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Boléro Effect

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"Do you see how we're building to a shuddering climactic ending? Can you say 'Bolero'?"
The Capitol Steps, "This is the House O.J. Built"

When the same rhythmic beat is played repeatedly over a long crescendo, during which the music goes from simple and quiet to loud, blaring and borderline cacophonous.

Similar to Variable Mix. Sometimes used in as part of a Previews Pulse. Compare Broken Record, when the audio gets stuck in a loop.



  • Maurice Ravel's Boléro is the Trope Namer and Trope Maker, starting with only a snare drum, a flute and a few violas and cellos, and ending up with the whole orchestra.
  • Frank Zappa's cover of Ravel's Boléro on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991), naturally... It adds a reggae rhythm, but otherwise applies the trope in a similar manner to the original, starting with just a sax over the reggae backing and eventually getting the whole band, including the entire horn section, in.
  • "Abbadon's Bolero" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, starting with a snare, introducing a quiet organ playing the main melody and adding layers upon layers of other instruments culminating in the synth-heavy finale. Up to the end of the piece, the snare rhythm remains the same, though louder as it goes on, and with crash cymbals in the second half.
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  • "Beck's Bolero" by Jeff Beck.
  • "Ewigkeit" from Tanz Der Vampire. note 
  • The opening theme to Inception is basically this. note 
  • Done intermittently over the course of the second Dream Sequence of Lady in the Dark. The beat disappears for some fairly long stretches, though it sounds like Boléro tweaked into Common Time.
  • The Beatles:
    • The repeated chorus of the band's 1968 single "Hey Jude" employs a very similar effect.
    • Also the main riff of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" from Abbey Road, with added white noise, ending with an abrupt ending.
  • "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg does this.
  • The first movement of Symphony No. 7 in C major (Leningrad) by Dmitri Shostakovich features this in its second section. The symphony is about the siege of Leningrad during World War II, and the long crescendo represents the approach of the invading Nazis.note 
  • Russian folk tune "Polyushko Polie" employed this effect to liken the effect of a Cossack cavalry canter. Different versions exist, but most keep the same effect.
  • Genesis:
    • "The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging" from the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, starting with piano and light cymbals along with Peter's vocals, getting the rest of the band in the next verse and getting louder from there.
    • "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", the opening track from the album Selling England by the Pound. It starts off á cappella, then a lone guitar comes in behind the voice...
  • "Take a Bow" by Muse.
  • Mike Oldfield:
    • "Tubular Bells" (and its successor incarnation TB 2) have a section which, like the original Boléro, adds a different instrument each loop until everything is playing beneath the majestic entry of the titular instrument.
    • Oldfield also does this in "Ommadawn" and Music of the Spheres.
  • The Objects Floating in the Sky, "X" also does this.
  • This is a favourite trope of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (not Peppers, Pipers); start with a haunting melody by a lone piper, then the other pipes join in, then the drums and the electric guitar. They even have a track called "Celtic Bolero".
  • Sufjan Stevens:
    • "The BQE, Movement III: Linear Tableau with Intersecting Surprise" is nothing but buildup, and the crescendo only comes in "Movement IV: Traffic Shock".
    • "Djohariah" does this over the course of about 17 minutes, building up to a crescendo twice before turning into a quiet acoustic song.
  • The Discovery Channel's The World is Just Awesome has a piano backing in the first stanza, adds strings in the next, and tops it off with a choir.
  • Gustav Mahler's First Symphony "The Titan" uses this in its third movement on the tune of "Frère Jacques" (in minor!), though without the crescendo.
  • "The Claw" by Randy Newman from Toy Story 3.
  • The Dark Knight Rises uses this at times especially where the "deshi basara" chant is concerned, for example in one of its trailers.
  • "The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Carter Burwell's main theme from Fargo — a dirgelike piece that begins with a lone classical guitar, then adds a string ensemble, then ends with a full orchestra playing fortissimo.
  • "Face the Fat Reality" by the thrash metal Hades has a second half that starts with a grinding riff that is first played slowly but gradually gets faster and faster until it reaches well over 200 BPM at the end, while the guitars become ever louder and denser and the drums more hectic.
  • "Mars, the Bringer of War" from Gustav Holst's The Planets suite starts out very quiet with a distinctive marching beat and slowly grows into something enormous and even frightening, but the underlying rhythmic accompaniment stays relatively consistent throughout.
  • A shorter example, but "The Bolero of Fire" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • Some genres of House Music, such as Progressive House and Deep House are built off this trope, with songs often starting as extremely simplistic drum loops and building up until the climax into dynamic, "fuller" songs where all the leads, bass, pads, and percussion come together.
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor does this once per song, at least on their first three albums. It has since become a staple of the Post-Rock genre, with many other bands copying the same formula. This particular vein of Post-Rock is (often pejoratively) known as "crescendo-core".
  • Devin Townsend is a big fan of this.
  • Pepe Deluxé's "Queenswave" (which adds instruments and increases in volume with each repetition), and "Grave Prophecy" (whose second half increases in speed and volume with each repetition). Both songs are from the album Queen of the Wave.
  • Havalina Rail Co. has several songs that repeat themselves while increasing tempo. "Twilight Time" is the most pronounced, but "Train Song", "Changes and Forms", and "The Lovesick Blues of a Young Soviet Proletariat" also count.
  • Joy Electric's "The White Songbook" (first track from the album of the same name) begins with a few synthesizers repeating simple melodies, then more synth melodies get added to the mix every few measures. Just as it begins to sound like an impenetrable wall of synths, Ronnie Martin begins speaking, and all the instruments slowly fade to silence.
  • "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event. It starts out rather calmly, and then each successive verse builds in volume and is sung with more anguish and desperation.
  • Live's "Lightning Crashes", which starts off with just a guitar and a voice. As the song progresses, very slowly more guitars and a drum beat are added, and the music ramps up to a crescendo just before the song's end.
  • "Farandole" from Georges Bizet's L'Arlésienne incidental music consists of a single theme that repeats increasingly louder over a continuous beat on the tambourin provençal. This trope applies less to the version used in the better-known concert suite, an Adaptation Expansion which makes it a medley with "La marche des Rois" (the theme used in the overture and played in counterpoint with the "Farandole" both in the play's finale and in the suite). An arrangement of "Farandole" closer to Bizet's original turns up in the Rodion Shchedrin ballet Carmen Suite, under the title "Bolero."
  • Used a few times by Nine Inch Nails, the best examples being "Eraser" (which does this for the first two-thirds of the song before switching to a Subdued Section and then a LOUD outro), "Somewhat Damaged" (most of the song, until near the end), "The Way Out Is Through" (which also has a really bizarre mix to boot) and "Hyperpower" (probably the straightest example in their catalog). The trope's also used at the endings of too many more Nine Inch Nails songs to list here...
    • "Tether" slowly gets louder up until the minimal bridge. Then we hear some drumbeats that gradually get slower and distorted, and that's when the music launches into a loud, glorious harmony of synths.
    • "Follow You" off their second album even more so. It starts with a simple drum rhythm and pads, then melodies and distortions and finally drops off after the climax with a vocal-only outro.
  • Porgy and Bess has this in the last section of the often-cut Irrelevant Act Opener "Jasbo Brown Blues." The rhythmic melody in the Scatting chorus is accompanied at first only by the piano player. The orchestra enters gradually, the volume slowly builds, and the simple mixolydian harmonies have more and more notes added, becoming nightmarishly dissonant.
  • 'See What I've Become' by Zach Hemsey employs this with a simple piano riff that builds through disconcerting to epic, ending on the lonely piano riff once more.
  • John Frusciante's song "Inside a Break", until the nowhere part.
  • The title song to Civilization IV, Baba Yetu.
  • Used often on the first and second albums of Hexode.
  • "9/15ths" by Biffy Clyro.
  • David Byrne's songs "Strange Ritual" and "I Feel My Stuff" (the latter a collaboration with Brian Eno) both build in volume and number of instruments over several verses, with no choruses.
  • "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane from Surrealistic Pillow was directly inspired by Ravel's Boléro.
  • Isis used this a lot. "Weight" is probably the best example.
  • "Titanic Struggle" from the music from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
  • "Twice as Hard" by Interpol begins with a single guitar playing a 3-note riff which continues for the entirety of the song, throughout verse, chorus and bridge. The song itself constantly builds in texture and loudness until the final chorus.
  • A particular favorite of the composers of the Mass Effect trilogy whenever the script calls for something grand and ceremonial or intense and heroic (which is often), such as parts of The End Run or An End, Once and for All. A common variant is for the initial beat to be gradually drowned out by the crescendo, only to return at the end, as in Spectre Induction and Stand Strong, Stand Together.
  • "You Will See Me" by Scroobius Pip steadily builds up in quantity of sounds, volume, vocal intensity and lyrical scope in equal measure as it progresses, smoothly escalating from getting over a breakup to literally declaring total world war.
  • King Crimson's "Starless" is a wonderful example of this trope, with what begins as a one-note guitar passage slowly building tension over more than eight minutes until at last the end of the song reprises the theme found at the beginning of the song. This is probably the most famous example, but the band has used in other songs, such as "The Devil's Triangle", a section of "Lizard", "The Talking Drum" and "Dangerous Curves".
  • The Ocean has done this a few times. It's probably the most obvious in "Statherian".
  • The accompaniment rhythm to the Righteous Brothers' classic 1965 cover of "Unchained Melody" is built on this. At first it's just Bobby Hatfield, a single drum, and a Wurlitzer piano doing a simple 4/4 riff. At the 26 and 45 second marks respectively, they add some strings and a backup chorus. At the one-minute mark, they add a second string section. Finally at the two-minute mark, a second drum is added in counterpoint to the first. Its pretty complex for a 1960s love ballad that's only 3:36 long.
  • "The Office" theme from the movie Brazil (composed by Michael Kamen after the song Aquarela do Brasil by Ary Barroso).
  • "Bird's Lament" by an American composer Moondog. In this short piece initial beat and simple melody are repeated and expanded as multiple saxophones join in.
  • "Screen Shot", the perfect opening track to prepare the listener for what's to come in the mammoth. two-hour Swans album, To Be Kind.
  • "Floral Fury", the theme of Cagney Carnation from Cuphead, heavily relies on this trope, given that it is a piece of music heavily based on the Brazilian genres of Salsa and Samba. Each of the song's leitmotifs get progressively more frenetic as they head towards the bridge, reaching a lively crescendo at their peak.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Gallows Pole" from Led Zeppelin III.
  • The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" from The Velvet Underground & Nico.
  • Extra History has this in its theme for Building Angkor Wat, fitting nicely with Angkor Wat's expansion over the years, then cutting out for the years when Angkor Wat was abandoned.