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You don't usually see who is stinging

Either a brief stab of music used to enhance the drama of the current situation just before an Act Break (called a "dramatic sting" when used this way), or a brief comical stab on music to enhance a punchline at the end of a scene (most famously, the so-called "rimshot" — ba-dum-bum-ching). About 95% of TV shows use them.

"Sting 'em and sling 'em" is a phrase used to describe this kind of break. "Ok, we Rack Focus on the jilted bride, then sting 'em and sling 'em."

When used for a cheap shock, the sting becomes a Scare Chord. If it comes at the very end of the entire episode, then it's a Stinger.

A common version of Lampshade Hanging is when a character is shown to have ''heard'' the sound effect, it often crops up in the form of something like "Who keeps doing that?'' or "Ok, seriously. Knock it off." An Invoked example is when the characters themselves provide the sound effects—"Dun dun DAH!".

Compare Screamer Trailer and Rimshot. Do not confuse with The Stinger. Or with the musician Sting, or the professional wrestler Sting or the film The Sting. Or that dagger used by Frodo and his Uncle, or the police tactic of pretending to be a customer for drug salesmen or prostitutes, or the pain, action, or body part that occurs at the back of a bee or wasp.


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  • Parodied in CLANNAD where in episode 19, Sunohara plays around with a keyboard that has a sound-effect called 'Hair-raising.'
    "What was that, Nagisa-chan? Instead of Okazaki..." DUDUDAAAAAA! "YOU LIKE ME MORE?!"
  • There is one in the movie adaptation of AIR , right before Misuzu dies in the arms of her adoptive mother. It is generally considered very ill-placed, since instead of heightening the drama it diminishes it by cutting off the very sad music leading up to the moment. It is luckily not used in either the game or the television series.

    Comic Books 
  • Before his Seven Soldiers reboot, Klarion the Witch-Boy demanded that people refer to him as "Klarion... bum bum BUM... the Witch-Boy". He even refused to help characters who did not insert the dramatic sting. (You should not be surprised that Peter David came up with this.)

    Fan Works 

  • At one point in Young Frankenstein, Igor supplies his own rimshot after making a "hunch" joke.
    • In another scene in the same movie, Dr. Frankenstein stumbles upon the Awful Truth ("You don't mean?" "Yes!" "It couldn't be!" "Yes!"). Every time Frau Blucher (*WHINNY*) says "Yes!", she plays a dramatic chord on a violin she's holding.
  • In Back to the Future Part III Doc trips in shock after seeing Marty and falls onto his own organ, creating a dramatic, scary tone.
  • Parodied in Josie and the Pussycats, after Josie has uncovered the evil plot to insert subliminal advertising messages on all of her songs. She is immediately mocked by Alexandra, who parrots her discovery and punctuates it with a sarcastic "Dun dun DAH!" sting. Then, immediately played straight when she subconsciously confirms the evil plot as being true...which is followed by an actual sting.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Played for Laughs when Grace tells Mr. Rooney that Ferris Bueller is on line two.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Do you know where we could find... a shrubbery?
  • In the Insane Clown Posse's movie Big Money Hustlas, every time Sugar Bear (Shaggy 2 Dope)'s name is mentioned, there is the "Dun dun DAH!" sting.
  • In Turning Red, this is used at the end of the scene where Mei turns back into a human for the first time and sits on her bed. It accompanies the bed creaking as it collapses further.

