Turns out the Seinfeld theme was “Frankenstein-engineered from multiple sampled bass guitars”
Seinfeld soundtracker Jonathan Wolff revealed the answer on Instagram
The Seinfeld theme is one of the most recognisable bass lines in history – and as a result, many have questioned how it came to be.
Used in the long-running US sitcom to underscore Jerry’s opening monologue and between scene transitions, the bass line has puzzled many for years as to its origins. Suggestions have included a preset from several 80s synths: the Yamaha DX7, the Korg M1 and the 360 Systems MIDI Bass.
However, an innocent comment on social media has revealed the answer once and for all. When Instagram user robotussin_vintage_synths suggested that they thought it was the 360 Systems MIDI Bass that was used, they got a response from Seinfeld soundtracker Jonathan Wolff.
“I never owned any product from 360 Systems,” Wolff confirmed. In fact, none of the suggestions were correct – it turns out that the Seinfeld bass sounds were “Frankenstein-engineered from multiple sampled bass guitars using sample edits, compression, EQ, phase manipulation and gain staging.”
“I selected a narrow frequency (filtered obviously through a separate bus), reverse-phased it and (slightly flanged, delayed, and detuned to avoid cancellation) added it off-center back into the mix,” Wolff continued, after adding a ‘nerd warning’. “Full stereo, it looked weird on a scope but had little audible effect. However, when summed mono, it created a sharp nasal edge to the bass.”
However, videos exist of Wolff appearing to play the sound of a Kurzweil synth. “I triggered the notes using a keyboard controller, which (to nice folks viewing interview videos of me working) is sometimes confused with the actual source,” Wolff explains. “No synth for you.”
Wolff had previously revealed that the slap bass links changed episode to episode to fit with the beats of the monologue. The sound itself, he explained, has also evolved over time.
“It got to the point that the peeps in my office would leave me little sampled bass sounds when they had a minute and got weird sounds out of it,” Wolff told Mel Magazine in 2021. “I’d often incorporate them into Seinfeld cues, so in that way, it stayed fresh, while evolving to become a little more aggressive, more nasal, more weird.”
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