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Vocal Range Exceeded

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"Now we're into E...
That's awfully high for me.
As everyone can see
We should have stayed in D."
Spamalot, "The Song That Goes Like This"

Gags where someone comically tries and fails to sing a note too high or too low for them. May cause Inopportune Voice Cracking.

Note that straining one's voice too much will result in a sore throat. Doing it to extremes could even necessitate surgery.

Only include examples where the singing is deliberately out of range or someone discusses out of range singing.

Compare Hollywood Tone-Deaf.


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    Film — Animated 
  • In Alice in Wonderland, Alice attempts a certain note during the singing of "All in the Golden Afternoon" (better known to some as "The Flowers Song"). Alice fails, and the flowers visibly cringe, and finish the rest of the song for her. (Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Alice, has acknowledged that she is not exactly a great singer.)

    Film — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier:
    • "Look Before You Leap" sees Frasier determined to sing a live-televised solo rendition of an aria from Rigoletto, but can't hit the high note (his accompanist says the only way he will hit the note is if he is jabbed with a pin at the right moment). He finally gives up just before the show starts, switching back to his staple of "Buttons & Bows"... for which he's forgotten the words, having been concentrating so hard on the other number.
      Pianist: Between you and me, you're not hitting this note without a pole vault.
    • In a Christmas episode, Martin is rehearsing "O Holy Night", but is having difficulty hitting the high note, and every time he tries Eddie buries his head.
  • In an episode of Are You Being Served?, Mr. Humphries and Mr. Lucas are trying to sing a very high version of Happy Birthday to You!. They are not successful, and Mr. Humphries complains that his braces (suspenders) have broken because of it.
  • In an episode of Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's voice cracks out of sheer disbelief at an incompetent contestant not using a non-stick pan and screwing up the scallops, despite the recipe calling for one to be used:
    Gordon: If you sauté scallops in a non-stick pan, they won't stick! That's why it's called FUCKING NON-STIIIIIIIICK!
  • An episode of Wings had Roy singing the Star-Spangled Banner and being worried about failing to hit the high note on "wave."
  • Regularly used on Svengoolie when his musical director Doug Graves arranges songs for Sven to sing, just a bit higher than Sven can sing.
  • Miss Piggy gets into a vocal range duel on Ride of the Valkyries with a real opera singer (Beverly Sills) at 1:55 in this video. She can't quite hit the high note.
    • Again in The Muppet Movie when Miss Piggy is singing "Never Before, Never Again", she's straining to hit the last note.
  • In an episode of I'm Alan Partridge, Alan tries to give a rendition of "Close to You" but starts way too high, changes key several times, then just gives up.

  • Parodied in "The Dooright Family" by Ray Stevens, a song about a fictional gospel singing family. In the end, the bass vocalist is asked to go down an octave, which causes a huge, loud, booming note that makes him explode on stage.
  • While producing The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", Norman Whitfield deliberately arranged David Ruffin's lead vocal just above his actual range, requiring numerous takes to get all the high notes right and adding to the mood.
  • Parodied by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his composition A Musical Joke not with vocals, but the violin. At the end of the violin solo near the end of the 3rd movement, the soloist plays ascending scales, slowing down and playing a whole-tone scale at the higher registers. This was to imitate a clumsy violinist floundering with high notes. The solo can be heard here. The ascending scale happens at 15:30.
  • Non-comedy example: Neil Young's "Mellow My Mind", where he's simply too tired, too drunk and too sad to reach the highest notes. The effect is rather heartbreaking.
  • A part of "Alto's Lament". "Although I've got a great high C... (cue this trope)". Although some performers subvert the expected gag, hitting the high C properly and then changing the auditioner's reaction to something along the lines of "That's great, but we already have too many sopranos", thus reinforcing the "pushed into the harmony section" idea.
  • Stan Freberg's parody of the Les Paul/Mary Ford cover of "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" has the Self-Backing Vocalist complain when the multi-tracked close harmony rises high into the falsetto range and keeps on rising.
  • P.D.Q. Bach:
    • In his oratorio The Seasonings, the bass aria "Open Sesame Seeds" gives the singer a ridiculous melisma with a range of over two octaves and descending so low that a few notes will inevitably have to be faked rather than actually sung. Similarly, but with an instrument, the second movement of "Schleptet in E Flat Major" rises in pitch until it reaches a note so high a violin cannot actually play it.
    • In the final notes of Iphigenia in Brooklyn, the "bargain countertenor" note  must sing a G5 followed by a G2, three octaves lower, and well out of a normal countertenor's range.
  • Parodied in an April Fools' Day video by the King's College Choir, an all-male British ensemble, in which a boy soprano uses helium to produce (and absolutely nail) the absurdly high soprano notes in Allegri's Psalm 51: Miserere Mei, Deus.
  • A non-comedic example appears in The Microphones' "You'll Be In the Air", where Phil Elverum exceeds his vocal range in an emotionally charged bridge.
  • "Seit ich hier wohne" by German comedian Mike Krüger, a Song Parody of "Mama Leone" by Bino, is sung deliberately ear-rapingly terribly in the higher notes. It's about a singer who is so bad that he managed to not only chase all other tenants out of the house he is living in but even scare the garbage collectors away just by rehearsing all day. The singing becomes somewhat less horrible in the third verse after the singer has met a Record Producer who decided to make an album with him, and he decides to sing like he has never sung before: well.
  • Cledus T. Judd's cover of Tim Wilson's "Ricky Tidwell's Mama" invokes this with guest vocalist Daryle Singletary, who intentionally sings notes way too deep for his vocal range (especially at the end).
  • By the time of Elton John's 1986 "Tour De Force" concert tour promoting Leather Jackets, one in which Elton and his band would be accompanied for part of the set list by a symphony orchestra, Elton would suffer increasing vocal problems due to frequent marijuana and alcohol abuse, bulimic binging and purging and drug-fueled vocal oversinging and misuse, culminating in the recording of the concert film and live album Live in Australia, where he very clearly is struggling throughout the concert from vocal strain and laryngitis. Doctors would soon discover non-cancerous, though career-threatening, nodules in his throat. Surgery done in 1987 would prove successful, but would vocally put Elton out of commission for several months. When he returned by late 1987 at a Prince's Trust concert special, his tenor vocal range would be lowered to a baritone.
  • "I Whupped Batman's Ass" by Wesley Willis (who was not exactly a tuneful singer to begin with) features several voice cracks in the chorus.
  • Eminem:
    • Em observes at the beginning of "Hailie's Song" that he can't sing, but he's going to sing anyway. For most of the song, his singing voice functions, but he proceeds to end every chorus with a painful falsetto in notes that do not exist.
    • His ballad "Stronger Than I Was" draws attention to the shortcomings of Eminem's vocal performance with over-the-top "uunnngh!" adlibs.

