by him on the Flying Dutchman's organ, respectively.
- There's also the tavern band in Tortuga accompanying a barroom brawl with a merry hornpipe, and Scrum playing tango music to which Jack and Angelica can dance. And there's a subversion in the first movie — when Elizabeth first sees the cursed pirated in their skeletal forms, two of them are sitting on the capstan and playing music — but we can't hear what they're playing, just the background music.
- In American Psycho, Patrick plays Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis and the News while he murders Paul with an axe.
- The first Star Wars film had "Cantina Band" and "Cantina Band 2", which was being played live by a group of alien musicians to set the mood of the space bar where they meet Han Solo. Return of the Jedi also had the "Ewok Celebration" or "Victory Celebration", depending on which version you watch.
- In several scenes in Children of Men, the music is coming from radios, stereos or TV screens in the landscape, and are affected by the events surrounding. Perhaps a more literal use of this trope occurs after the bombing in the first scene where we here the ringing in lead character Theo's ears, which is a recurring motif for the first act of the film.
- Lampshaded in Baseket Ball, where the music on Coop's radio is oddly specific.
- Lampshaded in High Anxiety, when dramatic music is revealed as being played from a passing "Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra" bus.
- And lampshaded again in Blazing Saddles, when Count Basie and his Orchestra show up in the middle of the desert. Apparently Mel Brooks was fond of this trope.
- This trope is weaponized in the first Final Destination movie, in which the characters narrowly escape death in a plane crash. Ever since, every time "Rocky Mountain High" (a song by Bob Denver, who died in such a crash in Real Life) plays in-universe, it's a warning that Death is about to strike.
- In The Final Destination, when the redneck suffers Death by Racism, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" by War plays on his car radio.
- Invoked by Betty and later by Chosen One in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist with a boom box carrying mook.
- One of the rules of Dogme95, a short but influential independent film movement, mandated all sound be produced in scene during shooting. Diegetic music featured (mostly) in the films co-drafters Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg directed to demonstrate their manifesto.
- In Bruce Almighty, the title character uses his newly-acquired divine powers to command the stereo to turn on and play the romantic music that follows.
- Nearly all the music in Hal Ashby's 1975 film Shampoo consists of '60s hits played on characters' radios. The only non-diegetic music in the film is a wordless, hummed version of Paul Simon's "Silent Eyes".
- In The Long Kiss Goodnight, England Dan and John Ford Coley's "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," is playing on the radio, where Mitch and Samantha are listening, and the two of them get into a discussion because he's mondegreening the lyrics of the song.
- In TRON: Legacy, Daft Punk (who scored the film to start with) are DJs inside the End of Line Club. Come the fight scene, they look at each other, nod, and switch to a way more intense track.
- The Bill does this all the time, but it's more pop music than anything plot-specific.
- Lost has employed various strategies to incorporate source music into island scenes. In the first season, it could only be played on Hurley's CD player, until his batteries ran out. In season two, the Losties found a Dharma station full of vinyl records. In season 3, Jack listens to Nirvana in his car. As a Musical Gag, the source music was often recorded by artists who died in plane crashes, such as Patsy Cline, Glenn Miller, Otis Redding, and Buddy Holly.
- A reprise of Claire singing "Catch a Falling Star" in season 6 was the only time a song was played that wasn't from an in-universe source.
- Source music on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was often in the form of bands playing at The Bronze.
- It occasionally bleeds into subsequent scenes, too. In "Sleeper", guest-artist Aimee Mann and her band kick up the volume during a violent encounter between Spike and another vampire in the Bronze's loft. Later, as the band leaves the stage, Mann mutters, "Man, I hate playing vampire towns."
- Battlestar Galactica had this in the season finale for season 3, where "All Along The Watchtower" is playing through the Galactica. Turns out that only the four Cylons still on board can hear it, and in the series finale, the song is the key to getting to Earth.
- In the season 1 finale of Supernatural, Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" plays in the Impala while the car is totaled by a semi as Sam is driving Dean and John to the hospital.The music continues to play afterwards, as we get a view of the bloody and unconscious Winchesters, and the demonic driver of the semi. If you listen to the lyrics, they're very ominous.
- The Wire, as a rule, only uses music that the characters are listening to and no other music, with the exception of one musical montage allowed per season.
- Top Gear: in the Botswana special, during a montage of Richard tearfully trying to fix his beloved (waterlogged) Oliver, a sad song begins playing in the background... And then the camera zooms out and you see that it's coming from Hammond's walkie-talkie, and it's actually Jeremy playing tragic songs on what appears to be an iPod. He and James then giggle and howl along to the music, explaining Hammond's frown.
- In the first season finale for Monty Python's Flying Circus, snippets of Percy Faith's "Theme from A Summer Place" was used during the Intermission title cards.
- Parodied in one episode of Community, which includes diegetic Chirping Crickets during an awkward silence. (Inside the school, during the day.)
- In Generation Kill, the only music is from the characters singing.
- Played for laughs when Bob Hope guest-starred on The Muppet Show. The music for a Western musical number turned out to be coming from a tape player in the horse's saddle.
Bob Hope: (to the audience) Huh. Stereophonic horse.
- In season 4 of Arrested Development, it's a running gag that every time Gob gets depressed (which is frequently), "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel plays in the background. In episode 11, there's a scene where the song starts to play again, causing Gob to turn around and realize that it's being played by a passing mariachi band, commenting "Oh, it's not us!"
- In Lie to Me, the episode "Dirty Loyal" has Cal put on "I'm In the Mood" by John Lee Hooker so the shooters coming into the house would let their guard down. Soundtrack Dissonance ensues.
- In the third case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the hero spends the first phase of the investigation backstage at a rock concert; the BGM is coming from the onstage band.
- The second case implies that Klavier's theme song really is playing in the court room, as well.
- In Final Fantasy VI, while one of your characters is impersonating an opera singer, a monster attacks the rest of the party, who end up on the main stage. The Impressario, having had his leading man knocked out by the attack, decides to roll with it, and gets the orchestra to provide the musical accompaniment for the fight scene.
- Beethoven's "Für Elise" can be heard playing on phonographs in Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
- The eponymous mission of Rainbow Six: Eagle Watch has a radio playing rock-n-roll music in one of the offices, and it can be destroyed if it annoys you.
- Early in Final Fantasy IX, Zidane can hear Garnet singing and looks for her. As he searches, the BGM is Garnet's voice. Subverted in that she's accompanied by a harp in the BGM, but seems to be singing a cappella once Zidane reaches her.
- Most arrangements of "The Hymn of the Fayth" in Final Fantasy X are ostensibly source music, sung by the Fayth themselves or by unseen monks.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a faint Ominous Pipe Organ can be heard as Link makes his way through Ganondorf's castle, growing louder as he climbs the stairs. Once Link reaches the top, Ganondorf is revealed to be playing the music himself.
- This trope is invoked earlier in order to navigate the Lost Woods: if the music, which Saria is playing, gets quieter, you know you're going the wrong way.
- And in the Sacred Grove in Twilight Princess, where the Skull Kid plays the same song on his horn.
- And lets not forget the man from the windmill in Kakariko Village, who's playing the Song of Storms, which you learn from him in the future. It turns out you actually taught it to him in the past, thus creating an ontological paradox.
- This trope is invoked earlier in order to navigate the Lost Woods: if the music, which Saria is playing, gets quieter, you know you're going the wrong way.
- Like most Valve games, Portal's soundtrack tends to be very atmospheric and minimalistic, but the first sound in the game is a cheerful samba version of the game's theme song, "Still Alive," coming from a radio in the cell you start the game in. The same music is used later, coming from a very oddly-located second radio, as you navigate a level full of deadly turrets.
- Alternatively serves as a Theme Music Power-Up for some players, calming them down so they can finish the first "scary" level of Portal. Super effective if they already know the song.