  • In Soul Music, the raven tries to verbally invoke this trope before revealing to Susan that her grandfather is (Dah-dah-dah-DAH!) Death. He never succeeds, as the Death of Rats keeps interrupting him, and calls him on it after Susan's gotten fed up and walked away.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: The house band at Milliways gives the EmCee a sting on every one-liner. He wishes they wouldn't as he doesn't need their help, but it's in their contract.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI loves using this one, with a crescendo of ominous music at the end of an act being chopped off dramatically by a Hard Cut to black.
  • The most well-known dramatic sting is also on a Crime and Punishment Series: Law & Order and it's chung-chung.
  • ...Or possibly, depending on one's age, the most well-known dramatic sting is on another Crime and Punishment Series: Dragnet and its trademark four-note sting.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? enhances the drama with an excessive number of musical stings and light changes dropped into the middle of gameplay.
  • Old-school Doctor Who, which made heavy use of multiple-episode storylines and episodes ending in Cliffhangers went through a period where every single episode ended with a high-pitched, descending electronic scream, accompanied with a rising, bubbling sound that formed into the first notes of the closing theme, running over the closing credits, into which it was written. The 2005 series resurrected the sting, using it at the end of The Teaser and just before the closing credits.
  • Similar to the Doctor Who example above, both EastEnders and The Bill have very distinctive "drumbeat" stings, which punctuate the final scene of an episode at the point of a cliffhanger, and lead into the credits.
  • The Saturday Night Armistice: The EastEnders sting was parodied in a segment suggesting that there was a drummer constantly following the characters around waiting for an appropriately dramatic moment.
  • The original series of Star Trek had stings worked into various motifs, which, like all of the music, were endlessly reused in different episodes. The king of these is probably the dramatic sting that ends the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's at the very end of this clip.
  • Roseanne: Lampshaded and parodied: the family has to deal with taxes, and every time someone says the word "audit" — Dun dun daaaah! The characters then look around to see where the sound came from.
  • In an episode of Scrubs, a loud noise during a showdown between Cox and Kelso turns out to be JD trying to break a coffee pot (stuck on his hand) against a metal pole.
  • NCIS has a foomp and change-to-grayscale effect.
  • In the "Opus" sketch on The Whitest Kids U' Know, the character Rex Bosworth sings "BUM BUM BAAAAH!!" after he reveals what Freddy must do to free himself from Mt. Everest.
  • Every episode of Lost will end with either this or a montage set to Source Music.
  • The IT Crowd: Moss sets his phone's ringtone to the traditional "DUM-DUM-DUMMM!" sting. Naturally, it keeps going off at very appropriate (or perhaps inappropriate) times.
    "Mum, stop calling me at work!"
  • 60 Minutes arguably has a sting of its own: the distinctive ticking of the Aristo stopwatch that appears to end every news story.
  • Police Squad!: Parodied. Detective Drebin says his scene-ending line, and the sting plays as he looks at the camera. Then he looks away, and a second, lower-pitched sting plays. Then he looks back, and a third sting plays, and the scene finally ends.
  • Saved by the Bell uses the same generic sting, regardless of the situation preceding it.
  • Damages Season 3 goes crazy with this, episodes one, two, and twelve (the second to last episode) especially.
  • In the original TV special/Movie for Jim Henson's Dog City, the characters find a note that reveals the identity of Ace's real father. The note ends, "Dun dun dah." The characters reading the note are initially confused before realizing that it's a music cue.
  • Prison Break pulls a very distinctive version of this at every single commercial break. This made sense in the first and possibly second seasons, when something dramatic would usually happen right before the ads. It became slightly jarring in later seasons when the audience is used to it, and nothing particularly important would happen before the cut.
  • Supernatural has a metallic chomping sounding sting at the end of the title sequence and when the advert breaks start.
  • The Electric Company (1971) had a cool collection of these to conclude skits. A few were specific to certain themes, such as for Western (trumpet sounding like a horse whinny) or medieval parodies (Parody of Baroque Music, with concluding Rimshot-like bell). Even Fargo North Decoder had one that parodied the opening theme for the sketch.
  • Seinfeld had a highly distinctive one, snipped out of the first few bars of the show's theme tune: an eight-note phrase in the pentatonic minor scale played on slap electric bass, accompanied by some percussive noises.
  • Midnight Caller: A seven-note sting taken from the theme song's bass line plays every time Jack's show goes to commercial.
  • Brazilian TV is fond of using a comedic sting, namely Ricky Martin screaming "UEPA!"
  • 24 uses it's ticking clock effect so predictably that counts as an inversion of this trope on those rare occasions when you see the clock but don't hear the dink-donk sound effect. This is a silent sting used to indicate that someone has been Killed Off for Real.

  • They Might Be Giants had two prerecorded intros that they would use at the beginning of their concerts to test the sound levels, later released as extras on The Early Years. Both used a dramatically over-the-top sting apparently lifted from somewhere — especially "Critic Intro", which used it after every single quote as well as after every word in their name.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's Elimination Chamber gimmick match accompanies each new entrant being released into the cage with a big, dramatic music sting and flashing spotlights going across all the cages.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Lampshaded when Gonzo asks for a "dramatic sting" when he announces an outbreak of "cluckitis"... and gets it. Later, when Scooter mentions the disease, the sting happens again... and he and Kermit react to it.

