Follow TV Tropes


Boléro Effect

Go To

"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.


    open/close all folders 
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • "Beck's Bolero" by Jeff Beck.
  • "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane from Surrealistic Pillow was directly inspired by Ravel's Boléro.
  • John Frusciante's song "Inside a Break", until the "nowhere" part.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Gallows Pole" from Led Zeppelin III.
  • "Take a Bow" by Muse.
  • 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...
  • The Ocean has done this a few times. It's probably the most obvious in "Statherian".
  • Pink Floyd loved this, and tended to do interesting and rather jarring takes on this in some of their longer works: they would go for bolero, but the crescendo to the bolero tends to be a sudden hit - and in a few cases, they'd do a reverse bolero (an orelob?).
    • Astronomy Domine: Particularly the live version on Ummagumma - The solo leads into a quieter section as everyone else backs off their instruments, Rick gets his clarinet-like organ solo, then in comes Roger on bass, then Nick on drums, then Syd on guitar.
    • Careful With That Axe, Eugene: This was generally more pronounced on the live versions, complete with a reverse bolero at the end.
    • A Saucerful of Secrets: on live performances coming in from the Storm Signal to the Celestial Voices sections, each of the guys come in through the song - and then Gilmour sings on the last one or two iterations depending on which version you listen to (Pompeii or Ummagumma).
    • The Narrow Way, part 3: Gilmour builds on his own work as the song continues until it is himself overdubbed multiple times at the end.
    • Atom Heart Mother: in the Breast Milky segment, listen as the choir builds up to a crescendo, when Nick Mason's abrupt entry on drums provides a jarring, sudden, and prolonged climax.
    • Echoes: Not once, not twice, not even thrice, but four times. Once at the intro, once in the funk section, once as they come out of the "noise" section, and once more - but subtly - with the final three-repeat bridge as they pile various 'takes' upon one another in overdubs. But then again, four times is easy to do when a song is over 20 minutes long. For lack of ability to fade out the band in live versions...there's that orelob again as they fade into the Sheppard tone, with it most apparent on the final performance of the song on Gilmour's show in Gdansk with Gilmour's and Wright's duet ending the song.
    • Shine On You Crazy Diamond: Part 6 in particular; quiet bass notes, then more pronounced, then Mason on the drums with occasional guitar, then Wright on the keyboard solo, then David comes in with the slide guitar, and then that's when the rock jam happens.
    • On the Turning Away: Most audible on the live version from DSOT - Wright on keys, Gilmour on vocals, Pratt on acoustic guitar, Mason on drums drums, and as the song goes on the rest of the band comes in accordingly. The "hit" is softened here.
  • 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".
  • "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.
  • The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" from The Velvet Underground & Nico.

    • "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.
  • 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.
  • Kid Moxie's power ballad "Better Than Electric" starts with an acoustic guitar riff that serves as a foundation for the repeating main vocal melody, accompanied by synth pads and a drum machine that slowly increase in volume until the climax, before decaying back to the guitar for the coda.

  • Devin Townsend is a big fan of this.
  • "Face the Fat Reality" by the thrash metal band 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.
  • Isis used this a lot. "Weight" is probably the best example.

  • 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 
  • "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg does this.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • "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.

  • "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.

  • Used often on the first and second albums of Hexode.
  • Some subgenres of Trance and House Music, such as Progressive House/Trance 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The first 6 minutes (of the total 9) of To the Unknown Man by Vangelis. It consists of a simple synth tune with increasing variations, and more and more instruments added in time.
  • Nation of Language's "Indignities" consists of a repeating two-chord progression with slowly building reverbed bass guitar and synthesizer layers.
  • The Pet Shop Boys' "One More Chance" from Actually starts with a conga drum loop and car skidding sound effects, adds synthesizer chords at the first prechorus, followed by a bass sequencer, and finally the rest of the instrument ensemble joins in at the second chorus. "Always On My Mind/In My House" from Introspective similarly invokes this trope.
  • Josh Wink's Signature Song "Higher State of Consciousness" begins with a minimalistic 808 drum loop and some filter effects, then adds sampled breakbeats and the famous 303 sequencer riff, which gradually increases in pitch and volume until the breakdown, where the filters are pushed to near ear-piercing levels and a second 303 line joins in, followed by Josh wildly manipulating ("tweaking") the device's knobs for the song's climax.
  • Much of Klaus Schulze's material from The '70s, particularly the triptych of Picture Music, Timewind, and Moondawn, follows this trope, starting with an ostinato comprised of one or two synthesizer leads and progressively adding further layers of synth, organ, sound effects, and percussion. Appropriately, many consider him a forefather to the aforementioned trance genre.
  • The coda of Gary Numan's "Cars" repeats the main riff and drum hit while building up the synths, prior to the Fade Out.
  • Information Society's "Can You Live As Fast as Me?" ends with a repetitive synth hook building to a climax and fade-out similar to the aforementioned "Cars", but taking up most of the second half of the track.
  • Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy", starting at the drum breakdown, adds a Latin percussion section, followed by progressive vocal and synth overdubs as it heads towards its final chorus. The 12" version invokes this trope further with its intro, starting simple with harp, synth chords, and vocals before building up over the course of 3 minutes towards the main song.
  • Blue Amazon, being a progressive/epic house/trance project, invoke this in many of their songs, but most notably "Trip To Heaven", which builds towards a climax for its first 9 minutes, then winds down to a minimalistic New Age ending in its last 5.

  • Mike Oldfield:
    • "Tubular Bells" (and its successor incarnation TB2) 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.
  • "Bird's Lament" by American composer Moondog. In this short piece initial beat and simple melody are repeated and expanded as multiple saxophones join in.
  • "Carol of the Bells", the popular Christmas carol written by Mykola Leontovych.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • '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.

Other Examples:

  • 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.



  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto has "Akogare no Dante", where a bunch of schoolboys, starting with Cesare Borgia (yes, that one), sing about how much they love Dante Alighieri. It ends with Dante himself appearing in a vision (he's been dead for about 170 years), and belting out "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!" Of course, it's also a Deathly Dies Irae, with a 1970's-esque beat that's actually very engaging. And catchy.
  • "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."
  • 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.
  • "Ewigkeit" from Tanz Der Vampire. note 
  • "All Come Together" from Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna is built on a repeating 8-bar phrase that gradually crescendos and gains instruments and vocal harmonies, as well as speeding up near the end.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • 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.