- Left 4 Dead 2 has usable jukeboxes in a few levels, as well as an actual rock concert in the "Dark Carnival" finale.
- Metal Gear Solid plays Psycho Mantis's theme over some unrelated conversations, and the characters comment on it. It turns out that the tune is actually Mantis's 'mind control music' and a side-effect of using his powers. Extended canon has that the song is a piece of Russian classical music he remembers from his childhood, and people hear it by 'feedback'.
- The funniest example is in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, when Snake enters Granin's office, and he's listening to a Sixties pop cover of the Metal Gear Solid theme tune on his record player.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots adds an iPod to Snake's inventory, which the player can listen to rather than the usual background music in an area. The best bit? Grab an enemy in CQC and play specific songs while holding him, and he will actually hear it and react in some manner.
- Soldier of Fortune II: In the Helicopter Extraction level, the pilot turns on Wagner's "Ride Of The Valkyries" for mood music (the box gets shot out shortly after, though). This, of course is a Shout-Out to Apocalypse Now.
- The final mission of Soldier of Fortune: Payback is set in a dance club, with a diegetic techno soundtrack.
- Halo: In certain locations, an Easter Egg source music from Bungie's Myth games called "Siege Of Madrigal" can be heard.
- During the Pvt. Jenkins helmet cam cutscene, the Marines are listening to "flip music"(heavy-metal type stuff) aboard the Pelican. This song is unfortunately not on the soundtrack album.
- In Halo 3, the song "Under Cover of Night" from the first game is played on a radio in the multiplayer level "High Ground".
- Outside of cutscenes, the only music in Grand Theft Auto comes from your car's radio - which you can change the station on, or even turn off altogether.
- This is no longer the case in Grand Theft Auto V, which introduces non-diegetic background music for selected missions or when operating certain vehicles without the radio on.
- In Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, the music that plays on your farm comes from a record player inside your house. There are several records you can collect, so you can change said music too, or just turn the record player off.
- In Ys Book I and II, one floor of Darm Tower features a Twilight Zone-style source music that drains Adol's HP. To stop the evil music, you must break one of the pillars.
- Fallout 3 has radios (which are oddly still functional after 200 years) sitting around turned on and playing music and other broadcasts from the in-game radio stations. The player also has a wrist-mounted radio that can receive the same stations.
- There is non-diegetic background music if you shut down the radio function on your wrist computer, but there is less variation, most of the tunes are recycled from previous games, and some of the tunes are rather... quiet.
- Fallout: New Vegas uses this more seriously in the Dead Money expansion - the player character is fitted with a bomb collar that explodes if it is within range of speakers emitting a certain frequency for the entirety of their stay at the Sierra Madre. Radios there, still turned on but damaged after two centuries of exposure to the poisonous Cloud that blankets the area, emit the same frequency as the speakers, though the added bonus is that the player can turn them off or shoot them to make them stop.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day had Conker getting upset at the music composer during the dinosaur level.
Conker: Hey maestro! Don't you think that's a little bit too dramatic? Can you give me something with a bit more of a beat? *music changes* Yeah, that's better!
- In Full Throttle, Todd's trailer has a radio playing awful country music, whose lyrics include "I thank the Lord each day for the apocalypse".
- In the very beginning of Xenogears, Fei and Citan listen to music from a device Citan found. It serves as the Nostalgic Music Box theme.
- In The Conduit, there is an elevator in an enemy base with very suitable elevator music coming out the speakers.
- The Nightclub music in Perfect Dark Zero, which grinds to a halt when you pull the fire alarm.
- There's one boss fight in Master of the Wind set to "Spirit Never Dies" by Masterplan. This is because the fight takes place in the middle of a rock concert. With the lead singer and his band of summoned music angels. It's in the running for Best Boss Ever.
- The main protagonist of Persona 3 is never, ever seen without his Atlus Audio MP3 player. He was even listening to the game's opening theme, "Burn My Dread," as he headed for the train station that would take him to his new home in Tatsumi Port Island. He listened to it on the train, for that matter, and during the Final Battle —it must be his favorite.