  • Extremely common in old-time radio shows, particularly of the mystery, horror and drama/suspense varieties. A single minor chord from an electric organ being used to punctuate dramatic moments became such a popular cliché, especially in Soap Operas, that it became a Stock Parody.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) had a few, including one that was noted in the script as "DRAMATIC CHORD (SHRUBBERY)".
  • Used frequently in Hamish and Dougal, with constant lampshading.
    Mrs Naughtie: From your description, that can only be one man. The Laird's ancient ancestor, Count Cardula the Cad!
    Accordion sting
    Dougal: Count Cardula, the accordion player?
  • The Goon Show: "And then...[dramatic sting!]...nothing happened. But it happened very dramatically!"

    Recorded Comedy 
  • From the album Another Monty Python Record: "Cardinal Biggles...get—the soft cushions!" Followed soon after with "Get...the comfy chair!"

    Video Games 
  • The Victory Fanfare after a battle in Final Fantasy games.
  • The "Doo doo doo dooooo!" whenever you find an important item in The Legend of Zelda.
    • Played with in The Phantom Hourglass: once when Link opens an empty treasure chest (the sting gets cut off), once when Link has just been vigorously shaken about by Linebeck (the sting is distorted) and once when Link receives a harmful item (the sting takes a grim tone).
    • Used for the sake of obscure reference when Joey picks up a duel disk in episode 27 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series.
    • The Song of Soaring has this kind of feel to it, especially because it fades out after you explode into a bunch of feathers. Oh no! Will Link arrive safely at his destination? Stay tuned to find out!
  • Evil Genius uses Stings to warn you anything that needs your immediate attention, such as an enemy agent breaking into your base or a super agent arriving into your base.
  • The first, PSX Digimon game played a happy little sting whenever you convinced a new Digimon to come join the town. Subverted when the chime starts playing, but veers off into minor key like a breaking-down music box when Ogremon abruptly makes a Villain: Exit, Stage Left instead.
  • Used often in Dead Space, including for when something falls off a shelf.
  • The "Dun! Dun! Dun!" happens in Super Meat Boy when a chapter is entered. It also happens at the end of the good ending.
  • Last Alert: "We are from the Force Project. You'll have to come with me". Dun Dun!
  • Team Fortress 2 has several, and the most notorious in terms of gameplay are the domination and revenge kill stings, based off of motifs from the game's main theme tune.
  • Whenever the adventure mode is chosen in Plants vs. Zombies.
  • The main battle theme of Persona 5, "Last Surprise", begins with a flamboyant string-based sting before the lyrics kick in.
  • Practically every battle theme throughout the entirety of the Pokémon series begins with a quick techno sting. The sting itself varies from game to game and the type of enemy being battled, but they almost all begin with one.
  • Every Ace Attorney game has a "Variation" version of the game's "Pursuit" theme, which starts off with a sting before going immediately into the refrain of the track. To compare, the standard version starts with a few measures of buildup before going into the refrain. It usually plays when the player attorney had a defense that triggered the normal Pursuit theme, got that shot down, only to find new evidence that gets their momentum going again.
  • Etrian Odyssey games will often precede the current Random Encounters theme with a jarring riff if the encounter starts off with an enemy ambush. Given that the series is known for its already-unrelenting difficulty, it basically means "prepare to die."
  • In The Sims, there are various "danger" themes that play when a burglar or raccoon shows up, a Sim or pet dies, there's a fire, or a ghost shows up.
  • Toby eventually does this in Patently Stupid in the Final Round from the 5th Pack in The Jackbox Party Pack Series.
    Toby: Instead of solving different problems, you all tackle the same problem! Dun dun duuuuun!

  • In 8-Bit Theater, one of Red Mage's greatest (and most annoying) obsessions is to sing out a Sting for dramatic effect any time something major occurs.
  • Elan from The Order of the Stick does this to Running Gag levels. Including one occasion when he had no way of knowing something dramatic had happened because he was elsewhere shopping for a bag. Cut to him looking at identical light-brown bags and saying "Dun, dun, dun..."
  • Blip: DUN! DUN! DUN! DUN!
  • Susan of El Goonish Shive does it here.

