What is a bumper? What is a stinger?| Soundscape.io

Do you have a video or podcast in the works covering many topics or storylines, and you don’t know how to smooth out transitions? Do you struggle to hold the audience’s attention through commercial breaks? Try adding bumpers and stingers to your project!

What are bumpers and stingers? What do they do?

A bumper, in music, normally occurs during a transition or bookend of a project. It is a short music passage played to denote transitions in videos, news broadcasts (TV and radio), and podcasts.

TV News broadcasts use music bumpers cutting to & from commercials
TV News Broadcasts use music bumpers cutting to and from commercials

Shorter bumpers used in television programs, films, videos, and radio shows are called stingers. They’re a lot less scary than they sound. Stingers are great to cue scene transitions, “sting” your audience with anticipation, and effortlessly flow from one subject to another. Stingers hold the power to mold the tone and identity of a show, to take a dry show and make it captivating.

Still not sure what bumpers and stingers are? Check out our vast collection of bumpers and stingers at Soundscape! We offer a wide array of music selections and sound effects to choose from to make your show the best it can be. Click here to get 25% off on all Soundscape music, bumpers, and stingers!

Let’s hear bumpers and stingers in context to get a better understanding of how they work and how they help.

Music Bumpers in Title Sequences

Brian Dean uses a short stinger in his title sequence

The first place bumpers are found are usually in title sequences. Here is a great example by our lovely friend Brian Dean of Backlinko. At the 0:22 timestamp, they begin their channel ID and transition between the video intro and main content.

To smooth the transition, they add a short music clip to it. If there was no music playing, the video would feel dry. Like something’s missing. Like there is a void to be filled. Music fills that void perfectly, and makes the transition fly by in viewers’ eyes.

Bumpers in Intros & Outros

Between Two Ferns – bumpers play at the very beginning & very end of each video

One of the best place to utilize bumpers are in the intros and outros of your videos, podcasts, and A/V projects. In this example, from the video series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifinakis, bumpers play at the bookends of each video. These bumpers coincide with the title sequence, but they don’t have to in your video or podcast. If your title sequence does not play at the immediate beginning, then you may use a bumper to lead into it, as seen in the Backlinko video.

Bumpers and Stingers in Broadcast transitions

Broadcast bumper courtesy of WBZ Radio

Very similar to the first example, bumpers are integral in transitions during television and radio news broadcasts. The video above is a recording of a radio transmission from WBZ radio in Boston.

Right at the beginning, a bumper plays over the station ID as the reporter hands it over to the traffic report. The background music selection lasts about 15 seconds, which is standard for broadcast bumpers.

The instrumental bumper catches the listener’s ear and alerts them something new is happening. It keeps the listener interested during the station ID and transition, and their increased attention may prevent them from changing channels.

Bumpers also are commonly used in more modern formats, especially podcasts. Go to the 15-minute mark of this episode of Conan Needs a Friend, and you will hear a short, happy acoustic guitar number. This jingle cues the transition between Conan’s intro and his interview with guest Hannah Einbinder.

Stingers in TV Scene Transitions

Stingers appear in many TV shows to transition smoothly between different scenes. This SNL skit (above) replicates the stingers and transitions between scenes in the iconic sitcom Friends. Here, SNL parodies the wacky situations that occur after scene transitions on the show. However it is used, the stingers and transitions still work the same, and smooth over the segue.

In many cases, the stingers become part of the identity of a show. For example, in Friends, the rock & roll sound blends in with the sound identity of the show’s title theme, as well as grunge music, which was very popular in the 1990s. Another amazing example of stingers defining show identity comes from another popular ’90s sitcom, Seinfeld. The slap bass lines heard here are used to transition between different scenes similarly to Friends, and are commonly associated with Seinfeld.

That being said, the stinger itself can also elevate a show’s production value when it to the subject matter. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me does an excellent job of using songs related to the topic at hand to transition to between segments, often in a funny way. For instance, go to the 30:23 minute mark in this episode. They transition out of a segment with Bowen Yang, known for his portrayal of the Titanic Iceberg on SNL, with a track containing the repeating lyrics “nice ice, baby.” It references Bowen, has a sense of humor, and is a fun transition out of the interview.

Bumpers and Stingers to Cue Commercial Breaks

Most of the time, listeners will hear bumpers leading into or out of a commercial break. Wait, wait… don’t tell me you’re gonna use another Wait Wait episode. Oh yes ma’am, sir, and/or non-binary elder, I sure am! Go to the 11:45 minute mark on the Ilana Glazer episode.

The last story they talk about before the transition is about the mob. The transition music they use before commercial break is part of the score from The Godfather, a famous movie about mobsters. Then, they immediately come back, and the classic Wait Wait jingle starts up at the 12 minute mark as Bill Curtis welcomes the audience back. Both musical examples last between 15 – 20 seconds, short in length, catch the audience’s ears, and smoothly move the program into or out of the commercial break.

Try using bumpers and stingers today!

The best bumpers and stingers seem to become a part of the show’s identity, and add a personal thumbprint on the show. Experiment with your projects and see what works for you. Have fun, be creative! You never know what might stick.

Visit Soundscape to see what other background tracks may work well in your video. Let us know how our music helped your projects in the comments down below!

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