gunfireThe ultimate percussion instrument is probably the handgun. Any sound above 65 decibels can cause hearing loss, and a gunshot tips the scales at around 140dB. This should give you a pretty good idea of how difficult it is to record the audio produced by a gunshot. Although most gunshot sounds found in recorded music are not produced by real guns, some are. This playlist contains both flavors.
We all know the role the gun plays in film, but it also has a place in music. However, the gunshot sound is utilized only by a small fraction songs in comparison to the attention it receives on the big screen.
Granted, most gunshot sounds in music fall squarely within the gangster rap genre, where lyrics dealing with violence take center stage.
Although these are well represented in this playlist, it has been overdone to the point of becoming mostly uninteresting.
The gunshot sounds I find the most fascinating come from other genres. I will highlight a few here:
The first track in this playlist is my favorite-recorded gunshot of all time.
At the 1 minute and 14 second mark of the Pink Floyd song The Final Cut from the album of the same name, you'll hear an explosive gunshot that was recorded live followed by an audible "woo hoo".
The best part of this gunshot is that it's used as a climax. The music slowly builds with a string section until... BOOM, the gun goes off. It still makes me jump to this day, even though I've heard it a thousand times.
What's also interesting is that the printed lyrics show a line that's not audible under this gunshot, which ties it all back to Pink Floyd's classic concept album "The Wall".
The second track in this playlist is the soulful Bill Withers track "Better Off Dead" from the album "Just As I Am". The lyrics are sung in the first person by an extremely depressed, suicidal man.
"she's better off without me, and I'm better off dead now that she's gone."
At the very end of the song he doesn't finish the chorus, "I'm better off dead...", BOOM. The gunshot ends the song and makes quite a statement in the process.
The third song is a bit different in that it was never planned to be recorded. Devendra Banhart's song "Cosmos and Demos" from the album Oh Me Oh My... features a gunshot that you will first hear at about :24 seconds into the song.
The following dialogue is from an interview with Devendra Banhart about the gunshot by Alexander Laurence.
Alexander Laurence: I heard a door shutting or a gunshot during one song.
Devendra Banhart: There's all kinds of things going on. None of that is coordinated. I was in a room and the window happened to be open, and a car went by. One day, it was Bastille Day in France, so there were fireworks going off. While I was playing I saw a guy walk up to a door, pull out a gun, knock on the door, go into a room, and then a gunshot went off. That was recorded because I was recording a song.
I could not verify if this was true or just a brilliant marketing strategy. I would love to know what happened to that guy and if anyone was hurt...
The complete playlist of songs with gunshots is below.
7. The Unknown Soldier - The Doors
11. Guns Fever - Various Artists