    Web Original 
  • Potter Puppet Pals: At the end of "Ron's Disease", after Hagrid smacks Dumbledore with a cudgel with a resounding clang and otherwise no apparent effect on Dumbledore, Harry exclaims (to a sting), "OHMYGOD, he's an android!" Hagrid looks around in confusion, saying, "Wha-?" (to another sting). Dumbledore finally replies, "Yes, it's true, I am an android - a gay android." What follows is a rather original Lampshade Hanging of your typical Dun Dun DAAAH! sting, with the DAAH! lasting about five or six seconds.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Parodied in the review of 22 Brides. As the comic pulls the "We have you surrounded!" twist no less than three times in succession, the soundtrack plays a dramatic sting that gets higher pitched with each Reveal.
    • Beginning with the King of Worms Arc, the series' post-credits storyline segments have ended with a dramatic sting, an ominous techno sound.
  • LoadingReadyRun used a sting from Star Trek: The Next Generation to end one of their sitcom-esque videos.
  • Some of Some Jerk with a Camera's episodes lift the stings from They Might Be Giants' concert intros (see above) when he needs to effect an overly-dramatic flair.
  • Parodied in Strong Bad Email where Strong Bad shows Dangeresque 1: Dangeresque Too?. All of the musical cues are done by Strong Bad himself. Several stings show up when villains are introduced or even foreshadowed.

    Western Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Obake loves doing these. He was first shown to us with one, after all.
  • Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
    Vulturo: More decent than baseball? DUN DUN DAH!
  • This, combined with zoom effect. has become a trademark of Bob's Burgers.
  • Parodied in Freakazoid!! numerous times. The most well-known example is in "The Chip", where it cuts from Dexter receives the defective chip to guest narrator Jack Valenti saying "Bum-bum-buumm!".
  • Animated sitcoms like Family Guy, The Simpsons and South Park love parodying this trope; the normal absence of musical chords will be made up for by the characters themselves providing the sound effects.
    • In the Simpson's episode Rosebud, the Simpsons come into possession of Mr. Burns long lost bear BoBo. When they first get it, the camera ominously closes in on a tag with the Scare Chord that says - "100% cotton". The chord cuts off and the camera frantically searches the bear until it find a tag saying "Property Of Montgomery Burns". Cue sting.
    • And again in the episode with Mel Gibson, Beyond Blunderdome, where Homer suggests a movie idea with a dog with shifty eyes being the villain. The end of the episode ends with a shifty eyed dog. Cue sting.
    • In Two Bad Neighbors, the scare chord is played when Bart skateboards by the Bushes' home. Later, Marge tells Homer as long as he keeps the car filled with gas she'll be happy. Homer sighs in relief, then looks shiftily about as the camera zooms in on the car. Cue sting.
    • A X-Files-esque sting was used a couple of times in "Homer vs. Patty and Selma".
  • The Loud House: A dramatic organ chord sounds out whenever Lucy appears out of nowhere and scares the person before her.
  • One episode of Muppet Babies had Gonzo as "The Weirdo", a spoof of radio drama The Shadow. Whenever his name was mentioned, Rowlf played a dramatic sting on the piano... much to Gonzo's annoyance.
  • On an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head Beavis tells Butt-Head that he had a nightmare "where everything sucked." Butt-Head replies "But, Beavis, everything does suck!" Dramatic sting and Beavis screams. For a while, the sting was played anytime one said "sucks".
  • Phineas and Ferb has a sting for pretty much everything that happens Once an Episode: when Phineas announces he knows what they're going to do today, "Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated!"...They even have one for "fabulous", first used in "Dude We're Getting the Band Back Together" for Love Handel bassist Bobbi Fabulous.
  • An episode of U.S. Acres had a sting coming up every time "The Network" was mentioned (once it was even spoken by a character!). The executive that came up to watch the show's production, Aloysius Pig, even had in his card:
  • Johnny Bravo has an entire episode lampshade hanging this (though it's rather more of a Scare Chord being lampshaded).
  • Drawn Together: Frequently used.
    • "What is this, opposite day or dramatic music sting day!?"
    • "NEITHER!"
  • Archer, episode "Skorpio" has at least three such exchanges:
    Malory: So you want this assignment?
    Archer: Yes.
    Malory: You really, really, want it?
    Archer: Yes, I really, really, want it!
    Malory: Well, too bad. Because guess what?
    Lana: Wah wah!
  • In American Dad! episode "Not Particularly Desperate Housewife", Francine looks to expand her social circle and ends up with a group of women who discuss their affairs. Whenever the Asian member says something witty or catty, we hear a snippet of Oriental music. At one point she does her thing, then Francine tries to say something, only to get interrupted as the woman holds her pose and the music keeps playing. Later on, the sting plays when she says nothing; everyone looks at her, and she remarks "I farted."
    • Another American Dad example: Stan demands someone play a dramatic sting; the resulting music isn't dramatic enough and Stan is thoroughly disappointed.
  • Parodied in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "May The Best Pet Win!", when Rainbow Dash tells her potential pets that they have to race her "through Ghastly Gorge! DUN DUN DUUUUUN!"
  • Birdz had a dissonant four-note synth riff that basically served as the equivalent of "Wah wah wah" horns.
  • Spoofed on Jimmy Two-Shoes. When Lucius ominously announces to Jimmy and Heloise that "you'll both pay", a flat and undramatic "dun dun dun" is heard...which turns out to be coming from a toy that can only make that noise. The same thing happens again when Lucius describes the Abyss of Nothingness to them, and then it returns in The Stinger when Lucius is trapped in said Abyss.
  • Danger Mouse:
    • Colonel K is addressing DM and Penfold on a Greenback plot, with a dramatic sting in three different parts of the assignment. It turns out to be Miss Boathook, Colonel K's secretary, on her piano lessons.
    • In the first episode of the 2015 reboot, Danger Mouse is fired because the show can no longer afford to keep paying for the damage he causes in his action sequences; this news ought to be accompanied by a "Dun Dun DUN" sting, but all there is is the narrator saying "Dun Dun DUN", because they've had to save money by firing the musicians who provide the incidental music.
  • The Beatles had a two-note guitar sting on either pivotal parts of a story (showing there is a mysterious passenger on a ship's register in "She Loves You") or as a rimshot (the "probably made of cheaper wax" line made at Paul and John as the boys are imitating their wax figures in "Misery").
  • DuckTales (1987) was known to have numerous stings that played before a commercial break. One of its most notable ones was the ominous 'Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-BUUUMMM'.
  • In an episode of Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby watch a horror movie with "the most dramatic stings ever". Scary things happen one right after another, and a sting is played after each one. After the TV remote breaks Benson's windshield, the same sting is heard, causing Rigby to remark, "We probably should have turned the movie off."
  • Ready Jet Go! episode "Diggin' Earth" Sunspot does it by drumming the air (aliens!) then hitting a shot blade as a cymbal. A response to Dr. Rafferty's "groundbreaking project" quip.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Second Contact", there's a very dramatic-sounding music clip that plays when Commander Jack Ransom scratches the purple welt on his neck. It's an auditory hint to the audience that his bug bite will cause a lot problems soon.
  • Occasionally on Animaniacs, Stock Footage of Wakko doing one of these would play after a joke.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch with Barbie and Ken dolls experiencing a string of soap opera twists has three dramatic chords after nearly every sentence, and sometimes on repeat.

