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Tick Tock Tune

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"What you waiting, what you waiting, what you waiting, what you waiting, what you waiting for
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, take your chance you stupid hoe."

This is when the music has ticking clock sound effects to it, or similar, such as instruments, metronome sounds, clicks, or even onomatopoeia. This is sometimes used to make you remember that, yes, time is running and to hasten the pace.

Alternatively, the sound of a ticking clock can be used to symbolize the progression of time between verses, i.e. if the first verse is from the singer's perspective as a child or young person, the second verse will often be the singer's present-day viewpoint.

Not to be confused with Tick Tock Terror, which is the use of various clock sound effects to create a creepy and/or oppressive atmosphere, or a "TikTok tune", which is a song that gained popularity on the social media platform TikTok.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • "Human Again" from Beauty and the Beast had a recurring bridge of "Tick tock, the time goes, The days pass, the cock crows," causing the song to clock in at nearly eleven minutes in total and ultimately be deleted from the film and replaced with the much more compact "Something There." When the song was restored for the stage adaptation and the film's special edition, all traces of this bridge were removed and the song placed in a slightly different part of the story.
  • "Never Smile at a Crocodile" from Peter Pan. Appropriate, since the Crocodile swallowed a clock.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hans Zimmer is apparently fond of this trope.
    • His score for Inception prominently features the ticking of a clock on several of its tracks. Not surprisingly, the perception of time is an important subtheme of the film.
    • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows prominently features ticking in several scores, notably when someone is about to die, or when they're trying to stop his plans, with all the subtext that implies.
    • The soundtrack for Interstellar features clock ticking in some of the scores, most notably the track "Mountains" and its variations. The time between each tick gets shorter and longer in parts of the song, symbolising the time dilation effect the characters go through due to them being very near a black hole.
    • His score for Dunkirk also features the ticking of a clock. He reportedly incorporated recordings of a pocket watch owned by director Christopher Nolan into the score.
  • The Time-Turner scene Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has both constant ticking and the sound of chimes.
  • Amityville: It's About Time is a time-based film, so the music is full of ticks and tocks, as well as things like chimes and bells ringing, and alarm clocks sounding.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Williams' theme tune from The Time Tunnel.
  • One of the theme tunes from Beat the Clock, natch.
  • Heroes has Sylar's Leitmotif, which is not so much a "time is running out" as a creepy "this guy knows how things tick" thing.
  • The theme tune from Callan is suspenseful and includes the suggestion of a slowly ticking clock, reinforced by the image in the opening credits of a swinging lightbulb as a substitute pendulum.
    • The tune is uncredited, and may be a piece of library music that the producers found. If so, great choice.
  • Barney & Friends: "The Clean Up Clock".
  • Wheel of Fortune has two: one for the Speed-Up round (Final Spin) and another for the Bonus Round.
    • Most of the Australian versions averted this, but the bonus round in Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune in 2008 not only had a tick-tock beat to the music, but it was also underscored by a robotic voice counting down the contestant's 10 seconds.
  • The Jeopardy! Think Music.
  • 60 Minutes takes this to the extreme, using only the tick tick tick of a stopwatch where other shows would use a theme song.
  • The Countdown Clock music.
  • A not-well-known PBS game show called Think Twice used this as contest music in its Bonus Round. It starts with a clock ticking and adds tracks as the 60 seconds counts down. Also counts as a Song in the Key of Panic (Nearing the end/hurry), even though it's kinda upbeat.
  • Doctor Who has been known to use this in its score. Given the premise, it was bound to show up sometime.
  • Leroy Anderson's "The Syncopated Clock", used as the theme tune for the original non-talk show incarnations of "The Late Show" and "The Late, Late Show".
  • The theme from The Strange World Of Gurney Slade by Max Harris. Later used in Vision On as the music for the cuckoo clock animations.
  • The track "TVA" from Loki (2021) — used as the end credits theme of the first episode — incorporates the sound of clocks ticking, which ties in with the show's time-travel themes. A variant of the track arranged for the opening sequence of each episode has more subdued orchestral arrangement, and thus the ticking becomes more prominent.
  • The first episode of Chockablock (a British kids' show from the 1980s) features a song about a grandfather clock that has "lost its tock" and can only tick. After the clock's owner has tried Percussive Maintenance, straightening the pendulum and adjusting the weight (none of which work) his grandfather suggests he try saying words that rhyme with "clock", which does fix the problem. The clock can be heard ticking in the background throughout and chimes when its owner says a word that sounds like "clock". And, when its owner has come up with eight such words, the clock starts tick-tocking again.

