6 surprising facts about the Seinfeld theme song
The distinctive bass notes of Seinfeld’s musical cues and the pops and hisses during Jerry’s standup routines are familiar to anybody who watched the show. But the Seinfeld theme song has its fair share of secrets (insert your own appropriate Seinfeld reference here).
1. The bass guitar…wasn’t a guitar
The most recognizable part of Seinfeld’s score? The guitar riff that opened each scene. It’s so popular it spawned its own cover industry on YouTube.
The videos sound great. The problem is that composer Jonathan Wolff didn’t use a guitar. A writer and pianist, Wolff actually played the theme on a synthesizer. The most famous bass guitar in TV history is just an illusion.
2. The beatboxing was real, at first
Those mouth sounds that play underneath Jerry’s standup aren’t just sound effects. They were Jonathan Wolff, recording his own mouth, snaps, and whistles.
Wolff recorded 500 different sounds and put them into a synth so he could play them the same way he plays the bass guitar lick.
3. Every opening had different music
Having a catalog of sounds to choose from allowed Wolff to play different background noises for every show where Jerry did standup.
“Every week, I have to match my music to fit the timing of his monologues,” Wolff said in a 1993 interview. “It’s the first time I’ve heard it happening that a main title has to be reconstructed weekly.” Listen for the different pacing next time—it’s the sound of Wolff’s samples being uniquely composed to fit each week’s opening.
4. It could take six hours to score an episode
All that music took a while. Getting the jazzy intro just right took up to six hours.
5. Jerry came by to check out the process
Jerry Seinfeld chose the theme because he liked that it was “kind of weird,” Wolff said. In fact, he liked it enough that he came to watch an episode be scored.
He watched while Wolff mocked up a groove and created a sample of the work. Jerry enjoyed it so much that he came back the next day to see some more.
6. The guy who scored Seinfeld also did Saved by the Bell: The College Years
Before and after Seinfeld, Woolf worked on many other shows. The reason Seinfeld stands out is because the show was so popular and Woolf’s work was so unique. But he worked on everything from Married…With Children to Will And Grace.
Wolff snagged the Seinfeld gig when comedian George Wallace introduced the two. Wolff took the job and the rest is sitcom history.
If you want to see the Seinfeld theme song being played, you can watch Wolff at work thanks to Entertainment Tonight (and John Tesh’s terrible Jerry Seinfeld impression).