  • Older Macintosh computers sometimes play a Sting (the "Chimes of Death") when they fail a crucial hardware check on boot, with the notes of the ditty telling a savvy tech what's wrong even when video doesn't work
    • Older Macs had fun vocals as well, for normal shutdowns. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying "I'll be back", anyone?
    • PCs are more boring, and use POST beep codes. In this case, if you hear anything other than a single beep, something very bad has happened.
    • Anyone who actually hasn't turned off Windows sounds will hear sounds for all kinds of things, including the rather jarring sound made when the computer can't complete something.
  • The Dramatic Prairie Dog had no drama until the sting was provided. (Dun dun DUUUUUN.)
  • The Drama button, for all of life's unnecessary drama.
  • George Lopez uses a snippet of a mariachi song (don't know the tune) to represent Mexicans in some of his jokes. For example, he asks "Who do you think is controlling this state? Guess!" (play song)
  • Used in P.D.Q. Bach's "Iphigenia in Brooklyn". It is played mostly by double reeds - not oboes and bassoons or anything but double reeds all on their own.
  • Stings are used to emphasize certain words or sentences in recitatives ("spoken" parts set to music) of cantatas and oratorios of the Baroque era. The stings are usually just one note if it comes at the beginning of a recitative, and two notes if it comes in the middle or at the end.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Musical Sting


General Hospital Parody

Inspired by the General Hospital short, the Bots play soap opera. Joel refuses to play along, mentioning that he’s had some bad experiences with soap operas in the past.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / Sting

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