  • Alabama: Two songs from their catalog, 13 years apart: 1979's "I Wanna Come Over" (twice, between the intro and start of first verse, and again to end the bridge between the first refrain and second verse, to lead into "Is that what time it is ..."); and 1992's "I'm In a Hurry (and Don't Know Why)," where the tick-tock is used before the line "... shaking hands with the clock."
  • "Time's Up" by Living Colour starts with ticking clocks and bells.
  • Its only in the chorus, but Tick Tick Boom!
  • A nice old example from 1876: Henry Clay Work's "My Grandfather's Clock."
  • From 1794: Franz Josef Haydn's Symphony No. 101 in D major (the "Clock" Symphony), the second movement.
  • Gustav Holst 's "Saturn the Bringer of Old Age" from The Planets, though it's hard to decide whether the alternating chords are meant to stand for the tick-tock or the chime.
  • "Oily Night" from The Black Rider and "The Earth Died Screaming" from Bone Machine by Tom Waits.
  • The Faithless track "Insomnia" starts with a jangling, ticking clock. Intentionally annoying, to put you in the same perspective as the title implies.
  • Styx's "Too Much Time On My Hands" and it's ticking away, ticking away with me, etc.
  • Gwen Stefani's "What You Waitin' For?" and the cover by Franz Ferdinand.
  • Ligeti's "Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes" uses, well, metronomes. It doesn't inspire any ratcheting tension, but expand your horizons by exposing yourself to it anyway.
  • The classic Leroy Anderson composition "The Syncopated Clock" features a wood block imitating a ticking clock that eventually stops ticking on the beat and becomes, well, syncopated.
  • "Frantic" by Metallica.
  • Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock".
  • The Chambers Brothers' psychedelicized soul epic "Time Has Come Today" - in the tick-tock intro, someone even goes "Cuckoo!" in the background.
  • The intro and ending of Assemblage 23's Decades (V2).
  • "TiK ToK" by Ke$ha.
  • "Tick-Tock Sick", Jim Henson's minor novelty hit from 1960.
  • Placebo's "Without You I'm Nothing." Here's the version with David Bowie.
  • Tiny Tim would make tick tock sounds with his tongue while singing "Tiptoe Through The Tulips".
  • Depeche Mode's song "Here Is the House" features a ticking clock throughout.
  • Sting's "Russians," a song about nuclear war, uses the ticking sound of a time bomb at the beginning and end.
  • the gazettE's "Suicide Circus". Though the singer has a heavy accent and it sounds more like "chitatatatatata", that's what it is. Even if the "Nobody can rewind time" afterwards wasn't a good enough indication.
  • Dreaming by BT f/ Kirsty Hawkshaw.
  • "Time Marches On" by Tracy Lawrence.
  • "Dynamo Clock" by Covenant.
  • The clock starts up the song Little Boxes by Walk Off the Earth.
  • "Tick Tock", by the Vaughan Brothers.
  • "Time is Ticking Out" by The Cranberries.
  • "Baba Yaga (Hut on Fowl's Legs)" from the Pictures at an Exhibition suite by Modest Mussorgsky; it's about a design for a clock in the shape of the hut of the named witch from Russian folklore, and the music strongly suggests the ticking of the clock, especially in the Isao Tomita interpretation.
  • "Time", by Pink Floyd, opens with tick-tocking, then a bunch of alarms.
    • Parodied in "25 O'Clock" by The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC).
    • From "The Final Cut": the sound of a ticking clock provides a bridge between "Your Possible Pasts" and "One of the Few."
  • "No Son of Mine" by Genesis opens with the sound of a ticking clock.
  • Several of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata movements are scored with pizzicato strings to suggest the passing of time, including the opening choral movement of Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? (BWV 8), the accompanied recitative "Der Glocken bebendes Getön" from the Trauerode (BWV 198), and the aria "Ach, schlage doch bald, selge Stunde" from Christus, der ist mein Leben (BWV 95). These movements are typically about wondering when one will die.
  • Both "No Time" and its "Extra Time Remix" by The Heavy start with a ticking sound before before they launch into the song proper.
  • "Little Sister" by Queens of the Stone Age.
  • "Like Clockwork" by The Boomtown Rats.
  • The original 2002 version of "Someone" by Boston contains a "nightstand clock added by Bill Ryan" credit.
The partially re-recorded version in 2013 does not.
  • "Somnia" by Skyla Vertex.
  • "Tic, Tic, Tic" by Doris Day. Though in the context of the song the tic-tic-ticking she's talking about is coming from a Geiger-Müller counter .. and her heart; it's a jaunty, happy love song. You expected something else from Doris Day?
  • "Metrognome" by Camel has a metronome on the verses, though the rest of the song seems to ignore it.
  • "Eggshell" by The Future Sound of London.
  • Mark Wills' "Loving Every Minute" has a synthesized tick-tock effect at several points, including the last chorus (appropriately under the line "You made time stand still and I'm loving every minute").
  • A tick-tock effect is heard during the line "Shaking hands with the clock" on Alabama's "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)".
  • The ABBA song "Like an Angel Passing through My Room" (featured on the group's final studio album note , The Visitors) includes a ticking clock sound effect synthesized by Benny Andersson on his Minimoog which is heard in the background throughout.
  • Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean" has a ticking clock sound playing in the background.
  • Walk Off the Earth's cover of "Little Boxes" has a ticking clock in the background.
  • Jean-Michel Jarre's time-themed 1993 album Chronologie has sounds of clocks of many kinds all over it, be it as layers (!) of ambient noise (the transition from "Part 1" to "Part 2" and after "Part 3", for example), be it as rhythmic percussion ("Part 4", "Part 5" and the end of "Part 8"). To top this off, "Part 4", "Part 5" and "Part 8" contain a sample of the electronic alarm melody of a 1992 Swatch MusiCall wristwatch — which was composed by Jarre himself.
  • Juelz Santana: Clockwork. First previewed in Oh Yes.
  • David Seville's pre-Chipmunks novelty song "Gotta Get to Your House" has this rhythm accompanying the singer as he hurries to meet his girlfriend.
  • "4 Minutes" by Madonna with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland features ticking sound effects and sung "tick tock"s in-between verses.
  • "My Grandfather's Clock" has the words "tick tock" in the chorus to represent the clock faithfully counting the seconds of its owner's life. Some versions have a ticking sound elsewhere in the song as well.
  • GFRIEND's "Rough (Running Through Time)" has the sounds in the end of the song as well as a clock dancing move emulating the tune.
  • In The Hamilton Mixtape, the end of "Cabinet Battle #3" is accompanied by the sound of a clock being set, firmly establishing that it's only a matter of time before the issue of slavery erupts in American politics again.
  • "Do You" from BTS RM's mixtape follows this tune.
  • "Another Nine Minutes" by Yankee Grey opens up with ticking clock sounds.
  • "Ready or Not" by Fitz And The Tantrums uses a ticking clock sound before and throughout the second verse.
  • Blue Öyster Cult's "Astronomy" features a rhythmic drum bit during its verses that mimics a ticking clock, as clocks are mentioned in the lyrics several times (including in the very first line).
  • Thunder Porpoise's appropriately named "Clocks"(no relation to the Coldplay song).
  • "Tune into the Madness" by Dan Bull and The Stupendium has a clock ticking sound that plays every other beat, adding to the manic and creepy tone of the song.
  • Lindsey Stirling's "Shatter Me" opens with sounds of gears ticking and turning, like a music box being wound up in order to play it.
  • "The Cursed Clock" by Nine Inch Nails.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Montel Vontavious Porter's first WWE Theme song.
    1, 2, You hear the clock ticking?
    Tick tock, you're about to stop living
    Tick tock, I want you to remember me
    Tick tock, but the dead don't have no memory
  • This also goes for MVP's New Japan Pro-Wrestling theme "Most Valiantly Person" and his TNA Theme "Return Of The Ronin", though the ticking cuts out in them after awhile.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Parodied by Tim Vine in "My Marvellous Metronome", where the electronic metronome keeps speeding up until he can't keep up with the beat.

