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Either a brief crescendo 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."
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 even better lampshade, or perhaps an outright subversion, is when the characters themselves provide the sound effects--"Dun dun DAH!".
Compare Screamer Trailer. Do not confuse with The Stinger. Or with the musician Sting, or the 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.
- 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 the movie adapation 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.
- 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.)
- 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 piano, creating a dramatic, scary tone.
- Parodied in Josie and the Pussy Cats, 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 Buellers Day Off: Played for Laughs when Grace tells Mr. Rooney that Ferris Bueller is on line two.
- Do you know where we could find... a shrubbery?
- 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.
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 and Order and it's chung-chung.
- ...which was supposedly meant to evoke a steel cell-door closing dramatically, according to Word of God
- ...Or possibly, depending on one's age, the most well-known dramtic sting is on another Crime and Punishment Series: Dragnet and it's trademark four-note sting.
DUNNN-DA-DUN DUN. DUNNN-DA-DUN DUN DAAAAAAH!
- 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 the same musical sting, which was written into the beginning of the music that ran over the closing credits. The 2005 series resurrected the sting, using it at the end of The Teaser and just before the closing credits.
- Don't forget the swooshing sound at the beginning of the Theme Tune.
- Similar to the Doctor Who example above, both Eastenders and The Bill have had very distinctive "drumbeat" stings, which would 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.
- Loading Ready Run used a sting from Star Trek the Next Generation to end one of their sitcom-esque videos.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Whitest Kids U' Know sketch "Opus", 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 precceeding 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.
- 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.
- Extremely common in old-time radio shows, particularly of the mystery, horror and drama/suspense varieties.
- The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy had a few, including one that was noted in the script as "DRAMATIC CHORD (SHRUBBERY)".
- Used frequently in Hamish & Dougal, with constant lampshading.
Mrs Naughtie: From your description, that can only be one man. The Laird's ancient ancestor, Count Cardula the Cad!
- 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 games.
- Wait: do you mean the trumpety "Doo dududu doooooo!" fanfare or the up-down "dadadada-dadadada" chime when you accomplish something important?
- 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).
- Also when Link holds up the Phantom Hourglass, which is snatched away by Oshus.
- 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 you select the adventure mode in Plants vs. Zombies.
- 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 also did this a couple of times.
- Blip: DUN! DUN! DUN! DUN!
- Susan of El Goonish Shive does it here.
- 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.
- Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
Vulturo: More decent than baseball? DUN DUN DAH!
- 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 Bo Bo. 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 Bush's 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.
- 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 Butthead 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 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!?"
- Archer, episode "Skorpio" has at least three such exchanges:
Malory: So you want this assignment?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 PDQ 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.