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- Susan Alexander in Citizen Kane can't hack being an opera singer. Orson Welles went for this trope instead of Hollywood Tone-Deaf by getting a professional alto to sing a soprano part.
- The Fat Lady portrait in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban tries to sing high enough to shatter a wine glass, culminating in her just shrieking at the top of her lungs.
- Unusually, Mel Brooks makes the choir singers do this during the credits to High Anxiety.
Film — Animated
Live Action TV
- Frasier has two examples:
- "Look Before You Leap" sees Frasier determined to sing a live-televised solo rendition of an aria from Rigoletto, but can't hit the high note (his accompanist says the only way he will hit the note is if he is jabbed with a pin at the right moment). He finally gives up just before the show starts, switching back to his staple of "Buttons & Bows"... for which he's forgotten the words, having been concentrating so hard on the other number.
- In a Christmas episode, Martin is rehearsing "O Holy Night", but is having difficulty hitting the high note, and every time he tries Eddie buries his head.
- In an episode of Are You Being Served?, Mr. Humphries and Mr. Lucas are trying to sing a very high version of Happy Birthday to You!. They are not successful, and Mr. Humphries complain that his braces (suspenders) have broken because of it.
- An episode of Wings had Roy singing the Star Spangled Banner and being worried about failing to hit the high note on "wave."
- Regularly used on Svengoolie when his musical director Doug Graves arranges songs for Sven to sing, just a bit higher than Sven can sing.
- Miss Piggy gets into a vocal range duel on Ride of the Valkyries with a real opera singer (Beverly Sills) at 1:55 in this video. She can't quite hit the high note.
- Again in The Muppet Movie when Miss Piggy is singing "Never Before, Never Again", she's straining to hit the last note.
- In an episode of I'm Alan Partridge, Alan tries to give a rendition of "Close to You" but starts way too high, changes key several times, then just gives up.
- Parodied in "The Dooright Family" by Ray Stevens, a song about a fictional gospel singing family. At the end, the bass vocalist is asked to go down an octave, which causes a huge, loud, booming note that makes him explode on stage.
- While producing The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", Norman Whitfield deliberately arranged David Ruffin's lead vocal just above his actual range, requiring numerous takes to get all the high notes right and adding to the mood.
- Parodied by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his composition A Musical Joke not with vocals, but the violin. At the end of the violin solo near the end of the 3rd movement, the soloist plays ascending scales, slowing down and playing a whole-tone scale at the higher registers. This was to imitate a clumsy violinist floundering with high notes. The solo can be heard here. The ascending scale happens at 15:30.
- Non-comedy example: Neil Young's "Mellow My Mind", where he's simply too tired, too drunk and too sad to reach the highest notes. The effect is rather heartbreaking.
- A part of "Alto's Lament". "Although I've got a great high C... (cue this trope)". Although some performers subvert the expected gag, hitting the high C properly and then changing the auditioner's reaction to something along the the lines of "That's great, but we already have too many sopranos", thus reinforcing the "pushed into the harmony section" idea.
- Stan Freberg's parody of the Les Paul/Mary Ford cover of "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" has the Self-Backing Vocalist complain when the multi-tracked close harmony rises high into the falsetto range and keeps on rising.
- "Open Sesame Seeds" from P.D.Q. Bach's oratorio The Seasonings gives the bass a ridiculous melisma that descends lower than he can actually sing.
Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
- Anna Russell's coloratura aria parodies "Canto dolciamente Pipo" and "O gentle bird with feathered breast" end with cadenzas that are obviously going to end on notes high above the staff, except that, after a few seconds of breathing (and, in the case of "Pipo", with an audible mutter of "Oh, the heck with it"), she instead sings her final note two or three octaves lower.
- Danny Bhoy discusses these in one of his comedy routines, saying that when they started off singing the hymns in church they'd all start off singing too high and run into trouble when they were required to sing higher, and then compensating by singing too low and running into the opposite problem in reverse.
- At the end of "Do, Re, Mi" from The Sound of Music, Maria sings a scale starting "do, ti, la" from middle C, and can't quite make the final "do". (This gag was not used in the movie version, where Julie Andrews concludes the number more conventionally on a high note.)
- Spamalot, "The Song that Goes Like This".
Galahad: (squeakily) Now we're into E!
(clears throat) That's awfully high for me
Lady of the Lake: As everyone can see
We should have stayed in D...
- Gilbert and Sullivan's penultimate collaboration, Utopia Limited, features the character of Captain Fitzbattleaxe, a comic exaggeration of operatic tenors who opens the second act with the song "A tenor, all singers above". In the introduction to the song, he sings, "Ah, do not laugh at my attempted C!" where the C in question is an octave above middle C and either at the very top of or beyond the range of most tenors. Depending on the production (and the talents of the singer cast in the role), he may (deliberately or otherwise) fail miserably at hitting the high C or render it in a falsetto voice for comic effect.
- Oancitizen in his musical review of The Man Who Fell to Earth: "A man, a man from MA- God damn that's high!"
- Todd in the Shadows notes that this tends to embarrass anyone who tries to sing A Ha's "Take On Me" on Karaoke night, since few can match Morten Harket's high notes.
- On that note, ProZD attempts to "nail every high note" in "Take On Me", but he can't quite reach the highest notenote , struggling mightily to do so.
- In "Long-Haired Hare", Bugs Bunny directs pompous opera singer Giovanni Jones to sing a note far below his vocal range.
- An early South Park episode, "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride" has a bomb that is supposed to go off at a football game at half-time when the singer sings the high-F in "Lovin' You". Unfortunately, the singer is Richard Stamos (John Stamos' brother), who falls into this trope. Later, however, he is able to hit it with predictable consequences.
- Hey Arnold!: "Gerald's Tonsil" centers on Gerald having a tenor solo in school choir right before his tonsil are removed, which makes his voice low and raspy (and let them keep the same voice actor even as he entered puberty). After spending a while in denial and getting mocked for his new voice, Gerald's doctor mentions the same thing happened to the mailman Harvey (who's voiced by Lou Rawls). Harvey advises Gerald to sing whatever he feels like, so Gerald sings a much lower version of the solo. Everyone is impressed, and several students fruitlessly attempt to imitate it backstage.
- Kim Possible: "Hidden Talent" features Kim having continual problems hitting the high notes in the song she's set to sing after Ron signs her up for the school talent show. She ultimately manages to hit it as a way to break through a layer of ice keeping her trapped in Drakken's lair.