  • The piece "Midnight" from Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella suite has a clock ticking instrumentation at the end, signifying When the Clock Strikes Twelve and Cinderella having to hurriedly leave the ball.
  • Hamilton: In "Ten Duel Commandments", every time that the choir counts to ten is accompanied by the sound of a clock. The same ticking can be heard in "The World Was Wide Enough", since it's a Dark Reprise.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb has "Watchin' and Waitin'", a song about the gang watching the boys' invention to see how it disappears before Mom gets home.
  • Muppet Babies in the episode "Back to the Nursery" has the episode's song number ("Running Out of Time") invoke this trope (appropriate, being a time-travel story).
  • The Ren & Stimpy episode "Out West" has an expy of the 'Jeopardy' theme playing as lawmen Abner and Ewald try to squeeze out the simplest thoughts.
  • The Inspector Gadget episode "Cuckoo Clock Caper" appropriately uses a cuckoo clock-based arrangement of the main theme.
  • In Tex Avery's "Who Killed Who?," The hands of a clock rapidly spin to midnight, playing each note of "The Funeral March" with each minute hand strike of 12.
  • Ninjago: Season 7 is time-themed, so The Fold's intro song, "The Temporal Whip", appropriately uses a ticking clock sound throughout.
  • The Owl House episode "King's Tide" as the song "A Game Called The Owl House" that features the sound of a speeding clock that gives a "time rapidly is running out" feeling to the show's Darkest Hour.

  • The BBC's news theme. Revised in 2013 with extra strings when the news moved to its new studios. The pulsed beeps that provide a "heartbeat" reveal the song's tempo to be exactly one beat per second (as shown by the on-screen countdown). The beeps are in fact intended as a reference to the Greenwich Time Signal, aka. "The Pips" — six tones which are broadcasted on BBC radio to mark each hour, with the long closing pip marking the top of the hour. When a leap-second is added to worldwide atomic clocks, an extra pip is added just before the closing pip.
  • There was a 1960s novelty instrumental called "Time Beat" by Ray Cathode, based on an interval theme by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop with added instrumentation by George Martin.
  • The music outside the Small World ride at Disneyland.


Video Example(s):


"Please, Strike Three"

In the opening to "How I Spent My Vacation", the Tiny Toons all wait for the school clock to strike three, signaling the beginning of summer vacation. While waiting, they sing about their summer plans, all to the beat of the ticking clock.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TickTockTune

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