Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Seinfeld's Intro Music Is More Intricate Than You Think

As a professional musician, Jonathan Wolff wrote themes for classic sitcoms like "Will & Grace" and "Who's The Boss" (via Vice). But his most famous accomplishment is still the main "Seinfeld" theme, which slowly became iconic thanks to the show's success and Wolff's distinctive slap-bass melody. The composer also wrote the tune according to Jerry Seinfeld's specifications: the comedian wanted a theme that would work in tandem with his character delivering standup comedy, but wouldn't distract viewers from the routine. Wolff said, "I chose to build this percolating rhythm, this New York groove, using the organic human sounds from my lips and tongue" to work alongside Seinfeld's style as a performer.

It worked on several fronts, as the theme was a perfect accompaniment to Jerry's opening and closing standup act, but it also musically fit the petty concerns of cynical New Yorkers like a glove. However, while Wolff's "Seinfeld" music quickly became the "instantly recognizable" earworm he'd been pursuing during the writing process (via Mel Magazine), the composer's work on the show is even more careful and complex than you'd expect.

Wolff wrote a different version of the the theme for every episode

As it turns out, the opening theme, featured whenever Seinfeld was performing on the show, was a completely unique variation on the original melody every single time. Jonathan Wolff explained that "whatever I did, I needed to architect it modularly so that it could be shiftable, changeable, like Lego music" (via Vice). The musician played everything on a synth, even the bass, as there were sounds a sampler could produce that a guitar couldn't.

This allowed Wolff to map out how the music would work depending on the monologue that week, so he'd re-do the opening based on Seinfeld's timing and punchlines. Wolff acknowledged how labor-intensive this was, but thought it was worth it: "He [Seinfeld] was funny. He was creating new material. As long as he's creating new material, I'll do the same thing, and I will create along with him."

Nearly two decades after retiring from music in 2005, Wolff is proud that compared to his other compositions, the "Seinfeld" scores have endured: "the 'Seinfeld' music has had a life of its own, and an entire generation of young music lovers are being introduced to the show from the 'Game of Thrones' parodies and awesome Kendrick Lamar mashups" (via Mel Magazine).