Home » Car-Crazed Pianist Learns How To Play Various Cars’ Startup Chimes And The Results Are Spot-On (I’m The Pianist)

Car-Crazed Pianist Learns How To Play Various Cars’ Startup Chimes And The Results Are Spot-On (I’m The Pianist)

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Hello, Autopians! Besides being the not-so-proud soon-to-be-former owner of a Land Rover Discovery, a full-time college student, and the youngest Autopian writer, I can also play the piano. I’ve banged keys since I was about eight years old. I’ve played everything from Scott Joplin’s “Rags” to Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” The other day, while playing a piece by the legendary Claude Debussy, my finger slipped on a note or two, and I heard some familiar sounds. I was taken aback. Could it be? Did I hear the infamous Ford startup chime in my mistake? After some further messing around, I got it! I managed to play the entire thing in just a few moments. And then I went down a rabbit hole and learned the chime for Audi, BMW, and more. Here, have a listen.

Okay, first: Here at the beginning of this clip is the Ford chime we’re talking about:

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Now here’s what I taught myself:

 

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There it is! The infamous Ford startup chime played by me on my keyboard. What do you think?

The notes are, in order, A E C#. It helps if you sustain them, using the right pedal of a piano, driving the sound’s smoothness. It’s in A-major for all you Beethoven’s out there. For the rest of y’all, it’s white key, white key, black key. The Ford startup chime has even made its way to Tik Tok, where it’s become a bit of a meme in itself:

@jaylan.lacko

Had to come back with another one. #fyp #foryou #ford #chime #viral

♬ original sound – Billy Clayton ????????

At my orchestra rehearsal last Wednesday I hopped on to the piano and played the Ford chime, and at least three Ford owners looked up at me in disgust, laughter, and confusion. It’s a fun party trick to pull out amongst unsuspecting Ford owners. Ford knows its audience and the profound impact the chime has on all of us. Jennifer Prescott, an engineer in Ford’s Vehicle Harmony department, writes, “The science behind vehicle chimes creates an unspoken language between driver and vehicle.” It’s no coincidence that it’s a satisfying sound to listen to; Ford did that on purpose!

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After this profound discovery, I knew I had to play around with other car sounds. Oh, and check out a piece I did on Lincoln’s symphonic chimes. They’re great! Anyway, did I find a few more playable ones? Well, have a listen!:

BMW/Rolls Royce

Here’s the BMW /Rolls Royce chime:

And here’s me on the piano:

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Perhaps you cruise around Los Angeles in your Rolls Royce Phantom using your little patented umbrella in the once-a-year rain LA experience. You elegantly sit down and the door automatically closes for you, because why should any car owner close their door? You start up your Phantom and hear this. Meanwhile, the guy in the salvage-titled BMW E90 with mismatched tires starts his car and hears the same sound.

This chime was a fun one to learn. It was relatively simple to figure out after listening to a few start-up videos on Youtube to grasp the notes. I had to put my keyboard into the “Vibraphone” setting for the full effect. It does not sound the same on a regular piano. They’re A and D, played almost at the same time. It’s important to start A half a second earlier than D, and then sustain them together, in a ripple effect. This creates the full BMW chime experience.

 

Audi Warning Chime

Here’s the Audi warning chime:

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And here’s my version:

Have you ever left the door open on your Bentley Bentayga or your Audi Q7? Does this sound trigger you? Perhaps upon hearing it, did you reach to close your door? Anyways, I figured out how to play the warning chime that certain Audis, Bentleys, and Lamborghinis emit when it’s telling you that you’re doing something wrong. The notes are A and D, just as there are in BMW’s chime. However, where they differ, is in something called an “octave.” An octave is simply a grouping of 8 piano keys, 12 including the black ones. A piano has 7 total octaves, spread out amongst the 88 total keys. The Audi chime is in what we would refer to as a higher octave than BMWs. They are the same notes, Audi’s just has a higher pitch due to being in the higher octave. Audi’s chime is also played A to a “lower” D rather than BMW’s A to a “higher” D. Audi’s chime is not sustained, meaning it does not ring out. I imagine this is to create a sharper, warning sound, rather than something more melodic. If that was the case, we’d see Audi A4s driving around with doors open!

