Usage of the tritone today comes with a certain stigma, one that can be described as ballsy, rebellious or downright creepy. The tritone can be found almost everywhere in music, but where so prominently that we can pick it out? This comprehensive list will have you listening to spine-tingling tritones to your heart’s content!
Table of Contents
Yeah, we found so many examples that we categorized them for you.
[Click an icon to jump ahead to a particular section]
TV Show Theme Songs
1. South Park’s Theme Song by Primus
The electric guitar riff plays tritones nearly the whole way through.
2. The Simpsons’ theme song
Listen for the ascending tritone in “The Simpsons” at 0:06 and also in the pizzicato violin motif. The tritone is more clearly heard at 0:15 in the bass line, which is then later repeated by the trombones at 0:42 and so on…It’s all over the place!
3. The Munster’s Theme Song
The main riff that repeats throughout the song (E, B flat, B) starts with an ascending tritone from E to B flat, later resolving into B.
4. The Twilight Zone Theme Song
Another song with E and B flat in the melody. Listen in at 1:00 and you will notice that the fourth chord in the sequence is an E and B flat tritone.
5. The Pink Panther Theme Song
The first chord you hear before the melody is a tritone with the notes E and B flat (0:00-0:04).
Heavy Metal is exactly where you’d expect to find “the devil’s interval” – music intended to put you on edge.
6. Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”
The tritone first appears at 0:33 and remains the main interval of the repeating riff from E flat to A.
7. “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath is infamous for its use of the tritone and as such we had to include more than one song examples from them in our collection. In this particular song, the guitar riff almost all the way through is made up from root, octave, flatted fifth.
8. “Symptom Of The Universe” Black Sabbath
The main guitar riff that you hear throughout the song is a tritone from the notes E to B flat.
9. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”
The main riff jumps from the octave (E) down to the flatted fifth (B flat).
10. Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu”
If you listen from 0:34-:048 you will hear the bass note move from A to E flat.
11. “Cygnus X-1” by Rush
Skip ahead to 3:55 – 4:55 – for a whole minute there is a repeating set of chords where you can audibly hear the notes jump from D sharp, C and down to F sharp – and there you have a descending tritone from C to F sharp.
12. YYZ’s “Rush”
For the first 40 seconds you will hear the guitar play an F sharp on the second fret low E string and a C on the third fret A string.
13. King Crimson’s “Red”
You can hear at 1:35 – 1:52 the electric guitar riff that drops down to an awkward low note. “Red” features another descending tritone and you can hear the B flat drop down to the E.
14. “Painkiller” by Judas Priest
The electric guitar prominently plays E and B flat throughout the melody (starting at 0:17).
15. “DOA” by Bloodrock
Starting at 0:29, the guitar and voice melody plays descending tritones one after another (G to C# and then D to G#).
16. Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”
The use of tritones in “Purple Haze” could very well represent a bad acid trip considering LSD’s popularity during the time. The first notes with bass and electric guitar are tritones shifting in octaves.
17. “My God” by Jethro Tull
The main guitar riff in this song goes from A to E to E flat and back down to A again (listen to it starting at 0:33).
18. “Juicebox” by the Strokes
The reoccurring guitar riff in this song (starting at 1:17) has a prominent E and B flat.
19. “Dance Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns
The song begins with the note D being played twelve times on a harp to let us know that it’s midnight, After the soft string section chords, we hear eerie E flat and A chords. This is followed by the solo violin playing a tritone consisting of A and E-flat (0:24-0:32). The violin solo repeats again at 4:45 – 4:50.
20. Beethoven’s Opera “Fidelio”
From 1:37 to 2:00, there are nothing but tritones. First E flat and A followed by E and B flat.
21. Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria” from West Side Story
It doesn’t seem like you can have a write-up on the tritone without mentioning “Maria” or “The Simpsons”.
Get ready to hear the exact same pick up as in The Simpsons’ theme song. It is one of the main motifs and the first thing that happens after the intro, at 0:41 and again at 0:53. Listen for the ascending tritone when you hear, “Maria… Maria… I first met a girl called Maria”. In West Side Story, the tritone is used to emphasize conflict in Tony and Maria’s romance.
Jazz & Bossa Nova
22. “Girl from Ipanema”
Jazz music is littered with the tritone substitution, which is when a dominant seventh chord is substituted for another dominant seventh chord that is one tritone away. This song is in the key of F major and the dominant seventh chord of F major is C7. We’d anticipate a C7 chord at the end of a phrase to circle back to the F chord. However, instead of a C7 chord, we hear a Gb7 chord. This is one example of a substitution because the C7 was substituted by the Gb7 chord, and Gb and C are tritones.
23. Sonny Rollins’s “Blue Seven”
At 0:11 the melody beings with a descending tritone (D to G sharp) and you will hear it repeated throughout the song at 0:36 and after the solos.
Rap / Hip Hop
24. Busta Rhymes — “Woo-Ha!! Got You All In Check”
Skip to ahead to 0:38 where the melody changes to what sounds like a circus. The repeating bass line in the background is playing a tritone with C sharp and G.
25. G. Love & Special Sauce’s “Special Beverage”
This song features the G7 chord all over the place. On your guitar, play the open G and B strings, then F on the first fret of the high E string.
If you found this post interesting you should also read our Music Theory Series Made Easy that starts out with the Major Scale, Intervals and Chords. Our free blog has lots of articles covering topics like the sound of flying v guitar, songs with b minor to g chord progressions, and guitar with app to teach kids. Use the search function on our site to see what you may find!