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Drum Roll, Please

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This is a form of background music designed to increase anticipation for whatever The Reveal is. (BOOM!)

Happens both in Real Life and in audiovisual media.

Less common than it used to be: Some rock stars abused drum roll privileges with their ten-minute drum solos, and not every drum machine can pull off a drum roll. Instead, producers use the visual equivalent, cutting every two seconds (or is that two frames?). But true drum rolls still get used, especially by shows wanting to evoke nostalgia, and have the advantage of not causing epileptic seizures.

Drum rolls are frequently the subject of, or the announcement for, parody these days. One popular parody is to literally roll a drum across the stage.

Compare Fanfare, Rimshot, Dramatic Timpani.


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    The Abridged Series 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Occurs in In & Out right before the teacher of the year reveal. The principal even tries to pull off a joke ("I get so nervous here. Can you hear my heart beating?").
  • Spoofed at the climax of Zorro, the Gay Blade.
  • In The Muppets (2011), Gonzo is about to perform a stunt by throwing a bowling ball and hitting a pin sitting on Jack Black's head. He asks for a drum roll, but since Animal refuses to drum, he plays a triangle instead.
  • In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Clark has the whole family come out into the front yard to watch him plug in/turn on the outdoor Christmas lights he put up, and asks for a drum roll. He has to ask again before his wife gets the idea and leads the others in a silly prolonged a capella drum roll with an actual drum roll for background music. Clark joins in before finally plugging in the cords... and nothing happens. The background noise switches to that of a cymbal falling over.

    Live Action TV 
  • Late Show with David Letterman: When someone is about to perform a stunt, Dave will often ask the drummer to provide a drum roll accompaniment.
    • Anytime Dave does the Top Ten list.
  • Used unironically on Happy Days when Fonzie set a world record of jumping over 14 garbage cans on a motorcycle.
  • Spoofed several times on Beakman's World:
  • Used in early playings of the pricing game Hole in One on The Price Is Right.
  • M*A*S*H: In "White Gold," Colonel Flagg prepares to ram his head into a wooden crate (as part of his façade that his prisoner attacked him).
    • In "Smilin' Jack," B.J. affects a drumroll with his lips as he attempts to affect a trick with a hypodermic syringe that Jack did.
  • LazyTown: The Mayor calls for a drums from Pixel to precede Sportacus's stunt. However, he first mistakenly chooses a dance beat instead of the drum roll that he actually wanted.

  • Fairly common in reggae. Bad Brains uses it a bit ("Right Brigade" and "I and I Survive").
  • The Smashing Pumpkins use it at the start of "Cherub Rock".
  • Done by John Densmore during The Doors' song, "The Unknown Soldier".

  • In the ballet Fancy Free, the music of the Competition Scene begins with a timpani/bass drum roll, and abruptly cuts off at its climax for a long roll on the snare drum that introduces the first of the Three Dance Variations.
  • Cabaret begins with a drum roll and cymbal crash announcing the entrance of the Emcee. There is a similar drum roll when the Emcee introduces "Fräulein Sally Bowles" singing the title song, and one more for his last exit.
  • In 1776, George Washington's dispatches are always signed "Your Obedient, G. Washington," with a drumroll preceding his name.
  • In John Alden Carpenter's ballet version of Krazy Kat, a dramatic drum roll precedes Ignatz hurling the fateful brick at Krazy Kat's head.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • It's not rare for emcees at various awards shows to ask for a drum roll, though this usually consists of the audience drumming on their laps.
  • If "The Star-Spangled Banner" is being performed by a band, it typically starts with a drum roll.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Drum Roll


Execution of the Aristocrats

The inmates of Charenton act out the executions of the aristocrats and the King by guillotine, following the French Revolution, as part of their bathhouse play.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / PublicExecution

Media sources: