In some songs, there is a short and accented note at the very end, usually as the last note. Is there a special term for this note besides calling it the "last note"?


4 Answers 4


In musical theater this is often called a "button" (particularly if it's a low note).


Within the context of a march, this final pitch/chord is often called a stinger; it's used to punctuate the end of the entire piece.

According to this Wikipedia entry:

The last measure of the march sometimes contains a stinger, a I chord played in unison on the upbeat after a quarter rest. Most, but not all, marches carry a stinger. "Semper Fidelis" is a famous march that does not have an ending stinger when not recapitulated back to the beginning of the march. . . . Most marches end at forte volume (loud); one that does not is Sousa's "Manhattan Beach", which ends fading away.

I'm no expert on show tunes, but I would imagine we use the same term no matter what the genre. At the very least, people will know what you mean if you use "stinger" in this context.

  • I've seen the word "stinger" used in a similar context on Audio Network for the entire ending excerpt for pretty much every genre they have available, including light music, electronic music, and heavy metal.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 10:27
  • 1
    According to 'storyblocks' this isn't so. Several seconds of music, it says. It's on the 'net - so it must be true...
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 11:00
  • We often called it the "bump note." But us college marching band folks were mostly drunk. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:03
  • @CarlWitthoft - always thought that a 'bump note' was a bum note, played quietly...
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:26
  • 2
    @Tim They're using a different definition of "stinger."
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:27

A chord at the end of a march that is used to punctuate the ending of the composition. The stinger is typically played by the entire ensemble on the last beat of the last measure of the composition and contains an accent.

- https://musicterms.artopium.com/s/Stinger.htm

  • 1
    "Typically". But not necessarily always. So is it still a stinger if it falls on the 1?
    – Rosie F
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 8:16
  • 6
    @RosieF - I'd think so. I've heard plenty of stingers that fall on the 1.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 10:28
  • @RosieF good question, I can remember times when I've heard a downbeat ending referred to as a stinger but typically only when it's quite short. A more common idiom for a last note ending on a downbeat is to hold it for a bit for emphasis as if it has a fermata, which usually does not get called a stinger. (Because it's not "sharp" enough, I suppose?)
    – user63785
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 13:21

A more general classical term for this is a Cadence. Although not all cadences are at the end of the piece, and a cadence need not be a short accented note, though they often are. The sense of finality or closure is definitely implied in this definition though. Sometimes it just closes a phrase and not the whole piece, but there is always some sort of closure.

  • No, this is the opposite of a cadence. A cadence resolves tension, conventionally harmonic tension. The last note of the Sousa march could be omitted without harming any sense of finality or resolution or closure, in harmony or rhythm or phrasing. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 19:28
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    Also, a cadence is a sequence of two or more consecutive chords (with the relationship between those chords defining the cadence); not a single one.
    – gidds
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 22:07
  • @CamilleGoudeseune - cadences don't always resolve. Perfect and plagal always - interrupted, sometimes, and imperfect, never.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 10:23
  • 1
    We're talking about a short accented note here. Cadences come in all shapes and forms, rarely short and accented.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 10:25

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