- Fairly common in the Fatal Fury series. In Fatal Fury 2 and Special, Krauser has a 90-piece orchestra in the background of his stage, obviously supplying the orchestral music. In Fatal Fury 3, the background music in Terry's stage only starts when a character turns on a radio. In Real Bout Special and 2, there is an opera singer visible in Krauser's stage, and she sings in time with the vocals of his new theme.
- Aquaria is an interesting case: the BGM heard throughout the game was woven into the fabric of the underwater world by a boy who acquired god-like powers and couldn't get the verse of his mother's nursery rhyme out of his head.
- Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War has music actually playing in-universe at two points. The first is when the squad is celebrating their destruction of the Hrimfaxi submarine - interestingly enough, the music is taken from the game's arcade mode. The second is at the start of the "Sea of Chaos" mission, where Captain Andersen plays "The Journey Home" over the Kestrel's loudspeaker, though after about a minute it undergoes a Diegetic Switch.
- Unusually for a Fighting Game, the music in most Power Instinct games is diegetic - you can see the musicians in the background performing the song in each stage.
- F.E.A.R. has elevator muzak, most notably during the Elevator Action Sequence in Interval 7.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops has the first half of the level "Crash Site", in which the player goes to town on Viet Cong with a PT boat while Sympathy for the Devil plays on the boat's radio. There's also minor examples bookending "S.O.G.", with the helicopter delivering Mason and Hudson at the start and the one delivering Bowman at the end both playing Fortunate Son over their radios.
- Black Ops II continues this midway through the level "Karma", where the player finds the high-value individual they're searching for in the middle of a totally-packed dance floor, music blaring even after the floor's been cleared and the player and armed mercs start shooting at each other.
- Most of the music in Napple Tale is audible to the characters. The local Exposition Fairy explains that the music is known as "Petal Whispers," and it's produced by the spirits that inhabit living things.
- Level 1-9 in Nitemare 3D had a scripted sequence where your weapon would jam, and the only way to deal with the enemies in the room is to turn on a conveniently placed radio, which makes them dance out of the way of the door you need to open. The radio cuts out after a few seconds and they return to normal. But if you like, you can turn around once your weapon is available again, shoot them, and turn the radio back on, at which point it continues playing until the end of the level.
- In Max Payne 3, the dance club music is diegetic, as evident by it slowing down in Bullet Time, which does not occur with the normal background music.
- During one of the Q and A sections of the second Hatoful Boyfriend, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain hijacks a session and uses it to talk about himself. Other characters, locked out of the studio, pound on the door and yell at him. Tohri calls this the "fevered gibbering of the peanut gallery" and decides to put on some music - his theme tune.
- In Harry Potter Comics, the Hufflepuff Choir's Christmas Pageant rendition of "Silent Night" also serves as the musical backdrop to the villains' assault on Santa's Workshop. What's that? Of course Santa is real in the Harry Potter universe.
- The full manifestation of the Nothing on Earth in Planescape Survival Guide eclipses the sun and causes all electronic receivers on the planet to play Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising."
- If you pay close attention, the only time there's non-diegetic music in Metalocalypse is during a Montage. Although that show uses montages with great frequency anyways.
- Despite being billed as a "musical fairy tale," only one of the songs in Barbie & The Diamond Castle can be considered non-diegetic: the villain's song, "Wonderful Me." And even that may be diegetic, as her minion applauds at the end.
- In Futurama, the crew goes to an amusement park on the moon. Fry, angry at the artificiality of the park and how false the information in the "educational" bits are, ventures out onto the real moon on a derailed buggy.
Fry: Yahoo! Crank up the radio! (Fry turns it on)
Radio: "We're whaling on the moon-" (Fry turns off stereo hastily)
- Happens at the end of one episode of Squidbillies, where the show's credits are playing on a flat-screen TV. After about two seconds it switches as the credits actually come up... and then two more seconds later, the credits and the music disappear entirely, as Granny comments "nobody cares who these people are!"