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Simple Score of Sadness

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"But really, jail isn't so bad. I like the sad guitar ambience!"

A soundtrack can be very useful for setting the scene. The style of music tells you what the mood's going to be, and awesome moments need booming soundtracks with lots of instruments making up the sound to be even more awesome.

But with depressing moments, it's the other way around: you only need a slow and soft melody with very few instruments to know that what's happening or has just happened is supposed to be a Tear Jerker - if not for the audience, then for the characters at least.

Subtropes include Nostalgic Musicbox, Lonely Piano Piece, Playing the Heart Strings and One-Woman Wail.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Animated 
  • "Sally's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas is noticeably softer and simpler than the rest of the movie's soundtrack. In the song, Sally talks about how she's afraid Jack will never notice how she feels about him.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The scene where the dwarfs mourn Snow White is underscored with a quiet theme played on an organ.
  • In Turning Red, the score that plays during Mei's first night that she has to deal with the red panda transformation is much simpler and quieter than most of the rest of the soundtrack. Similarly, the score that plays after Mei betrays her friends is simple and solemn as is that which plays when Mei finds her mother crying in the forest.

    Film — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a show that wasn't afraid to break out the electric guitar for fight scenes, it's worth noting that Buffy and Angel's love theme pretty much always sounds like this. Especially when Buffy has to send Angel to hell in order to save Earth.
  • The Incredible Hulk's "The Lonely Man" closing theme - piano solo. Always fitting as every episode, save the last, ends with him hitching out of town... alone again.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self": A slow, melancholic version of Daniel Hart's "The Drum Was My Heart" is heard during the final two scenes, which has a lone violin for the melody and a piano for the bass. In 1916, this musical cue represents the end of the honeymoon phase for Louis de Pointe du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt's Metaphorical Marriage because cracks have begun to appear, while in 2022, the dessert is the same one Daniel Molloy had when he proposed to his first wife Alice, and his tone of voice while he's reminiscing suggests that he misses her (or at least misses how happy they were at the start of their engagement).
    • "Is My Very Nature That of a Devil": Hart repeats the convention of a solo violin with a piano bassline to convey sorrow for the track "My Very Nature That of the Devil". Louis is haunted by his mother's belief that he's the Devil as his remaining links to humanity are forcibly severed. His family are scared of his strange comportment and unearthly powers, so they want nothing more to do with him, and his businesses have ceased operations because of the enforcement of City Ordinance 4118.
  • Thunderbirds: In the episode "Move and You're Dead", sad guitar music is used when Alan and Grandma are alone on the bridge, not used in any other episodes.

  • The third act of Tristan und Isolde has Tristan waking to the sound of a shepherd's pipe playing a long, unaccompanied and very mournful old melody.
  • Some versions of Les Misérables - most notably the 10th Anniversary Concert - have "The Sewers", a simple instrumental version of "Bring Him Home" that plays as the dust settles from the final battle onto the bodies of the revolutionaries, or as Valjean carries Marius's unconscious body through the sewers. The 2012 film uses the same music as Javert inspects the wreckage of the barricade and the bodies of the revolutionaries, and pins one of his medals onto Gavroche's body.
    • Then there's "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", which starts simple and sad as Marius suffers his Heroic BSoD - and in the movie, begins completely a capella to emphasize how truly alone Marius is. Same goes for "Turning", which is about peasant women (in some versions, it's implied to be the Revolutionaries' girlfriends/lovers, as it's the same actresses playing both) singing about the outcome of the revolution, and in the movie cleaning up the bodies and blood from the very men they're singing about.
  • In Hamilton, "It's Quiet Uptown" is one of the simplest, saddest songs in the show. It consists of Angelica observing the Hamiltons' tandem Heroic BSoD following the death of their son Philip, and Eliza is so distraught that she only utters one line in the entire song.

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    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The song that plays when Yue sacrifices herself to revive the Moon Spirit.
    • Iroh's song as he burns incense for his son in 'Tales of Ba Sing Se'.
    • Also, the music playing during the final Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula. There is just something so final about the score, probably because it's only slowly beating drums and string instruments playing a series of chords. It's oddly fitting.
  • In the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, this is used when Amon takes away Lin's bending.