Kia

Listen here for Kia’s startup chime:

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And here’s what I played:

A few years back, my family had a 2016 Kia Optima as a rental car for about a month. Our family Pilot was hit-and-ran after just a week of ownership. I remember hearing the chime of the Kia as I was shuffled to school and thought, “Hey I could play this!” So I went home and messed around on my keyboard. 7 years later, here we are. I still remember it! The notes are G and D played together, with no sustain. My keyboard was also in “Vibraphone” mode. Newer Kias and Hyundais have all sorts of unique startup and goodbye sounds. I think I’d need an entire symphony orchestra for those. My keyboard would not suffice.

Honda Advertisement Sound

I guarantee all of you have at least seen one 2010s-era Honda commercial. Ever wonder what those two notes they play at the start of each one? It’s nothing more than a simple E to C. That’s it. I learned a song for a recital many years back, and part of the song included this bit. Each time I played it, all I could think about was a Honda commercial of some family happily driving in their CR-V down a Californian road.

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That’s it, folks. Those are all the chimes I’ve learned so far. I’m sure if I sat down and perhaps had, like, 20 more instruments, I could manage to learn ALL of your car chimes. Including the most complicated ones. Is a microwave an instrument? If so, I’ve got Toyota’s covered already.

 

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StalePhish
StalePhish
1 year ago

You should try out the Tesla Autopilot enable/disable noises! I was listening to a podcast about The Office (Office Ladies) and Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) called in for an interview, and I heard the distinctive sound of him turning off Autopilot in the background while he was driving, which made me realize how recognizable of a sound it is

StalePhish
StalePhish
1 year ago
Reply to  StalePhish

Also that Windows XP startup sound would bring serious nostalgia

Zac H
Zac H
1 year ago

Ugh that Ford chime gives me serious PTSD from my hellish two years driving a brand new 2013 Fiesta with the PowerShit automatic. 8 warranty repairs in 20 months on a brand new car… yes I’m still bitter about it haha

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago

Alright. Now we just need a car-crazed bagpiper to record a cover of the Mercedes W126 warning buzzer.

I imagine it’s pretty straight-forward.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
1 year ago

The Audi’s sound should be a Klaxon horn as it’s about to dive to the depths of your bank account (ask me how I know).

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
1 year ago

Okay, I haven’t driven any vehicle newer than 2007 so I have no idea what this startup sound is all about. Can someone enlighten me?

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 year ago

It appears that the Honda two-note was played on a real (not electronic) piano and that the second note key needs to be tuned. Sounds a bit off. One of the strings is not tuned to the others. That’s what I get for taking a piano tuning an repair class ages ago from a itinerant piano tuner from a flyer on a telephone pole. I can still tune a piano though our baby grand won’t tune properly due to loose pegs.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago

Why is it i *HATE* repetitive car noises yet i liked your versions?Wait no, i answered that myself.
Eventually,many years down the road, i’ll have to buy a car from this era.The first thing i’ll do is disable the sounds!

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

I enjoyed that very much. If I heard you play Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad in a bar my misty-eyed self would stuff bread in your jar and say, “Man, what are you doing here?” Time to break out the headphones.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 year ago

Well that was fun! Now, could you please play the song Bennie and the Jets. I wanna see you really tickle those ivories this time.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 year ago

Good one! I have to say, though, unless the sample video has been pitch altered in some way, the Kia one definitely sounds like E flat (D#) and G, not D and G. Also, I think you could totally do some rendition on the Hyundai and Kia startup songs with a keyboard!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmXNpdIcMaU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR5QyVRO14k

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

I would say you have too much time on your hands but…
any time hands spend on a musical instrument is never wasted.
(Glances at dusty bass in the corner)
(I should pick that up and play it. Instead of writing this silly comm

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Richard O
Richard O
1 year ago

The Audi warning chime should start playing as soon as the warranty expires.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
1 year ago

If I ever bought a Ford the first thing I would do would be to disable the chimes any way I could. That Ford chime grates on me more than it should. I can’t stand it. Its not so bad in piano form though.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

In at least some Ford’s it is a menu item that can be switched off.
To my ear the wife’s Subaru sounds like the microwave oven in the kitchen, which would be confusing with out context.

Greg
Greg
1 year ago

I was going to make a snarky comment, but you know what? Congratulations, I bet that was fun to do and it was entertaining on some level for me.

I kept waiting for the next chord or note or whatever it is to mix, maybe you could make a song out of these. I think this is a place I’d like to see more creativity rather than new ways to remove my buttons.

I believe some car maker recently used an orchestra to record theirs?

Last edited 1 year ago by Greg
Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
1 year ago
Reply to  Greg
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