  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Tim Brooke-Taylor had this happen to him a lot, probably because Humphrey Littleton and Jack Dee both made him sing songs that were outside his vocal range (such as those by Meatloaf, or a-ha) For the Evulz. It also occasionally happens to others on the show, but Tim was the Butt-Monkey.

    Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Anna Russell's coloratura aria parodies "Canto dolciamente Pipo" and "O gentle bird with feathered breast" end with cadenzas that are obviously going to end on notes high above the staff, except that, after a few seconds of breathing (and, in the case of "Pipo", with an audible mutter of "Oh, the heck with it"), she instead sings her final note two or three octaves lower.
  • Danny Bhoy discusses these in one of his comedy routines, saying that when they started off singing the hymns in church they'd all start off singing too high and run into trouble when they were required to sing higher, and then compensating by singing too low and running into the opposite problem in reverse.

  • In Carnival, the puppet Marguerite boasts that she can sing "high M above L", but she struggles to hit the high note in "Yum Ticky" and is jealous that Lili can do it. She finally belts it out at the end of the song. At least in universe, she is voiced by a man (Paul).
  • At the end of "Do, Re, Mi" from The Sound of Music, Maria sings a scale starting "do, ti, la" from middle C, and can't quite make the final "do". (This gag was not used in the movie version, where Julie Andrews concludes the number more conventionally on a high note.)
  • Spamalot, "The Song that Goes Like This".
    Galahad: (squeakily) Now we're into E!
    (clears throat) That's awfully high for me
    Lady of the Lake: As everyone can see
    We should have stayed in D...
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's penultimate collaboration, Utopia, Limited, features the character of Captain Fitzbattleaxe, a comic exaggeration of operatic tenors who opens the second act with the song "A tenor, all singers above". In the introduction to the song, he sings, "Ah, do not laugh at my attempted C!" where the C in question is an octave above middle C and either at the very top of or beyond the range of most tenors. Depending on the production (and the talents of the singer cast in the role), he may (deliberately or otherwise) fail miserably at hitting the high C or render it in a falsetto voice for comic effect.

    Web Original 

  • In El Goonish Shive, Justin strategically averts this during his turn singing karaoke while a girl. He accounts for the higher voice he has as a girl and deliberately picks a song that has notes slightly higher than he would normally sing.

    Western Animation 
  • In "Long-Haired Hare", Bugs Bunny directs pompous opera singer Giovanni Jones to sing a note far below his vocal range.
  • An early South Park episode, "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride" has a bomb that is supposed to go off at a football game at half-time when the singer sings the high-F in "Lovin' You". Unfortunately, the singer is Richard Stamos (John Stamos' brother), who falls into this trope. Later, however, he is able to hit it with predictable consequences.
  • Hey Arnold!: "Gerald's Tonsil" centers on Gerald having a tenor solo in school choir right after his tonsils are removed, which makes his voice low and raspy (and let them keep the same voice actor even as he entered puberty). After spending a while in denial and getting mocked for his new voice, Gerald's doctor mentions the same thing had happened to the mailman Harvey (who's voiced by Lou Rawls). Harvey advises Gerald to sing whatever he feels like, so Gerald sings a much lower version of the solo. Everyone is impressed, and several students fruitlessly attempt to imitate it backstage.
  • Kim Possible: "Hidden Talent" features Kim having continual problems hitting the high notes in the song she's set to sing after Ron signs her up for the school talent show. She ultimately manages to hit it as a way to break through a layer of ice keeping her trapped in Drakken's lair.


Video Example(s):


Long-Haired Hare

Bugs pretends to be a conductor in order to torment opera singer Giovanni Jones. Near the end of the cartoon, he hold Jones a note for 45 seconds, until it causes the collapse of the orchestra shell above the singer's head, and then for a few more seconds when he causes a rock teetering on the collapsed frame to fall onto Jones, presumably crushing his skull. (In other words, Bugs literally "brought down the house".)

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / IncrediblyLongNote

Media sources: